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Skip Fennell announces Curriculum Focal Points to NCTM

From an NCTM e-mail to members, Friday, September 15, 2006.

From: Francis (Skip) Fennell
Subject: Curriculum Focal Points Released
Date: Fri, 15 Sep 2006

Dear NCTM Members:

I am pleased to announce that Curriculum Focal Points for Prekindergarten through Grade 8 Mathematics: A Quest for Coherence was released on September 12. The Curriculum Focal Points are the next step in the implementation of the Standards. The focal points fully support the Council's Principles and Standards for School Mathematics. The appendix in Curriculum Focal Points directly links the focal points to virtually all the expectations in Principles and Standards.

Curriculum Focal Points presents the most important mathematical topics for each grade level.

A focal point specifies the mathematical content that a student needs to understand thoroughly for future mathematics learning. The focal points are compatible with the original Standards and represent the next step in realizing the vision set forth in Principles and Standards for School Mathematics in 2000. The focal points are intended for use by mathematics leaders as they examine their state and local mathematics expectations and seriously consider what is important at each grade level. This discussion, dialogue, or perhaps debate is designed to influence the next generation of curriculum frameworks, textbooks, and assessments.

Unfortunately, some of the media coverage has raised questions and caused concern among our members. Despite several conversations with a reporter from the Wall Street Journal explaining what the Curriculum Focal Points are and are not, a September 12 Wall Street Journal article did not represent the substance or intent of the focal points. The focal points are not about the basics; they are about important foundational topics. The Council has always supported learning the basics. Students should learn and be able to recall basic facts and become computationally fluent, but such knowledge and skills should be acquired with understanding. Unfortunately, some of the other news media have followed the Wall Street Journal's lead and have similarly misrepresented the Curriculum Focal Points.

The Council's goal is to support teachers in guiding students to learn mathematics with understanding.

Organizing a curriculum around a set of focal points can provide students with a connected, coherent, ever expanding body of mathematical knowledge. The focal points describe what should be the focus of what students should know and understand thoroughly.

I encourage you to explore the complete Curriculum Focal Points and related resources. You can view a video overview and introduction to Curriculum Focal Points, and you can see answers to some questions or submit your own questions about the focal points. The news release on the focal points and a video of the news conference at the National Press Club announcing the release, as well as an article on the focal points from Education Week, are also on the Curriculum Focal Points section of the NCTM Web site.

Francis (Skip) Fennell