UNL hosts national conference on current math education issues

ESMP Panelists

(From left) Plenary speakers Bill McCallum, Matt Larson and Sybilla Beckmann sit on the panel during the Enacting Standards for Mathematical Practicess Conferences on Oct. 21 and 22, 2012.

Prominent leaders in mathematics education gathered in Lincoln on Oct. 21-22, 2011, to discuss one of the important issues in mathematics education in America today: the Common Core State Standards.

Released in 2010, the Common Core is a set of curriculum standards covering English, language arts and mathematics, based on what all American students need to know to successfully enter college or the workplace.

The Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) led the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSS), working with a wide range of educators, content experts, researchers, national organizations, and community groups.

Their purpose is to provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, no matter where they live, and are designed to be much more rigorous and relevant to the real world than current standards. Nebraska is not among the 45 states that have adopted them.

The Common Core Standards in Mathematics also incorporate what is referred to as Standards for Mathematical Practice. This portion of the standards focuses on the processes and proficiencies that mathematics teachers of all levels should seek to instill in their students. For example, "make sense of problems and persevere in solving them" and "reason abstractly and quantitatively" comprise the first two practices of the list of eight. For more information about the Common Core, visit http://www.corestandards.org.

The Enacting Standards for Mathematical Practices Conference hosted by UNL addressed issues surrounding these practices and the ways in which they can be enacted in teacher education and in K-12 classrooms. Bill McCallum, professor of mathematics of the Institute for Mathematics Education at the University of Arizona, who served as the lead author for the CCSS, was a plenary speaker at the conference.

"The conference brought mathematicians, education researchers, and teachers together for a well-balanced series of talks by local and national experts," McCallum said. "It was a wonderful conference: thought-provoking, great talks, lots of time for interaction, and lots of energy. It was the best meeting I've been to in a long time."

A total of 135 people representing 18 states attended the conference. Slides and handouts from the conference presentations, along with videos of the plenary sessions, can be found on the website: http://scimath.unl.edu/conferences.

For many who attended the conference, the highlight was a banquet honoring UNL's Jim Lewis, who has dedicated much of his 40-year career to improving math education. Teachers, educators and alumni alike thanked Lewis for his contributions.