Readings on Mathematics and Science Curriculum

NYC HOLD: Honest Open Logical Decisions on Mathematics Education Reform

This page contains links to articles and news and opinion pieces that will be of interest to readers of the NYC HOLD web pages. The collection is edited and annotated by Bas Braams and NYC HOLD.


A Coherent Curriculum: The Case of Mathematics, by William Schmidt, Richard Houang, and Leland Cogan, with commentary by E. D. Hirsch and others (American Educator, Summer 2002). Examines national curricula in countries that performed well on TIMSS and compares these with a cross-section of curricula drawn from U.S. State Standards documents. The authors observe that whereas curricula in the high-performing countries show a coherent progression in content, the typical U.S. curriculum is not focused, is highly repetitive across years, is not very demanding by international standards, and is incoherent... [more] (PDF format).

The Israeli Mathematics "Curriculum 2000", by Ralph Raimi with Lawrence Braden (May 25, 2002). The proposed curriculum is evaluated following the procedures that the authors applied previously in their Fordham Foundation reviews of US State standards. Curriculum 2000 gets slammed on Content and Reason, and receives a "D" overall... [more]. An unofficial translation of the curriculum is here.

Telling Lessons from the TIMSS Video Tape, by Alan Siegel (2002). A re-examination of the TIMSS videotape Japanese classroom studies, debunking some oft-cited work. "Part of the problem is that the teaching is remarkably rich. As a consequence, short summaries and even quotes from original sources sometimes fail to provide a balanced characterization of the actual lessons, and can even be just plain wrong"... [more] (PDF format)

Does Two Plus Two Still Equal Four? What Should Our Children Know about Math? A forum at the American Enterprise Institute on March 4, 2002, addressed these questions. Moderated by Lynne V. Cheney, with participation of Mike McKeown, Gail Burrill, David Klein, Tom Loveless, and Lee V. Stiff... [more]. The forum has been reviewed... [more]... [more]

A Brief History of American K-12 Mathematics Education, by David Klein (2001). "Broadly speaking, the education wars of the past century are best understood as a protracted struggle between content and pedagogy. [...] A choice of concentrated content precludes too much student centered, discovery learning... In the same way, the choice of a pedagogy can naturally limit the amount of content that can be presented to students"... [more]. David Klein's home page.

The Math Wars, by David Ross (2001). Discusses the NCTM-led reform and its opposition. "By advocating mastery of the traditional algorithms, the reformers' opponents have in fact established themselves as the defenders of conceptual thinking in the Math Wars"... [more]

New Front in the NYC Math Wars, By Elizabeth Carson and Denise Haffenden. Introducing NYC HOLD and announcing a Forum against "reform" mathematics programs in NYC schools, June 6, 2001... [more]

What Students Abroad Are Expected to Know About Mathematics, from the American Federation of Teachers (2001). The AFT looks at exams from France, Germany and Japan... [more]

2+2=5: Fuzzy Math Invades Wisconsin Schools, by Leah Vukmir (WiI, Winter 2001). The President of PRESS describes parent reaction to the introduction of the TERC Investigations curriculum into a Wisconsin School District. Ms. Vukmir's article also places the TERC curriculum in the context of the NCTM Standards and the NSF's sponsorship of constructivist mathematics curricula... [more] (PDF format)

High Achievement in Mathematics: Lessons from Three Los Angeles Elementary Schools, by David Klein (Brookings, Aug 2000). The paper describes characteristics and academic policies of three low income (Bennett-Kew, Kelso, and Robert Hill Lane) whose students are unusually successful in mathematics. Klein identifies as fundamental ingredients: California's clear set of high quality grade by grade standards; textbooks and curricula aligned to the standards; sufficiently high teacher knowledge of mathematics to teach to the standards... [more] (PDF format)

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... [more]. By the same author: Mathematics "Council" Loses Hard-Earned Credibility, (1998?)... [more]

New Battles in the Math Wars, by Wilfried Schmid (2000). "Math education reformers have a prescription for raising the mathematical knowledge of schoolchildren. Do not teach the standard algorithms of arithmetic, such as long addition and multiplication, they say; let the children find their own methods for adding and multiplying two-digit numbers, and for larger numbers, let them use calculators"... [more]

The Math Meltdown, by Staff of the Christian Science Monitor (May 16/23/30, 2000). A three-part series, each part having 5-7 articles; we link only to the first article of each. Part 1: In a high-tech era, Americans aren't keeping pace in math... [more]. Part 2: Controversial math programs: questions about the approval process... [more]. Part 3: What some schools are doing to boost performance... [more]. Reader responses... [more]

The New, Flexible Math Meets Parental Rebellion, by Anemona Hartocollis (NYT, April 27, 2000). In 1997 NYC's District 2 embraced a new "constructivist" mathematics curriculum without textbooks. This has enraged many parents who find that their children cannot multiply easily or understand basic algebra... [more]

Math Problems: Why the U.S. Department of Education's recommended math programs don't add up, by David Klein (ASBJ, Apr 2000). In October 1999, the U.S. Department of Education released a report designating 10 math programs as "exemplary" or "promising." David Klein and other mathematicians took issue with these designations in an open letter that was published in the Washington Post. This article elaborates their objections... [more]

Politicizing Science Education, by Paul R. Gross (2000). "Purposeful intrusion of politics into education theories, standards, and curricula is common, and science is no longer an exception. This intrusion takes various forms: exaltation of process at the expense of content; trivialization of such content as is covered [...]; and teaching about science in social or political generalities, instead of science itself"... [more]

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. "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"... [more] (PDF format)

Can there be "research in mathematical education"?, by Herbert S. Wilf (1999?). "We examine a number of papers and books, all of which have been cited, by people who are knowledgeable in the field, as being good examples of `research in mathematics education.' ... [N]o conclusions of any interest follow as a result of any of the `research' that is reported in these works"... [more] (PDF format)

Reform Mathematics Education: How to "Succeed" Without Really Trying, by Paul Clopton (2000). "Since the 1980's, there have been substantial efforts nation wide to weaken mathematics education in America, and these efforts have largely been successful... It is this effort, curiously known as reform, that is the root cause of what has come to be known as the math wars"... [more]

Whole Hog for Whole Math, by Lynne V. Cheney (1998). The NSF Education Directorate went Whole Hog fighting the back to basics revision of the CA Standards... [more]. By the same author: Exam Scam - The Latest Education Disaster: Whole Math (WS, Aug 1997)... [more]

Calculus Reform for the $Millions, by David Klein and Jerry Rosen. An indictment of "calculus reform" as represented by the Harvard Calculus program... [more] (PDF format)

The Second Great Math Rebellion, by Tom Loveless (1997). "In 1989, a group of experts in the field of math education, under the auspices of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, launched a campaign to change the content and teaching of mathematics". Loveless discusses what is wrong with this campaign... [more]. Tom Loveless's home page

User-friendly Mathematics, by Edsger W. Dijkstra (1984). An intuitive presentation of the theorem of Pythagoras... [more]. By the same author: Why Johnny can't understand... [more]; Computers and General Education... [more]; and On the theorem of Pythagoras... [more] (all in PDF format). The EWD series home is here.

A Prescient Letter to Frank Quigley Concerning The New Math, by Ralph A. Raimi (1958). Written a few weeks after the inauguration of the School Mathematics Study Group (SMSG), headed by E. G. Begle... [more]. By the same author: Whatever Happened to the New Math? (1995)... [more] and... [more]

News and Views

Math in The City: A View from the College Classroom, by Stanley Ocken and Robert Feinerman (EU, Dec 2002). Catherine Fosnot, head of the Math in The City teacher enhancement program rejects categorically "that meaning can be passed on to learners via symbols; that whole concepts can be broken into discrete subskills; that concepts can be taught out of context". The authors rise to the defence of content in K-12 mathematics... [more]

College students brush up on the ABCs of x, y and z, by Alec MacGillis (Baltimore Sun, 020915). About the increasing need for remedial mathematics at UM's flagship campus. According to faculty "the need for remediation is a reflection of a growing national trend: As high schools ease math requirements, abandon traditional math curricula and integrate calculators into the classroom, more students are arriving at top colleges with surprising gaps in their abilities"... [more]

Algebra Poses a Problem of Timing and Algebra = X in One School, Y in Another, by Jay Mathews (WP, 020818/19). Two articles about teaching Algebra in Eight Grade. The first article reports that the notion is gaining popularity; the second article reports that it often means "make believe" algebra... [more]... [more]

Panel to Examine Standards-Based Math Curricula, by David J. Hoff (EdWeek, 020612). Reports the start of an NAS/NRC study on the effectiveness of NSF-Supported mathematics curriculum materials. The study is headed by Jere Confrey and Douglas Grouws, and is due to report in March, 2003... [more]

Math the Saxon Way Is Catching On, by David J. Hoff (EdWeek, 020501)... [more]

A Daring Choice for a Mathematics Textbook, by Jay Mathews (WP, 011218). "Even five years after his death, mathematics textbook publisher John Saxon still drives educators crazy." Mathews describes how these books are highly successful and at the same time widely resisted by educators... [more]

If it isn't broken..., by Debra Saunders (SF Chronicle, 010503). The Saxon mathematics program has shown spectacular success in LAUSD elementary schools. But, writes Saunders, in Edu-Land nothing sinks curriculum as quickly as success, and the Board of LAUSD voted to withdraw support for Saxon... [more]

Related Collections

Maintained by NYC HOLD

Math and Science Curriculum
Philosophy of Education
Standards and Assessment
Education Research
Education Policy

Maintained by Others

Illinois Loop, by Kevin Killion. Articles are organized thematically under these headings: Reading; Literature; Math; Science; Computers; Social Studies; Art and Music; Projects vs. Learning; Tests and Assessment; Textbooks; Homework; and several others.

Mathematically Correct. A reading list on mathematics education, including many of MC's own works.

Learning in the Real World. Under "Further Reading" at this site is a collection of articles on computers in education.

Bastiaan J. Braams
Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences
New York University