Education Secretary Spellings recently announced the formation of a presidentially appointed panel that was formed to address math teaching. According to the charter of this panel, one of its purposes is “to foster greater knowledge of and improved performance in mathematics among American students.” The panel is charged with producing a report in two years, which must contain recommendations pertaining to how math instruction can be improved in the U.S. In particular, the report must address the skills necessary for students to acquire competence in algebra and to prepare them for higher levels of mathematics.
The workings of the panel are not the type of thing that makes the front page of newspapers, the top story on TV news, or what is talked about in the local cafes. To hear about this you need to drop in to the blogs (like Edspresso), or the various list serves on the internet devoted to math education. There you will notice some discomfort among those who think that the way math is currently taught and the present crop of math texts being used in the U.S. is just fine. They have openly expressed dismay at the inclusion on the panel of people who have been vocal critics of reform math, stating “This panel is filled with hacks, toadies and stooges. Can you say ‘show trial’, children? Have you ever seen the old reels of the Communist Party Congresses in Moscow?” Allegations of pre-conceived conclusions then follow.