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Connecting "Charting a Course for Success" with "Catalyzing Change"

By Robert Berry posted 12-21-2018 09:24


Connecting Charting a Course for Success with Catalyzing Change

In his May 2017 President’s Message, NCTM President Matt Larson boldly stated that “Mathematics education is STEM education.” He argued that mathematical understanding is an essential foundation across all disciplines of  STEM. The Committee on STEM Education of the National Science and Technology Council recently issued Charting a Course for Success: America’s Strategy for STEM Education stating that mathematics is foundational to the development of success across all STEM fields of study. This report outlines a federal strategy for the next five years across the content areas representing STEM. This strategy is based on a “…Vision where all Americans will have lifelong access to high-quality STEM education and the United States will be the global leader in STEM literacy, innovation and employment” (p. 3). The committee identifies three goals for achieving this vision:

  • Build Strong Foundations for STEM Literacy: Foundations of STEM literacy focus on teaching thinking and problem-solving skills to equip a STEM-literate public to conduct thoughtful analysis and to sort through problems, propose innovative solutions, and handle rapid technological change. STEM literacy gives individuals a better capacity to make informed choices on personal health and nutrition, entertainment, transportation, cybersecurity, financial management, and parenting (p.4).
  • Increase Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in STEM: High-quality STEM opportunities are not available to all learners. The disparity in the distribution of human, material, and financial resources inhibits this goal. This report sets clear expectations that STEM education practices and policies at all levels should embed the values of inclusion and equity (pp. 4-5).
  • Prepare the STEM Workforce for the Future: Jobs of the future in key sectors are dependent on a diverse talent pool of Americans with strong STEM knowledge and skills (p. 5).

Charting a Course for Success: America’s Strategy for STEM Education echoes many of the key points of Catalyzing Change in High School Mathematics: Initiating Critical Conversations. While Charting A Course for Success is STEM-centric and Catalyzing Change mathematics-centric, both publications:

  • Recognize that issues of equity are essential for broadening the participation of diverse learners while increasing opportunities and options;
  • Acknowledge that STEM literacy and mathematical understanding enables learners to make informed personal choices as well as critiques and understand their worlds;
  • Problem solving, modeling, and critical thinking are necessary processes and practices for teaching and learning in STEM and mathematics;
  • A rigorous and engaging mathematics education, coupled with statistics education, is foundational to the development of success across as all STEM fields of study;
  • Critical conversations are necessary to develop, identify, share, and support research and implementation of research-informed teaching practices, systemic change models, and teacher and leadership development toward our shared goals.


Similar to other federal reports, Charting a Course for Success sets goals for STEM that are focused on national economic and defense interests. Catalyzing Change acknowledges that mathematics can “potentially cultivate in student’s a sense of wonder, beauty, and joy—and doing so is an important but often neglected purpose for teaching mathematics” (p.12). One can argue that cultivating a sense of wonder, beauty, and joy is a neglected purpose for teaching across all the content areas representing STEM.


In the Make Mathematics a Magnet section of Charting A Course for Success, the report describes mathematics as essential for providing language to “describe and reason about models of real-world phenomena” (p. 17). This section describes many practices and the process of mathematics teaching and learning for building STEM literacy. These practices and processes include using mathematics and statistics in context as well as emphasizing reasoning, critical thinking, and problem solving in everyday lives. Data science, modeling, and problem-based learning are described as ways for integrating mathematics contextually. The points made in this section not only echo points in Catalyzing Change but also echo points made by Larson in Mathematics education is STEM education.


NCTM will continue to work with the various STEM committees, NSF, IES, the Department of Education to increase recognition for mathematics education, acknowledgment of the current challenges, and the development of policies and programs to bring rigorous and engaging mathematics learning to each and every student.