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Math Educators Gather in Denver; Much Focus on Common Core


The common-core standards appear to be the star attraction at the annual meeting of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics this week, as more than 7,500 math educators gather here in snowy Colorado (yes, it's been snowing!) to share ideas, discuss and debate, and choose among hundreds of sessions offered over several days.

Just sifting through page after page of the program guide, which lists and briefly describes all the sessions, took me about an hour. On virtually every page, I found one or more sessions explicitly focused on the math standards adopted by 45 states.

The program offers a helpful glimpse into what's on the minds of math educators these days, and of some of the interesting work afoot around the country. (The common-core topic that seems to get the most attention is the Standards for Mathematical Practice. It's worth noting here that those standards have much in common with NCTM's own process standards.)

Below I'll highlight the names of a dozen or so that especially caught my eye.

Before I do, one thing that struck me is that if the common core is the star attraction of this NCTM meeting, gauging by the guide, STEM education most decidedly is not. For all the talk I hear of STEM among policymakers and educators, I was a little surprised that it gets only an occasional mention. I'll have to ask folks here about that and what it means.

Without further ado, here's a sampling of NCTM sessions this week:

• How Do You Know? Teaching Children to Reason Mathematically
• Incredible Math Tasks: Developing the Standards for Mathematical Practice
• Summing It Up: What We Know About the New Assessments
• Early Algebra: How Soon Is Too Soon?
• International Perspectives on Preparing Math Teachers
• Reimagining High School Geometry
• Moneyball in the Classroom: Using Baseball to Teach Statistics
• Common Core State Standards: Lessons and Activities Based on Great Literature
• NASA's Exploring Space Through Algebra I
• The Mathematics of 'Angry Birds' (Who can resist a session with that title?)
• Assessing Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Practice: Challenges and Opportunities
• Connecting the Visual Arts to Mathematics With Paul Klee Masterpieces
• Keeping It Real: Teaching Math Through Real-World Topics
• Modeling: Investigating a Unique Design of the Common Core State Standards
• Using Public Policy to Promote Writing in the Math Classroom
• Statistical Reasoning in the Middle School
• Math and Geography: Using Google Earth to Investigate Mathematics

As interesting as so many of these sessions (and others) sound, to me the real opportunity of this conference is to speak with math educators around the country and find out what's on their minds. I'll be especially interested to hear their stories "from the trenches" on the early days of implementing the math common core. How's it going? What do they like? What do they dislike? Are they getting the support they need? Are things much different in their classrooms? Do they believe the standards, if implemented with fidelity, will set their schools on a pathway to improve students' experience of math?

I'll also be curious as to whether many folks are paying attention to the new "publishers' criteria" for the math standards that I recently wrote about. In addition, I'm wondering to what extent the Next Generation Science Standards released last week are on the radar of math educators. I know the standards-writers were thinking about math, and include with the document explicit links to relevant math common-core standards.

Stay tuned for more reporting from Denver on what I learn.

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