Bioscience

UA professor helping write national math standards

September 29, 2009

By Flinn Foundation

William McCallum

William G. McCallum

A UA mathematics professor is aiding in a nationwide initiative working to standardize math standards, detail expectations for students, promote professional development for teachers and also evaluate education policy.

By La Monica Everett-Haynes, University Communications
September 21, 2009

A University of Arizona professor co-authored one of two new reports detailing the math and English language skills students in the nation’s K-12 system should be mastering. 

William G. McCallum, a University Distinguished Professor and mathematics department head, was among 15 education leaders and researchers across the nation to draft, “College and Career Readiness Standards for Mathematics.” A separate working group wrote the report on English-language art skills.

The reports, released Monday in Washington, D.C., are part of an effort headed up by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices.

The two organizations earlier this year launched the Common Core State Standards Initiative with the intention to develop nationwide standards that states could then adopt. Their purpose is to better prepare students in the areas of English-language art skills and math for career-level jobs.

Ultimately, the standards are expected to help states align curriculum, instruction, assessments, professional development and accountability systems.

The initiative is not about standardizing testing or the ways in which K-12 educators instruct their students, McCallum said. Instead, it is about developing cross-state math standards so that teachers across the nation are teaching their students the same mathematical principles.

Education and federal agencies have decried the state of public education in the United States compared with other countries. The Obama administration has called for more stringent measures to improve both student learning, and for clearly discernable assessments.

Also, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act enacted by U.S. Congress this year provides financial incentives for a range of educational usages, particularly to states that are working to improve the quality of education for its students while also focusing on standards and assessments.

The report McCallum helped to author focuses on 10 standards: numbers, quantity, expressions, equations, functions, modeling, shape, coordinates, probability and statistics. 

“What we’re trying to say is that it is important for people to know how to do statistics and who understand mathematical modeling,” said MaCallum, who also founded the UA’s Institute for Mathematics and Education. “Part of this is important for general citizenship.”

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