President's Report - Winter 2011/2012


From the NCSM President
Suzanne Mitchell
Winter 2011

Reach out and INVITE someone! Help us build our mathematics education leadership community. This fall NCSM delivered leadership seminars at the associated NCTM regional conferences focusing on "Tools and Strategies to Implement the Common Core Mathematics Standards." I was amazed at the number of mathematics education leaders who attended and the variety of titles that they used - mathematics coaches, district curriculum coordinators, department chairs, elementary mathematics specialists, instructional facilitators, and school administrators. Many of these leaders were members of their grass roots state leaders' organizations.

NCSM has initiated an Affiliate Membership Category for mathematics education leaders organizations. NCSM invites state, regional or provincial mathematics leadership organizations that meet specified criteria to become an affiliate of NCSM. The process is simple and the deadline to complete the process for the 2011-2012 year is January 31, 2012. This new category allows a Council or Association of Mathematics Leaders to apply for membership in NCSM. The president must be a member of NCSM and the affiliate joins as an individual member of NCSM. Those affiliates, that complete the application and are accepted, will be notified in February so that someone who represents your organization can attend the business meeting at the Annual Conference and accept the Charter. We look forward to working with you individually and as a mathematics leadership organization. NCSM Leaders will host an Affiliate organizational meeting at the Annual Conference to help local organizations prepare the application and discuss the development of bylaws and officers. Please contact the Affiliate Coordinator, Valerie Mills () for more information.

NCSM could use your help in making new and experienced mathematics leaders aware of NCSM benefits, resources, and opportunities. As a member of NCSM, you should be very aware that NCSM has newsletters with current mathematics education information for leaders, refereed research journals on mathematics leadership and education, position papers that can be distributed to administrators and mathematics teachers and leaders to support a variety of positions and issues, the PRIME Leadership Framework, conferences, seminars, academies and a website full of timely leadership information. We must work together to increase our leadership knowledge, skills, and capabilities so we can spread our sphere of influence to support and sustain high levels of mathematics achievement for all students.

On Wednesday of our Annual Conference in April 2012, NCSM places a special focus on emerging leaders. The Iris Carl Travel Award assists leaders who have not attended the NCSM Annual Conference for the past three years. Please encourage your mathematics leader colleagues who have not attended to apply for the funds by going to the NCSM website for details. The deadline is December 1.

Many of you are ready to lead your districts or schools in choosing curriculum materials. Be sure to look on the NCSM website for the Curriculum Analysis Tools and the professional development module that supports the tools. Effective professional development is the key to successful selection of the curriculum and instructional tools that are needed by teachers. Your leadership should provide the direction and the research necessary to design programs and select materials that require focus, persistence and consistency over time. Selecting the best curriculum materials for instructional use is a PRIME consideration for all mathematics teachers and leaders.

The three tools and the professional development guide include:

Tool 1 - Mathematics Content Alignment rubrics for grades K-5, 6-8, and 9-12

Tool 2 - Mathematical Practices Alignment rubrics

Tool 3 - Overarching Considerations in Equity, Assessment, and Technology rubrics

Facilitators Guide - Professional Development Facilitators Guide and PowerPoint slides.

As a mathematics leader, you should plan to read and understand the Common Core English/Language Arts Standards as they relate to communication skills in mathematics, especially technical reading and communication of mathematical thinking. The standards title signifies a significant shift: English/Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. Mathematics is one of the technical subjects. This suggests that the Common Core State Standards emphasize a shared responsibility requiring collaboration and cooperation among mathematics and English/Language Arts leaders and teachers to facilitate students' mathematics literacy development. Communication is an essential part of becoming an effective mathematics leader and of promoting mathematics and mathematics education. The communication process helps students build meaning and permanence for ideas and enables the student to make ideas public.

Because mathematics is often conveyed in symbols, oral and written communication about mathematical ideas must be recognized as an important part of mathematics education. Students do not naturally talk the language of mathematics. However, as students progress through the grades, the mathematics about which they communicate should become more complex and abstract. The Standards for Mathematical Practices found in the CCSS support and expand this complex communication issue. Learning the content of mathematics is as much about learning to read, write, and talk about the content as it is learning the concepts, skills and facts. Ideally, mathematics content and literacy processes are wound together in a tight, single braid of instruction. Students must be able to read and comprehend independently and proficiently the kinds of complex texts, especially in mathematics, commonly found in college and careers.

Writing in mathematics helps students consolidate their thinking because it requires them to reflect on their work and to clarify thoughts and ideas developed in the lesson. Reflection and thoughtful questions can provoke students to reexamine their reasoning, to organize and analyze data in different ways, and to record their thinking so others can understand. Communication can support students' thinking and learning of new mathematics concepts as they act out a situation, draw pictures and diagrams in context, use objects and manipulatives, give verbal and written explanations, and use mathematical symbols. Mathematics leaders must help teachers see the importance of this and must guide teachers to give students learning experiences that help them appreciate the power and precision of mathematics language. A side benefit of communication among mathematics teachers, language arts teachers, and students is that it reminds all of us that students share responsibility with a variety of teachers for the learning that occurs. Begin now to plan how to use the collaboration among language arts and mathematics teachers and leaders to enhance the communication and learning of mathematics.

Webinars have become a focused method to deliver information and professional development to hundreds of people via the internet. Diane Briars, NCSM Immediate Past- President, and I will be hosting, with the help of Carnegie Learning, three webinars on timely subjects: (1) The CCSS Assessment Consortia featuring representatives from Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), Smarter Balance CA (SBCA) and Partnership for Assessment R College and Career (PARCC); (2) The Curriculum Materials Analysis Tools that have been developed by NCSM in partnership with a CCSSO project headed by Bill Bush; and (3) The NCSM Illustrating the Mathematical Practices project.

I hope to see all of you at the 44th NCSM Annual Conference, April 23-25, 2012, in Philadelphia. The conference theme is "Life, Liberty, and Mathematics for All: NCSM Leads the Way. Plan NOW to attend in April.

Suzanne Mitchell, Ph.D., NCSM President, is the Executive Director of the Arkansas STEM Coalition and teaches mathematics at Arkansas State University. She can be reached at 501-690-1518 or

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