Thursday, September 6, 2007

Stay Tuned - A Preview of an Interview with Lynn Arthur Steen

Lynn Arthur Steen has graciously agreed to an online interview for MathNotations. He is Professor of Mathematics at St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota and has written numerous books and articles on the teaching and learning of mathematics at the K-14 level. His leadership roles on the national stage, professional interests and activities would require several pages but I will highlight a few of these. For further background refer to his St. Olaf bio.

In 1985, two years after publication of A Nation at Risk, Professor Steen was asked by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics to join a new Commission to oversee development of "standards" for school mathematics resulting in the publication of their famous 1989 PSSM document. At the same time he joined the Executive Committee of the new Mathematical Sciences Education Board (MSEB) at the National Academy of Sciences. This led, four years later, to his writing the seminal MSEB's "Report to the Nation on Mathematics Education" entitled Everybody Counts. This widely distributed report provided rationale and impetus to the emerging standards movement in mathematics education. This publication has had a profound effect on my career as a mathematics educator.

He is a past president of the Mathematics Association of America (MAA) and has served as chairman of the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences. For the past 7 years, he has served as Mathematics consultant and editor to the American Diploma Project (ADP), Achieve, Inc., which has developed the standards for the new Algebra II assessment to be given next spring.

In his 'spare' time, he has focused a lot of energy on quantitative literacy (especially in an interdisciplinary sense), on the increasingly important interface of mathematics with biology, on the integrity and use of educational data (e.g., graduation rates), and, earlier, on the role of mathematics in the (sub-baccalaureate) technical work force.

Professor Steen is a prolific and talented writer of mathematics exposition and I urge you to read his Commentary, K-8 on the ADP Expectations page. This document can be downloaded from the link on the right side of this page.

I am in the process of composing a set of questions for Professor Steen. Both the questions and his replies will be printed verbatim in an upcoming post. Those who know my style should expect that my questions will be candid, direct but highly professional in nature and will reflect the concerns of my readership. Originally, my primary focus was to be on the Algebra II End of Course Assessment to be administered in the spring of 2008 to students in nine states in the consortium previously mentioned on this blog. However, I've indicated to Professor Steen that I would also appreciate his views on the current state of school mathematics in the US and his thoughts about the future direction of mathematics curriculum, instruction and assessment.


Jackie Ballarini said...

I can't wait to read the interview. I'm also interested in the Alg II end of course exam, so any information would be greatly appreciated.

Dave Marain said...

I can't wait either. I've completed the first draft of the questions and they pretty much cover the gamut of issues facing most math educators today. Prof. Steen is extremely eloquent but I have no idea how he will respond to these! He will need time to reply thoughtfully as I know he will...

I may also ask him for more resources for the Alg 2 assessment since many are very interested in seeing sample problems. Some of the links do give examples and some open-ended questions. The content and standards are interesting. When you have time, download and print these and refer to them frequently. You know that curriculum people, administrators and chairpeople/supervisors will be requiring that soon anyway! After all, this constitutes a quasi-national curriculum for Algebra 2, at least for all the participating districts in those nine states. This is happening so rapidly, many are being caught by surprise.

Mr. Lucchese said...

Definitely a must read. I'll be sure to tune in.

Jackie Ballarini said...

Thanks. I've found some resources online re: the Alg II test. Could I ask a favor and request links to relevant materials when you post the interview?

Dave Marain said...

tony, jackie--
I don't want to overwhelm Prof. Steen with too many questions, but it just occurred to me that as readers comment on this 'preview', they may suggest some great questions that I never thought of. Oh well, there's always next time...

Anonymous said...

Too bad this preview is not carnivalized....

I think I want to listen to answers to questions that you think are important. It's a fascinating opportunity.

Maybe one day you can tell us how it came about?

Dave Marain said...

Actually I just posted a link to this 'preview' in the post that I sent to the latest Carnival several days ago. I would greatly appreciate it if you and other math and edu-bloggers could let everyone know that the interview process is coming along very well and we'll probably publish sometime during the week. Prof. Steen is a meticulous writer, is deeply thoughtful and one who weighs his words carefully so I don't want to rush the process!

As far as how the interview evolved...
As I did with Dr. Schmidt (of TIMSS) renown), I simply ASKED! I may have more to say about this in the preface to the interview, but Prof. Steen was delighted to have such a dialog. This really can be a productive direction for some bloggers. At that moment, I stopped viewing myself as a math educator with opinions and recognized that journalism can be an important part of blogging. Part of journalism is conducting interviews and it's an aspect of blogging I consider exciting.

If you have any more thoughts about how we can spread the word about this interview, I would appreciate it. My questions bear on some of the important issues facing math educators today and Prof. Steen has indicated that he will tackle all of them!

Anonymous said...

OK, so real questions?

before school, elementary, middle school, secondary, undergrad;

gifted, above average, middle, below, and far below;

I see 5x5, 25 places to focus. Where's the biggest problem? Which is the easiest to improve?

Your hobby-horse (in several colors): national curricula? national standards? national assessment? national certification for teachers?

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