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Mr. Klein: Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats, and we'll get started very
soon. For those of you who have recently arrived and you parked your cars in Lot
"C" you need to have a blue parking pass on your dashboard or you will
get a ticket. If you did not get one of those blue parking passes, we have some on
the registration table in the front. So we encourage you to get one of those and
put it on your dashboard of your car. Thank you.
Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats so we can get started.
Mr. Carroll: Please take your seats, and we will get started. It's my great pleasure
this afternoon to open and moderate the first session of the afternoon. Our first
speaker this afternoon will be Dr. Wu, who is a faculty member of the University
California at Berkeley and has been a leader in many of the educational issues we
are considering this week. The title of this talk is Mathematics and Science Standards:
A New Direction for California. Please welcome Professor Wu (Applause).
Mr. Wu: Thank you very much, it's an honor to be here. I'm supposed to say a few
words about mathematics education in California. Since this is the height of basketball
season, I hope you don't mind if I use the NBA as a reference point.
We are like a team in the NBA championship series, and this conference may be thought
of as a rally on the day before the first game. It has been a hard battle to get
to this point, but we could not have done it without the leadership and support of
the State Board of Education (Applause) -- and I know it is one of the rare occasions
to see Janet [Nicholas] and Marion [Joseph] together in public. I have not had the
opportunity to thank both of them and I should not fail to do so now and say "thank
you", not only on behalf of all of us here, but also on behalf of all the children
of California. Thank you very much indeed.
So now back to basketball (Laughter). A good team does not just show up for the finals
because it wants nothing less than winning the championship. The same is true of
us here. We are not satisfied with the writing of two excellent documents because
our goal is to produce good matheamtics education for California, and we ain't done
nothing yet. We are therefore gathering here today, not to celebrate our gains, but
rather to firm up our resolve for the real battle ahead. I can see at least three
major obstacles in realizing this goal.
The first one is how to get the message of these new documents out to the teachers.
Because of the professional mathematicians' neglect in the past several decades --
and I emphasize decadeS, not just in the immediate past decade which, of course,
is heavily connected with the reform -- this long period of neglect has led to all
kind of misconceptions and errors that have crept into the school mathematics textbooks
as well as the mathematics classrooms.
The new Framework and Standards offer a version of mathematics that is, to my best
knowledge, free of these misconceptions and errors. Unfortunately, I don't think
the teachers have gotten these messages, so we have to do something. Among the mathematicians
here, I'd like to urge all of you to make yourselves available to talk to school
districts about the mathematics in the Standards and Framework, or in fact about
the Standards and Framework themselves, and please do so aggressively because it's
urgently needed. I also have a suggestion to the State Board, and it is that we should
organize large conventions for teachers, strictly devoted to explaining the basic
spirits of these two documents.
Until the teachers know what the new documents are trying to do, the documents will
remain two more documents on the shelf, ready to collect dust.
The next obstacle is the lack of good textbooks. California has just gone through
the first round of textbook adoption using the new Standards as criteria, and I believe
the publishers have now gotten the idea that for once in California, we're serious
about mathematics. However, recognizing what is bad, recognizing the need, is not
quite the same as being able to produce something good.
The publishers need your help. Mathematicians, teachers and faculty alike should
seriously consider making themselves available as consultants or maybe even co-authors
in the on-going enterprise of writing good texts, and hopefully with this participation,
we can maximize the chance of a successful outcome.
But the biggest obstacle and the last, is that we do not have nearly enough mathematically
knowledgeable teachers. Without the teachers to deliver the message of the printed
page, there can only be bad mathematics education. The main difficulty with the professional
development of teachers is that it is inherently complex. To be able to reach out
to the majority of the teachers, we need an extensive infrastructure throughout the
state. But such an infrastructure cannot be erected overnight. Moreover, because
professional development cannot be done by mass communication, we need a large number
of competent people to do the job. The sad state of the professional development
of mathematics teachers is such that I would be happy to have a small number of such
And finally the problem of money. Professional development is extremely expensive,
and forgive me for saying it, but the State Government has not provided nearly enough
funds to get the job done.
What we have at the moment are a few State-sponsored units to do professional development
of the mathematics teachers that go under the name of the California Mathematics
Project. Whatever you thought of CMP in the past, I urge all of you to spend some
time now to help guide the CMP projects to peak performance.
Visit the project near you. Offer your constructive criticisms, with emphasis on
"constructive". If you do so in a civil and courteous manner, your comments
will always be welcome. CMP uses your tax dollars, and you are entitled to demand
your money's worth.
It remains for me to note that this conference marks the symbolic point at which
our roles are changed for good. It was not so long ago that many of us were the most
vociferous of critics. We voiced our strong disagreements with what was going on
in mathematics education, and our criticisms were essential in producing a new set
of Standards and a new Framework. But now, starting today, we are no longer outsiders
looking in. We ARE the insiders. Although we got here by our criticisms, we cannot
achieve good mathematics education by criticisms. There is a Chinese saying which
says you can win an empire on horseback, but you cannot govern an empire on horseback.
"Horseback" of course refers to the way warfare was waged in the bygone
days. So it is that although we have won the battle of words, we will not accomplish
much at this point with words. What we need are actions. It is our turn to produce.
And actions don't come cheap. We have to bear down and get the work done.
Finally, looking ahead, what do I see? I think we have a grace period of three years.
But if in three years we do not manage to produce any tangible improvement in mathematics
education, the public will demand another mathematics education reform and all our
efforts up to this point will go to waste. Facing such a task of extreme difficulty,
I don't think any of us can promise success. What we can promise is to do our very
best. And we will. (Applause).
Speaker: We have time for maybe one or two very brief questions or comments at this
point. None? fine. Thank you. (Applause)
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