NEW JERSEY'S MATHEMATICS STANDARDSOverview of New Jersey's Mathematics StandardsBackgroundA draft version of the New Jersey Mathematics Standards was developed by a panel of thirtyone individuals who met extensively during the 19921993 school year. Crafted by a broad range of New Jersey elementary, middle school, and secondary teachers, supervisors, administrators, college mathematics educators, mathematicians, and representatives of business and industry, the draft New Jersey Mathematics Standards was intended to provide a clear vision of exemplary mathematics learning and to define and then articulate the standards necessary for achieving quality mathematics education. After the completion of the draft New Jersey Mathematics Standards, over 7000 copies of the document were distributed for review across the state. At the same time, efforts began to extend the draft New Jersey Mathematics Standards into a mathematics framework. The Preliminary Version of the New Jersey Mathematics Curriculum Framework, published in March 1995, contained a revised version of the standards which addressed many of the comments of both the reviewers of the draft standards and the drafters of the framework materials. As a result of this process, the standards in the Preliminary Version represented a statewide consensus of what mathematics educators believe are high achievable goals for all students. During 1995, a new working group built upon these draft standards and, together with similar working groups in other content areas, engaged the public in an extensive review process that resulted in modest modifications of the draft standards in mathematics. This process culminated in the adoption on May 1, 1996 by the New Jersey State Board of Education of the Core Curriculum Content Standards, which includes the Mathematics Standards, standards in six other content areas, and cross-content workplace readiness standards. Building on the National StandardsAlthough philosophically aligned with the Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM, 1989), New Jersey's Mathematics Standards are designed to reflect conditions specific to New Jersey, as well as national changes in mathematics education since the NCTM document was written. New Jersey is a state on the forefront of industrial and academic uses of technology and the national leader in numerous scientific industries. Our work force, it could be argued, has a greater need for mathematical and scientific fluency than that of any other state in the country. At the same time, the state is highly urbanized, has a tremendously diverse population, and presently delivers its educational programs through a network of more than 600 independent school districts. These educational and demographic characteristics present a truly unique setting in which to establish standards. The standards rest on the notion that an appropriate mathematics curriculum results from a series ofcritical decisions about three inseparably linked components: content, instruction, and assessment. The standards will only promote substantial and systemic improvement in mathematics education if the what of the content being learned, the how of the problem-solving orientation, and the where of the active, equitable, involving learning environment are synergistically woven together in every classroom. The mathematical environment of every child must be rich and complex and all students must be afforded the opportunity to develop an understanding and a command of mathematics in an environment that provides for both affective and intellectual growth. Particular to New Jersey's Mathematics Standards is the definition of an appropriate mathematical learning environment. New Jersey's Mathematics Standards also contain a strong focus on the use of technology as a regular, integral part of school mathematics curricula at every grade level. The state mandate for the use of calculators on statewide assessment is but one indication of the strong movement that has already begun in this direction. Teachers and students who adopt these standards will understand, and develop the abilities to use, powerful, uptodate mathematics and technology. Although ours is a geographically small state, it has a widely diverse population. Children enter our schools from a tremendous variety of backgrounds and cultures. One of the roles of New Jersey's Mathematics Standards, therefore, is to specify a set of achievable highlevel expectations for the mathematical understanding and performance of all students. The expectations included in the standards are substantially more ambitious than current expectations for most students, but we believe that they are attainable by all students in the state. Those New Jersey students who can achieve more than this set of expectations must be afforded the opportunity and encouraged to do so. A Core Curriculum for Grades K-12Implicit in the vision and standards is the notion that there should be a core curriculum for grades K-12. What does a "core curriculum" mean? It means that every student will be involved in experiences addressing all of the expectations of each of the sixteen content standards. It also means that all courses of study should have a common goal of completing this core curriculum, no matter how students are grouped or separated by needs and/or interests. A core curriculum does not mean that all students will be enrolled in the same courses. Students have different aptitudes, interests, educational and professional plans, learning habits, and learning styles. Different groups of students should address the core curriculum at different levels of depth, and should complete the core curriculum according to different timetables. Nevertheless, all students should complete all elements of the core curriculum recommended in the Mathematics Standards. All students should be challenged to reach their maximum potential. For many students, the core curriculum described here will indeed be challenging. But if we do not provide this challenge, we will be doing our students a great disservice - leaving them unprepared for the technological and information age of the 21st century. For other students, this core curriculum itself will not be a challenge. We have to make sure that we provide these students with appropriate mathematical challenges. We have to make sure that the raisedexpectations for all students do not result in lowered expectations for our high achieving students. A core curriculum does not exclude a program which challenges students beyond the expectations set in the Mathematics Standards. Indeed, the Mathematics Standards call for all schools to provide opportunities to their students to learn more mathematics than is contained in the core curriculum. The issue of a core curriculum, and its implications, is discussed at greater length in the chapter on Standard 16. |
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