A national curriculum for school mathematics is a topic of growing interest at state, national, and policy levels. The development of a common national curriculum and assessment in mathematics should be driven by the following basic principles for designing an excellent curriculum to avoid the risk of producing a negotiated list of standards that is merely an intersection of those that are currently addressed in each of the 50 states. Therefore, NCTM recommends the following guiding principles for the potential development of any set of common curricular expectations and assessments across the nation.
The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) ushered in the standards era with the 1989 publication of Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics, which was updated in 2000 as Principles and Standards for School Mathematics. Curriculum Focal Points for Prekindergarten through Grade 8 Mathematics: A Quest for Coherence (2006) addressed the related issues of curricular focus and coherence, which are at the heart of the growing call for common standards. The forthcoming Focus in High School Mathematics: Reasoning and Sense Making (2009) will address mathematics education in high school. The following guiding principles are adapted from these NCTM publications.
A curriculum is more than a collection of activities: It must be coherent, focused on important mathematics, and well articulated across the grades.
Students must learn mathematics with understanding, actively building new knowledge from experience and prior knowledge. Learning mathematics with understanding is essential.
If a voluntary national mathematics curriculum is developed, the topics studied in that curriculum must be taught and learned in an equitable manner in a setting that ensures that problem solving, reasoning, connections, communication, and conceptual understanding are all developed simultaneously along with procedural fluency.