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Welcome by Editor

Welcome to Focus on Basics

Dear Readers,

It seems auspicious to be publishing the mathematics instruction issue of Focus on Basics at this time. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics recently issued its revised Principles and Standards for School Mathematics. This past summer, NCSALL cosponsored an international mathematics conference. The General Educational Development Testing Service is poised to release the GED 2002, which includes a math test that requires the use of calculators and encourages estimation and problem-solving. These events and others that Mary Jane Schmitt documents in her eloquent argument in our cover article indicate that the time for change in the nature of mathematics instruction may have arrived.

To help math teachers develop a theoretical background for their instructional choices, mathematics teacher and researcher Kathy Safford provides us with an overview of current theories in math education, and a few steps that teachers can follow to deepen their knowledge. Her article begins on page 6.

Learning disabilities specialist Rochelle Kenyon describes dyscalculia, a learning disability specific to math, and provides strategies for mathematics teachers to use when working with learning-disabled math students, whether the disabilities be dyscalculia or reading-related. In addition, she provides a list of resources from which we can learn more. Turn to page 24 for this information.

Linda Huntington, who teaches learning-disabled math students, and Catherine Cantrell, a technology specialist and staff developer, work with learners who are at opposite ends of the educational spectrum. Regardless of the differences in their students' abilities, the same theme emerges in these teachers' accounts of their classrooms: Math must be relevant. Lessons should be developed around math that springs from the learners' lives. These stories begin on pages 28 and 21.

Adult basic education learners around the world want relevant math content. Aydin Y¸cesan Durgunoglu and Banu ÷ney did research on the impact participation had on learners in a basic education program in Istanbul, Turkey. They found that learners had strong emotional reactions to learning mathematics skills that helped them make sense of the world. They share their findings with us in the story that begins on page 18.

Those interested in improving their instruction but struggling with how to do so will find ideas in the article that begins on page 11. The Mathematics Exchange Group (MEG) of New York City works from the theory that adult basic education teachers - most of whom, it is safe to say, do not have advanced training in mathematics - need improved knowledge of math as well as a progressive instructional approach. Their model for teacher education is one that can be replicated in communities across the country.

We hope that this issue of Focus on Basics proves to be a useful introductory resource for those committed to change in mathematics instruction for learners at all levels of ability.


Barbara Garner