Today’s children are growing up in a world very different from the one even 15 years ago. Seismic changes in the labor market mean that we are living and working in a knowledge-based economy—one that demands advanced literacy and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills, whether for application in the private or public sector. Today, information moves through media at lightning speeds and is accessible in ways that are unprecedented; technology has eliminated many jobs while changing and creating others, especially those involving mathematical and conceptual reasoning skills. One characteristic of these fast-growing segment of jobs is that the employee needs to be able to solve unstructured problems while working with others in teams. At the same time, migration and immigration rates around the world bring diversity to schools and neighborhoods. The exponential growth in interactions and information sharing from around the world means there is much to process, communicate, analyze and respond to in the everyday, across all settings. For a great majority of jobs, conceptual reasoning and technical writing skills are integral parts to the daily routine.
To prepare students for the changes in the way we live and work, and to be sure that our education system keeps pace with what it means to be mathematically literate and what it means to collaboratively problem solve, we need a different approach to daily teaching and learning. We need content-rich standards that will serve as a platform for advancing children’s 21st-century mathematical skills —their abstract reasoning, their collaboration skills, their ability to learn from peers and through technology, and their flexibility as a learner in a dynamic learning environment. Students need to be engaged in dialogue and learning experiences that allow complex topics and ideas to be explored from many angles and perspectives. They also need to learn how to think and solve problems for which there is no one solution—and learn mathematical skills along the way.
Students will only become successful in mathematics if they see mathematics as a whole, not as isolated skills and facts. As we develop mathematics curriculum based upon the standards, attention must be given to both content and process strands. Likewise, as teachers develop their instructional plans and their assessment techniques, they also must give attention to the integration of process and content. To do otherwise would produce students who have temporary knowledge and who are unable to apply mathematics in realistic settings. Curriculum, instruction, and assessment are intricately related and must be designed with this in mind. All three domains must address conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, and problem solving. If this is accomplished, school districts will produce students who will
- Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them
- Reason abstractly and quantitatively
- Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others
- Model with mathematics
- Use appropriate tools strategically
- Attend to precision
- Look for and make use of structure
- Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning
Dr. Satish Jagnandan
Director of STEAM