Mathematicians and
math educators agree that we are not
currently doing the best job of teaching algebra. But unlike Hacker, the math community
believes the appropriate strategy is to improve algebra instruction, not to
abandon it to all but an elite few pupils.

On the other hand,
the speakers on the panel, although quite civil with each other, clearly had
disagreements about the best strategy to improve math education in the US.

McCallum, who was
the lead mathematician in the development of the CCSS, emphasized the benefits
of having commonality across states.
Having a set of standards that could be adopted by 45 of the 50 states
(so far) required compromises, but the benefits accrue not only to pupils and
teachers in our mobile society, but to all who do business with textbook
publishers who currently provide materials for the multitude of different
curricula.

Steen gave some
numbers showing the dismal success of preparing US students for STEM, but
argued that we should improve rather than remove algebra from the
curriculum. He favors a modeling-based
approach and avoidance of common assessments.
When asked how to accomplish his recommendations, he cheerfully remarked
that he doesn't need to worry about that now that he's retired.

Bass focused on
pedagogy rather than curriculum as the key to improving math education. Student learning is increased when the
instructor employs appropriate classroom strategies.

Malkevitch promotes
widening the curriculum. He argued that
we need to show many ways that mathematics impinges on daily lives. He gave combinatorial graphs and fair choice
algorithms as examples of mathematical topics that are new and accessible to very young
children.

Garfunkel believes
that the entire K-12 mathematics curriculum should be centered on modeling. He
echoed Malkevitch's suggestions that the US curriculum needs to be widened, and
said that Bill Schmidt had paid an advertising agency to create the phrase "a
mile wide and an inch deep" that is used to characterize the US K-12
curriculum following the disappointing ranking of the US high school students
in the Third International Mathematics and Science Study.

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