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Thursday, February 08, 2007


It’s helpful to read what the Brits say about maths teaching. I’ve recently started reading Mathematics in School, a journal published by the Mathematical Association (MA), which is more or less the British equivalent of our National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). I say “more or less” because there are some intriguing differences. For example, the MA describes its membership as follows:
Teachers in primary and secondary schools, further and higher education, advisers, inspectors, practising mathematicians and students. There are also institutional members.
I wouldn’t want to make some sweeping generalization about cultural differences here, but note how the NCTM describes its members:
a dynamic group of more than 100,000 dedicated teachers, educators, and institutions working toward the same goal — improving the teaching and learning of mathematics for all students.
Anyway, Mathematics in School provides articles that complement the NCTM’s Mathematics Teacher — similar but different, so to speak. Again let’s look at how they describe their own journals. From the MA:
Mathematics in School is aimed mainly at teachers of school and college pupils of 10 to 18 years of age and for those working with students who are preparing to enter the teaching profession.

We attempt to attain a balance of articles reflecting this age and ability range and look for pragmatic articles; ready-to-use materials; discursive, possibly philosophical articles; speculative, reflective, and sometimes retrospective pieces... There is also the opportunity to stimulate — and even amuse — otherwise hard-pressed and very busy teachers....
In contrast, the very serious NCTM offers the following “Mission Statement”:
The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics is a public voice of mathematics education, providing vision, leadership, and professional development to support teachers in ensuring mathematics learning of the highest quality for all students. The Mathematics Teacher, an official journal of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, is devoted to improving mathematics instruction from grade 8 through two-year and teacher-education colleges. It provides a forum for linking research to practice, deepening understanding of mathematical ideas, and sharing activities and pedagogical strategies....
From these descriptions you can probably come up with a pretty accurate idea of the differences in the two publications’ articles. Reading either one without the other would result in losing something valuable.

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