To the Editor:
Your provocative front-page article (“U.S. Leaders Fret Over Students’ Math and Science Weaknesses,” Sept. 14, 2005) raises core questions about our values as mathematics educators. But the crisis mentality does little to illuminate the real and subtle challenges we face.
What do comparisons of international test results really tell us about the quality of life in this country, and the future of U.S. leadership in a global economy ever more dependent on innovation and creativity?
We need vivid examples of what can be achieved by students and dedicated teachers involved in programs that support sound practice, promote high expectations, and provide teachers as well as students with engaging learning experiences.
The National Science Foundation’s Math and Science Partnership program supports a national network of such programs, all built around the idea that collaborations among teachers, mathematicians, administrators, and educators will help students develop strong mathematical skills and appreciate mathematics as a valuable human activity.
Witness the enthusiasm of nearly a thousand students and their teachers here in Massachusetts who recently developed research projects in and outside of school, working with each other and with mathematicians as part of Focus on Mathematics, an NSF-funded MSP program.
Examples of innovation and achievement can be found in all parts of the country. We need to support these initiatives, and to learn and build on the lessons they teach us. The stakes have never been higher.
Professor of Mathematics
Focus on Mathematics Program
A version of this article appeared in the October 05, 2005 edition of Education Week as Math Initiatives Show What Can Be Done