Curriculum Column

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Within the next few weeks, the National Science Foundation will launch a series of targeted grant programs to address "specific high-priority problems" in mathematics, science, and technology education.

In a draft of a program announcement, the nsf says it will provide some $5 million this year to fund three to six major projects that develop programs or materials for teaching math to elementary-school students, with an emphasis on using calculators and computers.

The grants will be the first in a series of targeted programs funded by the nsf's directorate of science and engineering education.

The division's two future solicitations will involve projects on elementary-school science instruction and the preparation of science and mathematics teachers.

According to the nsf, the declining cost of calculators and computers makes it "reasonable to assume that, at least within a few years, a calculator will be available for every student and a computer will be available in every classroom."

"Yet the impact of calculators and computers on elementary- and middle-school mathematics curricula is minimal," the foundation states.

Future mathematics programs and materials, it adds, should place less emphasis on paper-and-pencil calculations and more emphasis on mental arithmetic, estimation, approximation, and children's understanding of mathematical concepts and applications.

The deadline for submitting proposals is March 17, 1986.

Each of the projects funded in mathematics education is expected to take three to four years to complete.

The "missionary zeal" with which "writing process" advocates have advanced that technique as the "be-all and end-all of composition theory and practice," may have led to its misuse by some teachers, according to a piece in the September issue of the English Journal, published by the National Council of Teachers of English.

Raymond J. Rodrigues, a professor of education at New Mexico State University, says the writing process has been reduced by many to the use of "unsystematic, open-ended writing instruction."

Not only did some teachers "drop teaching any usage," he writes, "but they refused to teach punctuation, capitalization, and spelling as well."

Mr. Rodrigues states: "At their worst, writing process converts accepted the process at its most shallow level and believed that all we had to do was encourage students to write and they would automatically improve."

Recent research has found that all writers do not follow the same linear steps in their writing--pre-writing, writing a draft, revising, editing, and publishing--as once thought, Mr. Rodrigues points out.

Teachers need to pay attention to the variety of ways in which writers write, he argues. And they must "realize that their students are not mature, professional writers," but learners who need structure, models to practice, and improvement in mechanical skills.--lo

Vol. 05, Issue 05

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