Reflecting on #MTBoS, NCTM, and NCSM

April 17, 2017 at 10:57 pm 13 comments

Tracy Zager’s post about NCTM/NCSM got me thinking about our professional affiliations. Full disclosure: I have worked on staff at NCTM in the past, which means, if you have ever been employed anywhere you know that you are all of a sudden privy to all the good and the bad of your employer. Currently I am on the board of NCSM and am so lucky to be involved with dedicated people who bring us the NCSM conference and the leader-focused resources we all need to impact teaching and student achievement, including the recent position paper on Equity and Social Justice.
My loyalty to the NCTM organization runs deep. Although I can’t tell you exactly why, I will try to narrow the list down.
1) NCTM has made the reforms in education that all in the #MTBoS desire possible. In the era of the Math Wars, NCTM shouldered the burden of defending a more “humane” way of teaching mathematics, publishing the P&S years before the summary volume of research really made the case in a consolidated volume. They continue to take that heat on a national level in some circles. They made YOU possible, or at least the climate that produced all of us a possibility.

2)There is SO MUCH in the NCTM’s archive of resources. The Math Forum staff has their work cut out for them sorting it out and organizing it, let alone updating it to edit for inclusive language and the like. A shoutout to Beth, Sarah, Ann, Dave, Patrick, Al, Mike, Julia, Chonda, Sarah, and other staff I didn’t know or have forgotten, and countless other volunteers who have worked on behalf of the council to create these materials, for their years of work. This doesn’t even include the staff that supported the educators over the years.

3) NCTM continued to hold annual conferences when funding ran out in many districts and attendance fell dramatically. The tradition was upheld in those years so that no one else had to figure out how to start one up later. The staff that has supported conferences is still in place and they make it happen.

4) NCTM board members and staff members sit on MANY boards and committees that represent mathematics education in the general education field and in the political arenas. Being located near the nation’s capitol makes this work possible.

5) NCTM provides a voice for ALL math teachers and continues to do so even in cases when some (a majority perhaps?) of teachers BELIEVE that *telling* is better teaching. You’ll see that voice in certain journal articles and some published works. You’ll also see it in some of the older resources that still get HUGE traction in American classrooms. There are 419,000 math teachers in the US, and that is only at the secondary and middle level. Do the math. That’s a lot of people.

6) NCTM offers a “seasoned” view of math and math education. I once compared #MTBoS to trendy craft beers and NCTM to fine aged wine, or something like that. The key idea is that each resource serves a different purpose. #MTBoS can be nimble and quick to adopt new ideas while NCTM has a 100+ year history of creating, and enduring, trends. Don’t make them the same organization. Don’t make either of them the same as the CCSSM. Over time, cooperation, but still the independence from each other, serves the community of teachers. DIVERSITY is strength, people!!

Caveat – yes, NCTM can be stodgy and slow to move. It can seem unresponsive to its members and to the general community of math teachers. But much like the recent town hall meetings taking place that are pulling the passive voters and non-voters out of the woodwork, engaging with the organization creates the organization that you want. If you don’t join and you don’t participate, NCTM can only guess what your needs are. Odds are they’ll get it wrong. The #MTBoS crew approached Diane and made the case for ShadowCon, for GameNight, and the like. Matt supports it now. What movement could you start to make the organization your own? But first, join. They are waiting for you. They have been waiting for you.

About #MTBoS: When I first connected with #MTBoS in Denver in 2012, none of the resources mentioned in the opening paragraph existed yet. I am sure that the ideas were already brewing, and the support of the community emboldened the authors to take a risk. In particular I remember Christopher Danielson’s thoughts as he contemplated writing the CCSS Math for Parents for Dummies book. I remember when Dan first put his Three Acts out for public comments. At first it was a gimmicky take on a task à la Smith, Stein, and Silver: include video and go. But over the years this grew, as Dan made his point clearer, and it became A THING, a thing that now has a life of its own. And in its iterations through various authors and the extension to Graham Fletcher’s elementary branch, it is a quality resource. I remember when the #MTBoS group was such a tight “club” that it felt like a “mean girls” club. You didn’t intend to exclude others, but the mutual admiration within the core group at that time was blooming in the way a young romance does – there was no time for others. I am happy to see some members reflecting on that past because I don’t feel the same vibe anymore. I LOVE that they are welcoming others!


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13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Beth  |  April 18, 2017 at 9:55 am

    Thank you for the shout out! After over 17 years of working for NCTM and almost 30 years of membership, my observation is that the Council is currently moving and changing at a pace that I have not seen before. Yes, that pace may not be fast enough for some and I understand that view. What I hope folks understand is that NCTM is a member-driven organization. The leadership is comprised of member/volunteers as are all committees and editorial panels. #ShadowCon and #MTBoSGameNight are two great, recent, examples of ideas that have bubbled up from the math education community. If someone wants NCTM to do or be something different they need to voice their opinion and get involved.

    • 2. kmorrowleong  |  April 20, 2017 at 10:53 pm

      Beth, it was my pleasure and honor to send you that shout out! Thanks for the link!

  • 3. LINDA M GOJAK  |  April 18, 2017 at 11:31 am

    Well said Kim! I couldn’t have said it better. Never thought I would consider myself an “old timer” but I guess I am…but always open to new ideas and thinking about how we help kids to appreciate the beauty of mathematics at all levels. Be it NCTM, NCSM, Math Forum, MTBoS, Math Circles, we all have so much to learn and so much work to do.

    The NCTM staff and board work very hard. In my term as President, I always tried to focus (and remind others to focus) on teachers and kids. After all, we are the National Council of TEACHERS of Mathematics. I hope I was somewhat successful!

    • 4. kmorrowleong  |  April 20, 2017 at 10:56 pm

      Your focus on students and teachers was the highlight of your term as President. I still recommend your messages, on fluency for example, to parents and teachers alike.

  • 5. Johnny Lott  |  April 18, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    Kim, thank you. As a 52-year member of NCTM, that organization is near and dear to me. When I started, the Mathematics Teacher and the Arithmetic Teacher were the only true places to read mathematics for education. And that field blossomed with the Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, the changing of the AT to Teaching Children Mathematics, the Mathematics in the Middle School, and now the Journal for Mathematics Teacher Education. Along the way there were the Student Math Notes, Math Education Dialogues and more. The archives of NCTM are a treasure trove of great ideas, some of whose time has come and gone. I wish all could be available online. Conferences have morphed over the years and will continue to. Years ago, the regional conferences across the nation and Canada were a primary source of professional development. Costs shuttered many of those; now those same types of costs are working on the annuals. I continue to support NCTM and its programs, grants and awards; it is a basic resource for math teachers at all levels.

    • 6. kmorrowleong  |  April 20, 2017 at 10:57 pm

      Johnny, your perspective is so welcome. Thank you for continuing to serve the teachers in your work with MET as well!

  • 7. Andrea Clark  |  April 18, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    I went to my first NCTM annual meeting this year, and it is still hanging with me. I keep thinking about everything that I learned and how I can implement the things into my classroom this year. I was very impressed by everyone at NCTM and all of the hard work they put in to make the annual meeting a success. It was definitely a success for me!

    • 8. kmorrowleong  |  April 20, 2017 at 10:59 pm

      Thank you for sharing, Andrea!

  • 9. Annie Forest  |  April 18, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    I love your reflections on this topic! I’ve been an NCTM member for 13 years and have always felt it was my go-to spot for position papers and resources. I appreciate the work that dedicated educators do for students. I participate in #MTBoS and think this discussion is an important one. As a director on the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics, we are having similar conversations about how we can respond to changes in education and how people like to find information and support. Great post, thanks!

    • 10. kmorrowleong  |  April 20, 2017 at 11:00 pm

      I hope that you continue to find ways to reach out to your state members and share these ideas with other affiliates.

  • 11. goldenoj  |  April 19, 2017 at 9:33 am

    I’m in with NCTM because it’s the best we’ve had. The #MTBoS is the direction I want it to go, though. Resources with no pay wall, but more importantly mentorship on teaching and learning. I think NCTM has had a problem with a downhill view of leadership: let us tell you what to do, with too much emphasis on the ed researcher’s point of view. NCTM has also had a problem with collaboration with textbook publishers and TI, in the name of compromise to get something done. But I remain grateful for the 89 and 99 standards and the commitment to the equity principle. And grateful now that they seem to be open to organizational learning.

    • 12. kmorrowleong  |  April 20, 2017 at 11:13 pm

      One thing I have learned being involved in NCSM and NCTM is that none of what happens can be sustained for no cost. The energy comes from volunteer spirit, but sustained development of quality resources has to acknowledge the resource creator’s need to make a living. I know that both NCSM and NCTM are interested in new ideas for mentorship of teaching and learning and I hope that you can find paths to do this. Thank you!

    • 13. Suzanne Alejandre  |  April 21, 2017 at 8:04 am

      John, I may tap you to become involved with Teacher2Teacher (T2T) as we expand that service. Interested?



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