Reviews of the NCTM Principles and Standards for School Mathematics

Basic Information and Introduction

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) published the first edition of its Standards in 1989. A second, completely revised, edition was published in 2000 as Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (PSSM). A large number of individuals were involved, and the common author citation is simply NCTM. Principal authors of the 2000 Principles and Standards include: Joan Ferrini-Mundy (Chair of the Writing Group), W. Gary Martin (Project Director), Jeane Joyner (Chair of the Grades PreK-2 Group), Barbara Reys (Chair of the Grades 3-5 Group), Edward A. Silver (Chair of the Grades 6-8 Group), Alan Schoenfeld (Chair of the Grades 9-12 Group), Jean Carpenter and Sheila Gorg (Editors), and Debra G. Kushner (Design). The PSSM Web Site is and the complete text is available electronically, together with supplementary information.

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has more than 100,000 members in the United States and Canada. The NCTM Standards and associated Illuminations and elaborations are probably their most prominent product, but the NCTM also publishes four professional journals for mathematics teachers and mathematics education researchers, and publishes books and videos. The Council holds a large annual meeting and several regional conferences each year.

Critical Reviews and Commentary

The Truth About the [1989] NCTM Standards and The Truth About the REVISED NCTM Standards by Bill Quirk (1997-2002). These two web articles provide a detailed critique of the two editions of the NCTM Standards. About the 2000 PSSM edition the author writes: "Similar to the original NCTM Standards, PSSM is vague about the major components of arithmetic mastery: (1) Memorization of of basic number facts. (2) Mastery of the standard algorithms of multidigit computation. (3) Mastery of fractions. The NCTM has toned down the constructivist language, but they still stress content-independent `process skills' and student-centered `discovery learning'. Similar to the [1989] NCTM Standards, PSSM emphasizes manipulatives, calculator skills, student-invented methods, and simple-case methods. Although PSSM contains five `Connections' sections, there continues to be no acknowledgement of the vertically-structured nature of mathematics."

Standards in School Mathematics, by Ralph Raimi (Letters, AMS Notices, Feb. 2001). Criticizes the 2000 Revision of the NCTM Standards. "Almost anything in the way of content to be remembered can be omitted from a school mathematics program without running afoul of PSSM, provided the pedagogy is right and the process suitably `exploratory'. `Explore', `develop', and `understand', and their variants, are much more prominent in the text than `know', `prove', and `remember'." (PDF format)

Good Intentions Are Not Enough, by Richard Askey (1999?). A critique of the philosophy of the 1989 NCTM Standards and some textbooks that reflect those standards, especially the CMP Middle School series. According to Askey: "The NCTM authors of their Standards had the strange notion that it is possible to teach conceptual understanding without developing technical skill at the same time." (PDF format)

Memorize Multiplication Facts? Cheney, Yes. Romberg, Abstain, by Bill Quirk (1997). A brief critique of the 1989 NCTM Standards, inspired by a pair of New York Times Op-Ed articles.

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A Tale of Two Math Reforms: The Politics of the New Math and the NCTM Standards (Draft, Apr 23, 2000), by Tom Loveless.

The AMS and Mathematics Education: The Revision of the NCTM Standards, Roger Howe, Notices of the American Mathematical Society 45 (2) February 1998

Reports of the AMS Association Resource Group,with a short introduction by Roger Howe, Notices of the American Mathematical Society 45 (2) February 1998.

Report from the MAA Presidents Task Force, Mathematical Association of America (MAA) Presidents Task Force on the NCTM Standards, January 27, 1997 posted on MAA Online.

Second Report from the Task Force, Mathematical Association of Americas Presidential Task Force on the NCTM Standards, posted on MAA Online, June, 1997

Report of the MAA ARG, MAA Presidents Task Force on the NCTM Standards, 1999 posted on MAA Online.

Computer Technology, the Standards, and Reform, by Richard Escobales, Jr. Letters, Notices of the AMS Vol. 44 No. 5 (1997) (PDF).

The World According to Cathy Seeley, by Donna Garner, EducationNews.Org, July 18, 2005.

Doing the Fox Trot with Cathy Seeley (current president, NCTM), by Barry Garelick, EducationNews.Org, July 18, 2005.

Some Disagreements With The Standards, by Brian D. Rude (2004).

Language and the Learning of Mathematics, Fank Allen, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics, Elmhurst College, Past President of the NCTM, speech delivered at the NCTM Annual Meeting, Chicago, 1988

Professor Harold Stevenson on the NCTM Standards, posted on the Mathematically Correct web site. Dr. Stevenson is the co-author (with James Stigler) of What We Can Learn from Japanese and Chinese Education and the Director of the TIMSS Ethnographic Case Studies Project

About the NCTM in General

A New Mission for NCTM - Save Our Schools, by Frank B. Allen (2000). The author, past President of the NCTM, offers ten statements that this organization should endorse in order to deserve again to be called the National Council of TEACHERS of Mathematics. By the same author: Mathematics "Council" Loses Hard-Earned Credibility.

This page is part of a collection of links to reviews of and commentaries on K-12 mathematics curricula and standards that is maintained by Bas Braams, Elizabeth Carson, and NYC HOLD. This ring of pages includes: TERC Investigations - Everyday Mathematics - Connected Mathematics Project (CMP) - Concepts and Skills - Structure and Method - College Preparatory Mathematics (CPM) - Interactive Mathematics Program (IMP) - Mathematics, Modelling our World (MMOW) - CPMP Contemporary Mathematics in Context - Saxon Math - NCTM Standards