AAAS Conference on Developing Textbooks That Promote Science Literacy

February 27-March 2, 2001
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Washington, D.C.

Supporting Standards-Based Reform in Mathematics and Science: Effective Partnerships and Tools

Prepared by SciMathMN for AAAS Project 2061 Invitational Conference: Next Steps Toward Literacy

How can materials developers and publishers respond to the challenge put forth in the evaluation reports?

Washington DC
February 27-March 2, 2001

Purpose of the paper

In August 2000, SciMathMN received an invitation to join with others to consider what is needed to improve the quality of mathematics and science curriculum materials to: a) focus on the most important learning goals for mathematics and science literacy; and, b) help students achieve these goals. The conveners of the invitational conference asked us to respond to two overarching questions:

  1. What is happening in Minnesota with respect to state and local standards and more specifically, curriculum adoption and implementation?
  2. How are the Project 2061 reports helping Minnesota teachers, schools, and districts? What is the impact and what are the implications for the future?

As the staff at SciMathMN discussed these two questions, three main issues emerged:

  • The design, development, adoption, and implementation of curriculum materials;
  • The development and strategic use of Project 2061 tools (i.e., materials evaluation process, curriculum maps, textbook ratings, etc.);
  • Continued and future support for widespread dissemination of exemplary curriculum materials and Project 2061 tools with emphasis on leadership models that promote professional growth.

Development and discussion of these three main issues will comprise the central message in this paper. The paper will be divided into four major parts:

  1. Background on SciMathMN and its work as a statewide coalition
  2. Mathematics and science education in Minnesota
  3. Use of Project 2061 tools and lessons learned
  4. Needs and implications for future work.

Background on SciMathMN and its work as a statewide coalition

SciMathMN is a public/private partnership that supports improved student learning in K-12 mathematics and science via standards-based systemic reforms for policy and practice.

SciMathMN’s vision of standards-based mathematics and science education is derived from the following documents:

  • Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics (1989) and the update, Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (2000) both by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM);
  • National Science Education Standards (1996) by the National Research Council (NRC); and,
  • Benchmarks for Science Literacy (1993) by Project 2061 of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

SciMathMN’s primary goal is to raise the performance of all students in mathematics and science and eliminate all performance gaps in student achievement. To achieve this primary goal, work is concentrated in four focus areas:

  1. Achieve and sustain state policies and funding programs that support the goals of standards-based reform for K-12 mathematics and science education.
  2. Attain a majority of districts that have aligned their curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices with the standards-based systemic model.
  3. Achieve and sustain state policies and aligned programs that ensure an adequate supply of high quality teachers prepared to teach in a standards-based system.
  4. Achieve and sustain public support for standards-based mathematics and science education.

Implementing the objectives has led to cooperative work with various stakeholders such as state professional teacher organizations, informal science organizations, higher education institutions, business communities and national organizations that have a particular interest in the improvement of mathematics and science education. The following six strategies have been utilized to accomplish the objectives:

  1. Influence and monitor state policies for standards-based mathematics and science;
  2. Advocate for equity in student/system outcomes;
  3. Research standards implementation and impact;
  4. Provide tools and technical assistance for program improvements;
  5. Build capacity of the system to implement and sustain reforms;
  6. Provide tools for engaging educator, parent, and business involvement.

In particular, strategies two, four, and five led to SciMathMN’s interest in and involvement with AAAS Project 2061 tools and professional development opportunities. George “Pinky” Nelson, Director of Project 2061, was the statewide annual Assembly speaker in February 1999 and his main message has resulted in a new “product,” entitled “Science and Mathematics Literacy for ALL” that SciMathMN developed for use with parents and the broader Minnesota community. In August 1999, SciMathMN piloted Project 2061 Curriculum Material Evaluation Process workshops in science (5 days) and mathematics (3 days). Continued conversations with “Pinky” Nelson and his staff have helped SciMathMN provide resources for Minnesota teachers and district teams.

Mathematics and Science education in Minnesota

Minnesota’s content standards are based on the 1989 NCTM Mathematics Standards and the 1995 NRC Science Standards. Reform in Minnesota is driven by content standards supported by aligned assessment. The emphasis in the Minnesota Profile of Learning is on student thinking and the ability to solve problems. Curriculum and instructional practices are selected to align with what children are expected to know and be able to do.

Law requires performance assessment of the standards. A series of multiple choice/open response assessments are used at key grade levels to monitor implementation of the standards. The shift of focus from teacher to student has been a challenging process for everyone involved.

The Minnesota State assessment system is emerging. Currently, there exists Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA) at the 3rd and 5th grades. The structure and reporting of the MCA’s is similar to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) given nationally to students over the past several years. The MCA’s have been designed to align with the Minnesota's standards in mathematics at the primary and intermediate grade levels, and are intended to assess how well students are achieving the standards. The assessments consist of both multiple choice and open-ended items.

A testing company has been hired to develop the items, but Minnesota teachers review all items to guarantee alignment with Minnesota’s standards. Items are field-tested before they are placed on an assessment. Minnesota teachers review the results of each field-tested item and make a decision about that item based on the statistics provided by the testing company. Most teachers on these review committees come from the Mathematics Best Practice Network and are thoroughly versed in the Minnesota Standards. The next MCA to be implemented is at the 11th grade. The development process for this assessment has occurred over the last three years. The 11th grade Mathematics MCA will be given for the first time during the 2001-2002 school year. A 7th grade MCA will also be developed to assure assessment of the content standards across all levels of the Profile of Learning.

The only high-stakes test in Minnesota is the 8th grade Basic Skills test. This test is created in much the same way the MCA’s have been developed, but it consists of multiple choice items only. Each item must be situated in a real world context as much as possible and must be a problem that a person might actually need to solve in everyday life. The test consists of eight major areas learned by students during their elementary and early middle school years:

  • Problem Solving-Whole Numbers and Fractions
  • Problem Solving-Percents and Ratios
  • Number Sense
  • Estimation
  • Measurement
  • Tables and Graphs
  • Chance and Data
  • Shape and Space

Several adults in the greater Minnesota community have had an opportunity to try this test and it has broad general acceptance by the public.

The assessment system is evolving from the Minnesota Graduation Standards, which are based on the National Standards; therefore, assessment aligns closely with NSF-funded curriculum projects. Wanting students to do well on achievement tests requires that the curriculum, instruction, and assessment must match the standards.

Minnesota has a history of strong leadership in the areas of mathematics and science education. The State of Minnesota Mathematics and Science Specialists connected with the professional organizations in the state to improve mathematics and science opportunities for Minnesota students, even before the founding of SciMathMN in 1993. These organizations included the Minnesota Council of Teachers of Mathematics (MCTM), the Minnesota Science Teachers Association (MnSTA), and the Minnesota Mathematics Mobilization (M3). The University of Minnesota mathematics and science education departments were also actively involved with Minnesota teachers and school districts in joint ventures to improve classroom teaching and learning. Several other public and private higher education institutions were also working in their regions of the state to promote improved mathematics and science instruction. With the discussions started around the draft versions of the 1989 NCTM Standards, a need to end teacher and institution isolation evolved.

A statewide network of teachers called Project PRIME (headed by Sharon Stenglein, Minnesota Department of Children, Families and Learning (CFL) Mathematics Specialist), began to actively introduce the ideas of standards-based teaching and learning to other teachers in their regions. This effort to shift emphasis in teaching toward conceptual understanding and student ability to apply knowledge to solve problems continues today. An extensive Mathematics Best Practice Network comprised of K-12 classroom teachers representing all grade-band levels in every region of the state are involved in many aspects of improved teaching and learning for students.

A statewide Science Best Practice Network (headed by Kathleen Lundgren, CFL Science Specialist) was also formed and works with classroom teachers to promote inquiry-based approaches to science education. Currently, many classroom teachers are using hands-on, kit-based science instruction at the elementary level and a focused curriculum of life science and earth science at the middle level. The high schools in the state offer biology, chemistry, and physics with many other electives available for student choice. Science Best Practice teachers are working with individual teachers and school district committees to make thoughtful curriculum and instruction decisions. Educators from both Best Practice Networks and members of MCTM and MnSTA joined together to significantly impact the development of the mathematics and science portions of the Minnesota State Graduation Standards, known as the Profile of Learning.

With the creation of SciMathMN in 1993, additional resources were made available to help with the process of designing and implementing standards. First, SciMathMN funded Minnesota's participation in the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) at all three grade levels (4th, 8th, and 12th). The lessons learned from this study are influencing many decisions that are being made for Minnesota students today. The major lessons were:

  • High expectations are needed for ALL students.
  • A focused, coherent curriculum is necessary.
  • Effective instructional practices are critical.
  • Assessment must be aligned with curriculum and instruction.
  • Support by teachers, administrators, parents and the broader community is important.

Second, SciMathMN created K-12 Mathematics and Science Frameworks to help teachers and school district teams analyze their own individual mathematics and science programs. The K-12 Mathematics and Science Frameworks are extensive documents that show the alignment of national, state and local standards and provide resources for teachers and schools for implementing the state graduation standards in mathematics and science. The documents delineate the case for change, identify best practices in the discipline, provide focal points and background for instruction across grade bands in key content areas, discuss the importance of connections within the discipline and among disciplines, link to resources needed and end with strategies for making change happen.

With the Minnesota Profile of Learning (based on NCTM and NRC Standards) in law and the lessons learned from the TIMSS results, almost every district in the state is in the process of re-examining curriculum and instructional practices. There is an emphasis on content depth and focus as opposed to topic coverage. Teachers are searching for materials that promote student thinking and have support for instructional practice that encourages this approach.

One model that has influenced change in instructional practice in mathematics is the NSF-funded Minneapolis and St. Paul Merging to Achieve Standards-Based Practice (MASP2) grant that has supported professional development for 21 school districts in the seven-county metro area. These 21 school systems have adopted an NSF-funded mathematics curriculum at the middle school or high-school level. Teacher leaders from these school districts have provided guidance to other teachers and district adoption committees across the state. Particularly helpful are the lessons learned in adoption and implementation of reform-minded curricula.

At the elementary level, a leadership cadre has been developed by CFL and SciMathMN to provide initial training experiences for districts in NSF-funded mathematics curricula. Currently, the cadre has provided initial training and support to over 25 Minnesota school districts. At the middle-school level, leadership cadres have been supported by three publishers through grants and extended professional-development opportunities to enhance the support available throughout the state.

SciMathMN, MCTM and CFL cooperated to create short curriculum awareness conferences that were held in a variety of locations throughout the state. Teachers using NSF curriculum projects shared content overviews, a model lesson, instructional practices and student responses to the new curriculum with their peers. The evening before each conference involved teachers and the broader community in a discussion designed to make the case for change in current practices of teaching and learning. The curriculum awareness conferences have influenced thinking about mathematics in each region and led to many districts adopting NSF-supported curriculum projects. Discussion with the broader community has strengthened public support for change. The awareness conferences have now become an annual summer event to showcase standards-based curricula in mathematics and science.

Another important connection that affects the climate in Minnesota is SciMathMN’s Transforming Teacher Education (TTE) initiative. The 19 higher education institutions that prepare teachers meet regularly to discuss standards-based teaching and learning and have built licensure programs based on national and Minnesota standards. Many use the SciMathMN K-12 Mathematics and Science Frameworks as methods textbooks for their undergraduate students. Undergraduate students are invited to attend conferences, meet state leaders and visit with practicing teachers. A significant number attended and actively participated in the fall MCTM/MnSTA professional conference. In addition, TTE members created mathematics and science licensure frameworks to help guide institutions as they prepare teachers for teaching in a standards-based system. SciMathMN has also made grants to several institutions for research based on the Salish model, resulting in tools to assess the quality and evidence of standards-based teaching practice. This has enhanced K-16 relationships in the state.

The K-16 linkages are important to systemic reform in Minnesota, and all parts of the system moving forward together will be critical for success. SciMathMN has made conscious use of national resources to ensure success. In addition to the NCTM and NRC Standards as a basis for its mission and work, involvement with the NSTA Building a Presence for Science initiative, the NRC TIMSS Professional Development module and Project 2061 initiatives and products have enhanced reform efforts.

Use of Project 2061 tools and lessons learned

In February 1999, SciMathMN invited George “Pinky” Nelson, Director of Project 2061, to be the keynote speaker for its 5th Annual Assembly. His talk, Science and Mathematics Literacy for ALL, was broadcast from the World Trade Center located in St. Paul to 10 other sites throughout the state. Mathematics and science teachers K-16, along with other stakeholders, gathered to hear his message and discuss implications for Minnesota. His keynote address created increased interest in three publications by Project 2061:

  • Science for All Americans (1989)
  • Benchmarks for Science Literacy (1993)
  • Blueprints for Reform (1997)

There was also interest in the Curriculum Materials Evaluation Procedure (CMEP) that was designed to identify textbooks that help students learn benchmarks/standards and that also help teachers to teach toward benchmarks/standards. In particular, teachers were interested in the results from the Middle Grades Mathematics Textbook Review and the review of algebra and biology texts, along with the process used to reach the ratings given to each textbook.

As a result, SciMathMN offered two pilot workshops facilitated by Project 2061 staff featuring the Curriculum Materials Evaluation Procedure in August 1999. First, a five-day workshop was created for K-12 science teachers and district teams with a special focus on science. The second workshop was a three-day experience for K-12 mathematics teachers and district teams focusing on new mathematics curriculum adoptions. Both workshops had a similar structure:

  • Study the intent of a specific learning goal.
  • Apply an understanding of the learning goal to determine its content alignment with selected curriculum materials.
  • Study a set of instructional criteria.
  • Apply an instructional analysis to selected curriculum materials using these criteria and a selected learning goal.
  • Follow the procedure outlined above to apply content and instructional analyses to participant-selected curriculum materials.

Approximately 10 school district teams attended each of the two workshops. Their experience with standards-based mathematics or science education ranged from none to considerable. Each participant received and utilized Science for All Americans and Benchmarks for Science Literacy. We also provided copies of the Minnesota Graduation Standards and the SciMathMN Minnesota K-12 Mathematics and Science Frameworks, when needed. The participants brought their own curriculum materials to analyze.

The most difficult portion of the workshop occurred during step one of the procedure when participants were trying to clarify a learning goal. Each teacher’s thinking was stretched during the complex process of:

  • Identifying key ideas;
  • Clarifying the meaning of these ideas by examining research;
  • Identifying the level of sophistication;
  • Describing prerequisite knowledge; and,
  • Identifying difficulties or misconceptions students might have about the content contained in the learning goal.

Most of the participants had never examined a learning goal in this type of depth. Many people in the room were unfamiliar with research available to them that would help with understanding student cognitive development in depth, and examining difficulties or misconceptions about mathematics or science ideas. Many were enthusiastic about this portion of the workshop, but wondered where they could get the time needed for this kind of study for each of the standards.

During step two, analyzing the material for content alignment, the key question for most participants was: Does the lesson/activity address the key ideas of the standard/benchmark or is there only a topic match? The discussion around this question led many mathematics teachers to rethink the way they examined materials for content. Secondary teachers talked about looking at the “Table of Contents” in mathematics books as the way they had previously made decisions about textbooks. Examining materials for depth and focus was a new experience. Some elementary mathematics teachers commented that they didn’t feel like they knew enough mathematics to do a good job with this question.

Step three, analyzing the material for instructional alignment, was very helpful for the teachers. The 24 instructional criteria made sense to classroom teachers and were deemed important to examine. Using post-it notes to mark citations of evidence in the materials was a very visual way to make comparisons between different materials. Our participants did not complete the step of assigning numerical ratings, because it would have required a level of sophistication with the process that demands much more time and training.

The staff from SciMathMN was interested in learning about the procedure for themselves, listening to the responses from participating school district teams and asking how we might use this process to improve standards-based learning and teaching in Minnesota. In addition to talking to people at the workshop, we followed one school district with a team of nine members when they reported back to their district elementary mathematics curriculum adoption committee.

Prior to attending the Project 2061 Curriculum Analysis Workshop in August, the committee had narrowed their choices for the elementary mathematics adoption to two NSF-funded curriculums. By sending nine of the committee members to the workshop, the district hoped to be able to distinguish and document the difference between the two more clearly. The instructional criteria portion of the workshop was the defining section for this particular district. As the nine members presented their findings to the rest of the committee, it was clear that looking for evidence to support the desired criteria was an effective tool in making a decision. The teachers and administrators on the committee decided that the criteria for their selection needed to be made clear to all the teachers in the district and the broader community as well. The documentation of the differences allowed the committee to make a unanimous recommendation to district teachers and the school board.

As a result of the three-day mathematics workshop in August, other districts began to hear about the value of the Curriculum Materials Evaluation Procedure and wondered if it could be done in one day. Five-day and three-day workshops are difficult for school districts to finance and manage. At the request of one school district that was also in the process of trying to distinguish between two elementary NSF-funded curriculums, it was decided to pilot a one-day model using pieces of CMEP from Project 2061.

After asking for advice from Project 2061 staff, three leaders who had been at the August workshop created a six-hour session that they hoped would be helpful in the curriculum materials decision making process. The focus of the six hours was on using defined criteria to make a choice and looking for evidence to support the specific criteria identified as important in selecting curriculum materials. The curriculum committee members were introduced to all 24 instructional criteria, but the process was modeled with only three of the criteria. They were encouraged to examine the additional 21 criteria and decide if any of the criteria not used during the six-hour session was important in the selection process. If so, the committee could then follow the procedure they had learned to examine the materials more closely. The need to base decisions on the specific criteria selected was discussed along with the need to be ready to explain the importance of the criteria to other teachers not on the committee and to the broader community. Citing evidence used to support the decision of the committee was a valuable lesson for this group and they found the CMEP very helpful.

Feedback from the district where we piloted the one-day session helped us understand that the process is most useful when teachers have a strong understanding of standards-based mathematics instruction and some familiarity with the curriculum materials they want to evaluate. This procedure would not be particularly useful at the beginning of a curriculum review cycle.

The participants of this workshop thought it might be best used during the middle of a pilot year. This response led SciMathMN to sponsor a three-day workshop in June 2000 for teachers from the Mathematics Best Practice Network. Kathleen Morris from Project 2061 was the workshop facilitator. The goals of the workshop were to familiarize mathematics teacher-leaders with the CMEP and to ask for their advice as to how CFL and SciMathMN might effectively use this process to help school district teachers and teams improve student learning.

During this workshop, participants had access to a new publication Middle Grades Mathematics Textbooks: A Benchmarks-Based Evaluation (2000) and a CD that is included with the book. This resource was also shared with a group of approximately 35 people at a three-day, statewide Curriculum Fair in August 2000. The response to the resource was very positive. Most people have asked for the elementary counterpart to the middle grades evaluation. They would like to know when it will be completed and are disappointed to learn that it has not started yet due to lack of funding.

SciMathMN teamed with MASP2 and invited school district mathematics teams and a district assessment specialist to an assessment workshop led by Project 2061 staff in November 1999. For two days, participants worked with a draft version of an assessment alignment process. We continue to be interested in the assessment alignment procedure and appreciate its complexity. Assessments in Minnesota must be aligned with our Minnesota standards if we are to provide meaningful feedback to students, teachers, parents and the public.

Another resource that caught the interest of the Mathematics Best Practice teachers and SciMathMN staff was the content strand maps that will be published in Atlas for Science Literacy (2001?). We are already discussing ways that these maps will be useful for teachers and will build on concept mapping techniques identified in the Minnesota K-12 Mathematics and Science Frameworks and in other resources used in Minnesota.

Needs and implications for future work


SciMathMN convened a group of about 14 Mathematics Best Practice Network members who had participated in either the three-day Project 2061 Curriculum Materials Evaluation Procedure Workshop in August 1999 or June 2000, with the goal of analyzing how the curriculum materials evaluation process might be most effectively used by Minnesota teachers and school districts. The team of practicing K-12 classroom teachers spent one day discussing what they had learned by attending the workshop and analyzed possible ways the procedure could benefit individual teachers and district curriculum adoption committees.

The discussion by the Mathematics Best Practice teachers further reinforced the belief that effective use of the curriculum materials evaluation process requires depth of knowledge about mathematics, standards, best instructional practices and children’s cognitive development. Content criteria questions probed the idea of substance and depth of content versus topic coverage. Use of three documents, the NCTM Principles and Standards for School Mathematics, Project 2061’s Benchmarks for Science Literacy and SciMathMN’s Minnesota K-12 Mathematics Framework helped teachers examine content and analyze a benchmark/standard from three different perspectives in the process of clarifying a specific learning goal. This process required the study of research about common misconceptions in mathematics and led to a broader discussion of how children learn.

The 14 teachers involved in the three-day workshops described the experience as meaningful professional development for themselves and believe that the process would be very useful to school districts as they make curriculum decisions. However, these mathematics classroom leaders think intensive study of NCTM Standards, the Minnesota Graduation Standards and the K-12 Mathematics Frameworks would be required prior to using Project 2061’s CMEP. The question for the group became:

How do we build capacity in districts across the state to support the use of Project 2061 criteria to select and implement standards-based curriculum materials for mathematics and science?

In discussing this question, the mathematics best practice teachers agreed that five-day or three-day workshops were not feasible for most school districts in Minnesota. These teachers decided that the Project 2061 process should be embedded in an overall curriculum adoption model and they created a plan that they thought would be helpful to districts examining their mathematics programs and student achievement. (An Appendix has been added to describe this plan in more detail.)

These 14 mathematics teacher leaders have requested a two-day session where they can delve further into the process and develop workshop models (using Project 2061’s CMEP) that will be available when districts request assistance during their curriculum review cycle. With these additional two days, the teachers believe they would be ready to assist curriculum teams who want to incorporate parts or all of Project 2061’s procedure.

Some of the Mathematics Best Practice teachers who participated in the three-day workshops conducted by Kathleen Morris from Project 2061 have begun to use selected instructional criteria to help them with curriculum writing projects. They have examined their current curriculum for strengths/weaknesses and have used the Project 2061 criteria to select or create supplemental activities that will improve individual lessons or units of study. This initial experience with improving mathematics curriculum materials already in use highlights another strength of the CMEP developed by Project 2061.

At the end of the day, several questions remained:

  1. How will SciMathMN and CFL train more people to understand and use the process to help Minnesota school districts in their efforts to improve mathematics achievement for students?
  2. How can SciMathMN and CFL evaluate the effectiveness of different curriculum adoption models and make recommendations to school district leaders?
  3. Where will the funding to support the training of teacher leaders, workshop developers and researchers be found?


SciMathMN, in partnership with the Minnesota Science Teachers Association with funding from the Medtronic Foundation, has been concentrating their science efforts for the past two years on the continued growth of the Building a Presence for Science initiative in Minnesota. This systemic effort to build a network of K-12 Minnesota standards-based science teachers, Points of Contact (PoC), has been centered on a series of regional meetings at 29 sites across the state. The subject matter for these meetings focus on a big idea or concept from each content area of science: physics, chemistry, astronomy, geology, and biology. Because one of the purposes of these Building a Presence meetings was to expand K-12 teachers’ knowledge of science content, it was a natural extension for SciMathMN to consider the utilization of the content strand maps that will soon be available in the Atlas of Science Literacy.

A preview of the Atlas of Science Literacy is available at A brief description, taken from the web site, follows:

To help educators gain insight into connections among benchmark ideas, Project 2061 is developing the Atlas of Science Literacy, a collection of linked maps that depict how students might grow in their understanding and skills toward particular science literacy goals. These maps display not only the sequence of benchmark ideas that lead to a goal, but also connections across different areas of science, mathematics, and technology, and how ideas come together in sophisticated understanding.

The Atlas organizes maps into the same chapters as Project 2061's Science for All Americans and Benchmarks for Science Literacy. Furthermore, Atlas includes "clusters" of closely related maps within chapters that loosely correspond to the sections in Benchmarks. In addition to the maps themselves, the Atlas clarifies each map with comments on relevant issues and a summary of the cognitive research that relates to the map's topic. The book also discusses the intent and meaning of the maps, describes some uses for maps, and considers some of the implications of mapping for teaching and learning.

The initial print volume of the Atlas of Science Literacy will include approximately 50 maps depicting K-12 growth of understanding in a variety of science literacy topics, including, for example, gravity, evolution and natural selection, the structure of matter, and the flow of matter and energy in ecosystems. Each map will indicate links to related maps in the set and will be accompanied by brief descriptions of the science literacy topic at hand and relevant text from Science for All Americans and Benchmarks. Eventually a CD-ROM version of the Atlas will allow users to move conveniently between connected maps and will provide hypertext links that direct the user to research and other information.

At the March 2001 Minnesota Science Teachers Association spring conference, SciMathMN will sponsor a day-long workshop using the strand maps to continue to build content understanding as well as promote the use of the Atlas for Science Literacy by teachers in their own educational communities. The goal of the workshop is to demonstrate how the Atlas for Science Literacy can be used as a tool for improving teaching and learning. Being familiar with the strand maps will enable teachers to see how their teaching fits into the “big picture” of their students’ growth in science literacy. These maps will help teachers identify what prerequisite knowledge students possess and will help guide teacher decisions about what to teach students so that student scientific literacy continues to grow.

The SciMathMN science staff sees three ways the maps can assist us in this endeavor.

  • First, the content strand maps can visually connect the big ideas studied in the regional meetings to one another. Too often, content in one science discipline is taught with no connection to the content in another science discipline. Teachers expect students to see these links, yet many classroom teachers would find it difficult to state these relationships themselves. The strand maps will allow "Building a Presence" Points of Contact to better understand these sometime subtle connections and relationships.
  • The second strength of the strand map is to clearly delineate K-12 articulation of a big idea. So often, elementary teachers of science do not understand their crucial role in preparing students to think critically about science content, and secondary teachers do not recognize the prerequisite knowledge needed to learn concepts at a higher level. The strand maps clearly show when and where important concepts should be introduced and taught. The importance of science education from kindergarten through high school is clearly articulated.
  • Third, the strand maps elucidate the auxiliary concepts that “feed in” or “spin off” from the big ideas that were covered in the Building a Presence regional meetings. Recognizing the lateral connections to a big idea, assist the classroom teacher in planning and preparing lessons and materials needed to effectively help students understand science. SciMathMN plans to make the content strand maps an important part of future work with science teachers in Minnesota.

Looking Forward

SciMathMN, in cooperation with CFL, continues to explore ways to improve mathematics and science education for students in Minnesota. Support for current networks and a plan for building capacity to improve mathematics and science in each school district requires commitment from every constituency in the educational process. While the effort to implement standards-based mathematics and science programs in Minnesota is beginning to make a difference for students and teachers, there is still a significant amount of work and support needed to accomplish SciMathMN’s mission to raise the performance of all students in mathematics and science and eliminate all performance gaps in student achievement.


Fourteen Mathematics Best Practice members met to analyze how the Project 2061 CMEP might be successfully used by school districts in Minnesota. After a short brainstorming session, the group decided that the procedure should be embedded in an overall curriculum adoption process. They split into two groups to discuss what they considered to be the ideal process for a district to follow in analyzing and adopting new curriculum materials.

One Model of a Curriculum Adoption Process

Who are the stakeholders?
Where do they fit into the process?
How do they contribute?
(teachers, students, parents, administrators, community members and other staff)

Committee structure recommended:

  • K-12 teachers (each building represented across the following levels)
    • Primary (K-2); Intermediate (3-5); Middle (6-8); High School (9-12)
  • Building Principals
  • District Personnel
    • Staff Development Coordinator
    • Curriculum Leader
  • Parents (one from each level)
    • Consider influential parents (interested and open minded)
  • Business or other community leader

What is mathematics?
Why does mathematics education have to change?
What needs to change?
How do we change?

Committee Tasks:

  1. Build capacity of the committee members. Make the case for change.
    • Review "Memories and Dreams" of how the adults learned mathematics and what dreams they have for their children's future.
    • Analyze the district profile
      • Student achievement disaggregated (MCA's)
      • North Central data, ACT, SAT, etc
      • Any other testing or demographic data gathered over time
    • Read and discuss
      • TIMSS reports
      • Glenn Commission Report
      • Chapter 1 of the Mathematics Framework
      • Brain Research
      • Workforce Issues

    What are the big ideas in mathematics?
    Why do we need standards?
    What are our resources?

  2. Reach consensus about important mathematics learning goals for the district.
    • Research and the discuss the big ideas in mathematics
      • Use: NCTM's Principals and Standards for School Mathematics, Minnesota K-12 Mathematics Framework and the Minnesota Graduation Standards for Mathematics.
        • Consider using the specifications for the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments and areas from the Minnesota Basic Skills Test to help clarify the big ideas.
    • Align the big ideas in mathematics with standards.

    *** At this point in time, go to the broader community for feedback. Members of the committee would report to their own constituencies about what they have learned thus far and then would solicit feedback and ideas.

    How would you explain "standards-based" education?
    What impact does "standards-based" education have on classroom practice?
    What obstacles are there to implementing "standards-based" education?

  3. Committee members come back together to share the feedback they received and analyze the implications of the feedback.
  4. The District committee should now break up into smaller work groups (four levels) to clarify the learning goals. (Step 1 in the Project 2061 CMEP)

    Specify exactly what mathematical ideas are contained in the learning goal.
    Clarify the meanings of these ideas by referring to research and other standards statements and documents.
    Identify student cognitive development, difficulties or misconceptions about the ideas, using research and teacher experience as a guide.
    • To clarify the learning goals at leach level use the following resources:
      • Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (PSSM)
      • Minnesota Graduation Standards
      • SciMathMN Minnesota K-12 Mathematics Frameworks
      • Research Ideas for the Classroom(NCTM publication-three different levels)
      • Science for All Americans*
      • Benchmarks for Science Literacy*
      • Atlas for Science Literacy*

    *have available as needed

  5. Small groups share the results of the learning goals clarification process with the district committee as a whole. Discuss how to share this information/process with the entire staff-staff development for all.

    What are best instructional practices?
    How do we reach all students?
    What does learning look like before and after instruction?
    How do you know learning has taken place?
  6. The district committee should study, as a whole, best instructional practice.
    • Use: Chapter 2 of the Minnesota K-12 Mathematics Frameworks
    • Best Practice: New Standards for Teaching and Learning in America's Schoolsby Zemelman, Daniels and Hyde
    • any other research available to aid in discussions around the ideas of best practices
    • Share best instructional practices with buildings and/or small groups. Build ideas into continual staff development for all.

  7. Develop district criteria about what is most important for the district based on what was learned during the learning goals clarification process and the study of best instructional practices.

    Now is the time to begin the search for available curriculum materials.
  8. Attend the Curriculum Fair and/or mathematics conferences (NCTM or MCTM) to obtain curriculum materials for initial preview. Narrow down the selections using district developed criteria.
  9. Complete an in-depth analysis of no more than three sets of curriculum materials using the Project 2061 process. The first screening should be for content alignment. (Use district selected learning goals for the analysis. The process is too extensive to analyze every learning goal.)
    • Consider the following questions:
      • Does the lesson/activity address KEY IDEAS of the standard or is there only a TOPIC match?
      • Does the lesson/activity reflect the level of SOPHISTICATION of the standard or does it target a standard at an earlier or later grade level?
      • Does the lesson/activity address the ENTIRE standard or only a PART of the standard?
    • Analyze materials by sighting evidence of content alignment. Be sure to include a brief description or justification for the sighting.
  10. Meet as a district committee to discuss the results of the content alignment process. Does it narrow down district choices?
  11. Analyze the remaining curriculum materials for instructional alignment. Use the 2061 criteria for instructional analysis (mathematics). There are seven categories and 24 instructional criteria. The district committee should decide which of the criteria is the most important to analyze.
    • Consider the following questions:
      • Are opportunities provided for teachers to find out what students already think about the ideas in a standard, at the beginning and throughout instruction? Is the information used?
        • Are students engaged in activities (including reading and listening to peers and the teacher) and provided with opportunities to REFLECT on their activities?
        • Are students given experiences with the concepts before terms are introduced?
        • If a classroom visitor asked students what they were doing and why, is there a reason to think they would know?
  12. Make a decision. Use the criteria and evidence you found to support the decision. Share the process, criteria used and evidence gathered with the broader community.