On September 12th, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) undertook what Stanford mathematician R. James Milgram called an "enormous evolution," recommending a return to more traditional methods of teaching K-8 math. This welcome move surprised and relieved scores of mathematicians, whose efforts to undo NCTM's "fuzzy math" standards of 1989 kicked off the "math wars." What is not as clear is whether the nation's schools, ever susceptible to the latest progressive rhetoric, will embrace these standards as quickly as they did the disastrous 1989 standards. NCTM Executive Director Jim Rubillo isn't publicly admitting the about-face, instead telling the San Francisco Chronicle that the new guidelines are a "continuation" of the 1989 standards, and that there is no "change in philosophy."
Perhaps NCTM's new standards will reinvigorate schools' interest in using Singapore's elementary math curriculum. An article in the latest issue of Education Next recounts the failure of Singapore math to take hold in Montgomery County, Maryland schools, despite the fact that the curriculum is largely responsible for Singapore school children continuing to place first on the international mathematics exams. As one Montgomery County teacher put it, "Having to explain Singapore mathematics made me understand that I never really understood the mathematics I was teaching."
In other news, the International Reading Association recently issued a less publicized, though equally important, set of recommendations. The IRA is advocating for the reauthorized version of NCLB to require new elementary teachers to display knowledge of scientifically based reading instruction in order to be deemed "highly qualified." This is such a great idea! We can only imagine where they got it from.