Step
1: Beginning to Reform Your Curriculum 

We're
at the beginning. We are very interested in reform, but need more
information concerning where to begin.

Current
reform in K12 mathematics education affects all aspects of our
students' educational experience: what they learn, how they learn
in the classroom, the tools with which they do mathematics, and
the way student achievement is assessed. While in some cases change
may now be mandated by state or local frameworks or other requirements,
it's valuable to begin to think about reform in school mathematics
by focusing on the need for change.
Based on the state of mathematics education in schools circa 1980,
change was called for by many pivotal segments of our society.
Students, school teachers, parents, mathematics educators, business
and industry leaders, scientists, members of professional organizations
in mathematics, and college and university mathematics faculty
all voiced the concern that the prevailing state of mathematics
education in most of our schools was not meeting the needs of
our students.

Indeed,
as stated in Everybody
Counts: A Report to the Nation on the Future of Mathematics Education
(National Research Council. National Academy Press: 1989, p. 4),
"Students are 'voting with their feet' against the mathematics
education they have been receiving...dropping out of mathematics
as soon as possible." In fact, in the 1980s it was estimated
that from ninth grade on approximately one half of the students
studying mathematics left the curriculum each year! (National
Research Council. A
Challenge of Numbers: People in the Mathematical Sciences.
National Academy Press: 1990, p. 36.)

School teachers have been dissatisfied with the kind of mathematics
education their students have been receiving. In the seminal publication
Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics
(National Council of Teachers of Mathematics [NCTM]. Reston,
VA: 1989.), the NCTM describes reasons for change and presents
a vision for the future of school mathematics.

Publication of this document was followed by the publication
of two companion documents: Professional Standards for Teaching
Mathematics (NCTM, 1991) and Assessment Standards for
School Mathematics (NCTM, 1995). A planned revision, which
maintains the essential vision of the earlier documents, combines
and updates these three documents and is titled Principles
and Standards for School Mathematics (NCTM, 2000). Each
of these documents was written with input from many constituencies
including practicing teachers, mathematics educators, educational
researchers, and professional mathematicians. These documents
are among the most influential publications in existence regarding
current efforts to improve K12 mathematics education. Minimally,
the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics should be
read carefully in its entirety to begin to understand what is
frequently referred to as the Standardsbased vision
for school mathematics. Other readings are suggested in our bibliography.
It should be emphasized that use of the terms standards and
principles here refers to statements about what should be
valued as part of a school mathematics education. The terms do
not refer to rigid prescriptions concerning what should be done
in a mathematics classroom each day of the school year.

One reason school teachers have been dissatisfied with the kind
of school mathematics education their students have been receiving
is expressed in a disturbing statement that appears in the first
of the published NCTM documents mentioned above. That statement
asserts that near the beginning of elementary school "children
loose their belief that mathematics is a sensemaking experience"
(NCTM, 1989, pg. 15). The fundamental fact that mathematics is
a way of making sense of the world, a method of reasoning and
inquiry that requires creativity, insight, and good judgment,
has been absent from the experience of an intolerable number of
students!

Leaders in business and industry decry the fact that many of
their employees lack basic problemsolving and mathematical communication
skills. Not only has public education failed to keep up with a
world in which students need a higher degree of mathematical,
scientific, and technical literacy than ever before; but students
are being poorly prepared to meet the future where the focus is
increasingly on flexibility, adaptive skills, problemsolving
and reasoning abilities  all at the very heart of mathematics
 rather than only rote skills that are quickly outmoded or replaced
with more efficient techniques.

Professors in colleges and universities complain that their students
come to college unprepared to think and reason mathematically
and are not ready to pursue college level mathematics. A common
experience of faculty who interact with students in college and
university freshmen mathematics courses is to confront the following
student comment: "I don't understand what they want in this
problem. Just tell me what to do and I'll do it!"  further
evidence that students fail to see mathematics as a sensemaking
experience.

Unlike some reform efforts such as the "new math" of
the 1960s, the current reform is grounded in research that has
attempted to identify the root causes of failures within the traditional
system of mathematics education. We have determined how to change
classroom teaching to improve student comprehension. We have determined
some guiding principles for updating curriculum, emphasizing mathematics
as a unified body of knowledge rather than a set of discrete topics,
and establishing, as a central focus, the value and need for mathematical
reasoning.

Each of the five curriculum projects affiliated with COMPASS
has undergone a rigorous program of design, testing, and evaluation
before becoming commercially available. This process of curriculum
development appropriately has taken several years. Among other
things, these projects represent five distinct models of Standardsbased
instructional programs. Each program contains significantly more
than modifications of traditional curricula in an attempt to "support
the Standards." Rather, each has been developed with teams
of teachers, mathematics educators, and mathematicians, often
with the input of business and industry personnel and other community
members, in an effort to best prepare all students with the mathematical
capabilities essential to citizens and continuing learners as
we approach the twentyfirst century.

Once you are convinced of the need to alter the mathematics program
in your school or district, the next goal is to decide what mathematical
experience you want your students to have. At this point it is
suggested that you review our bibliography
and complete at least the minimal reading suggested there. In
addition to this reading, you need to be fully cognizant of state
or local guidelines, frameworks, or other mandates and procedures
that may affect the outcome of your curriculum selection.

You may now wish to begin development of your secondary school
curriculum without further input. In fact, it is encouraged that
you develop at least broad goals concerning the mathematical experience
you want to ensure for your students during secondary school.
In this case, we suggest that you keep an open mind in regard
to the sequencing of mathematical topics, within your particular
constraints. The five curricula associated with COMPASS provide
different options for sequencing material and, in some cases,
different content as well. The "Questions
for Discussion" page on this site lists many important
questions that should be considered when reviewing integrated
mathematics curricula or textbooks. If you wish to review the
five curriculum projects in terms of content during the process
of defining your goals (rather than after your goals are set),
select the Curriculum Details
link at this site now.

There are also other pages on the COMPASS web site that might
be suitable for you to view next. FAQ has
frequentlyasked questions and answers regarding the process of
switching to a new curriculum. Step 2
and Step 3 on the "Choosing
a Curriculum" page will give you additional information
concerning the choice of a curriculum affiliated with COMPASS.
For further information specific to your school and/or district
needs, we also suggest that you contact
COMPASS directly by email, surface mail, or phone.



