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NCTM standards: Are they in the classroom?

1 May 1998


A mathematics reform movement is underway in this country. Inspired by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), this movement is attempting to radically alter the way we teach and assess mathematics in our classrooms. Educators within the state of Oregon have adopted many of the guidelines set forth by the NCTM, and have instituted performance standards designed to assess students by testing them through open-ended assessments. The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine three questions: 1) In what ways have the NCTM Standards been incorporated into my sixth grade math class? 2) What does instruction and assessment look like in a standards-based classroom? 3) Do Oregon's statewide assessments in mathematics match standardsbased assessments? This study took place at a rural middle school located in the Pacific Northwest. The participants in this study were the teacher and students of a sixth grade general mathematics class. Interviews and observations were the primary source of data from which conclusions were drawn. After reviewing the literature and listing the numerous characteristics which are components of a NCTM standards-based classroom, I was able to classify classroom observations as either characteristic of standards-based instruction and assessment, or not. What I discovered was that although many elements of standards-based instruction were present in the classroom, the students' attitudes and personal histories were critical factors in determining the degree to which the standards could be successfully introduced. The NCTM's vision of a standardsbased classroom will take time and commitment on the part of all the educational participants before a meaningful change can be evident.


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