National Council of Teachers of Mathematics

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Since its inception in 1920, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) has been dedicated to improving the teaching and learning of mathematics. NCTM has positioned itself as a leader in efforts to ensure an excellent mathematics education for every student and to provide sustained professional development opportunities for every mathematics teacher to grow professionally. The mission of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics is to provide the vision and leadership necessary to ensure a mathematics education of the highest quality for all students.

With more than 100,000 members and more than 250 affiliates in the United States and Canada, NCTM is the world's largest organization dedicated to improving mathematics education in grades prekindergarten through twelve. NCTM offers vision, leadership, and avenues of communication for mathematics educators at the elementary school, middle school, high school, and college and university levels.

In representing the interests of its members in the debate of public issues, NCTM's government relations activities are dedicated to ongoing dialogue and constructive discussion with all stakeholders about what is best for students.

Principles and Standards

In April 2000 NCTM released its Principles and Standards for School Mathematics, which are guidelines for excellence in pre-K12 mathematics education and a call for all students to engage in more challenging mathematics. The Principles and Standards provide a vision for mathematics education in the future, one with higher standards for both teachers and students.

Principles and Standards for School Mathematics has four major components. First, the principles reflect basic perspectives on which educators should base decisions that affect school mathematics. These principles establish a foundation for school mathematics programs by considering the broad issues of equity, curriculum, teaching, learning, assessment, and technology.

The NCTM standards describe an ambitious and comprehensive set of goals for mathematics instruction. The first five standards present goals in the mathematical content areas of number and operations, algebra, geometry, measurement, and data analysis and probability. The second five describe goals for the processes of problem solving, reasoning and proof, connections, communication, and representation. Together, these standards describe the basic skills and understanding that students will need to function effectively in the twenty-first century.


NCTM develops and publishes a wide array of resources for teachers. A series of thirty Navigations volumes is being published to assist teachers in bringing the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics into the classroom. The content of Principles and Standards is extended online at NCTM's website through E-Standards and Illuminations. The Illuminations website was developed to further illustrate the NCTM standards and provide teachers with lesson plans and learning activities for students to put the standards into practice. It provides standards-based Internet content for K12 teachers and classrooms.

Professional Development

NCTM provides a range of professional development opportunities through annual, regional, and leadership conferences, and through the publication of professional journals and other publications. The association coordinates several regional conferences and one annual meeting each year, with a combined attendance of more than 30,000. Its Academy for Professional Development, founded in 2000, provides two- and five-day training institutes for mathematics teachers.

Reflections is another element of NCTM's professional development for teachers. The Reflections website offers online video examples of mathematics instruction to help teachers apply in-depth analysis and discussion to improve their own skills. Included are online discussions with lesson-study critiques, video of students' work during class and on their assignments, and a professional analysis with teachers' discussions.

NCTM publishes four professional journals: Teaching Children Mathematics; Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School; the Mathematics Teacher; and the Journal for Research in Mathematics Education. Other publications include the monthly member newsletter, the NCTM News Bulletin, and more than 200 educational books, videos, and other materials. Each year in April, the council sponsors the World's Largest Math Event and publishes a colorful activity booklet with related activities that teachers can use across the grades.

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics also works closely with the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), which delegates to NCTM the review of its institutions' mathematics teacher preparation programs. NCATE accredits 519 institutions, which produce two-thirds of the nation's new teacher graduates each year. Through its review of these schools' mathematics programs, NCTM helps to ensure that future teachers will be prepared for the classroom.

In 1976 NCTM founded the Mathematics Education Trust (MET) to provide funds directly to teachers to enhance the teaching and learning of mathematics. MET offers twelve grant and scholarship award programs for teachers. In addition to grants to individual teachers, MET honors mathematics educators with its annual Lifetime Achievement Award for Distinguished Service to Mathematics Education.

Governance and Membership

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics is a nonprofit organization governed by a fifteen-member board of directors consisting of the president, past president or president-elect, and twelve elected members who serve three-year terms. The executive director is an ex officio member of the board. The president serves a four-year term on the board, consisting of one year as president-elect, two years as president, and one year as past president.

As a professional association, NCTM derives its strength from its members. Membership is composed primarily of K12 classroom teachers, university educators specializing in mathematics education, and educational institutions (such as college libraries and schools). Members participate in the work of approximately seventy national committees and task forces and contribute to all aspects of the council's work. Through its executive, conference services, finance and administration, human resources, information technology, member services and marketing, and publications divisions, the council's 110 employees manage an annual budget of $16 million.

See also: Mathematics Education, Teacher Preparation.

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National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. 2002. <>.

Ken Krehbiel

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National Council of Teachers of Mathematics