A Comparison of
Benchmarks for Science Literacy and
Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics

Gerald Kulm

Detailed Comparison Format

Readers will notice that mathematical elements in Benchmarks are not confined to the chapters labeled mathematics -- that is, to Chapter 2: The Nature of Mathematics and Chapter 9: The Mathematical World. References are also made to benchmarks in many other chapters, in particular Chapter 1: The Nature of Science, Chapter 11: Common Themes, and Chapter 12: Habits of Mind.

In most cases, each bulleted statement under a Standard is followed by benchmarks that relate to it. But sometimes the same benchmark (or set of benchmarks) is related to more than one of the statements within the same Standard. In these cases, rather than repeating the benchmarks under the separate Standard statements, the statements may be grouped together. Some benchmarks relate to two or more different Standards, thereby appearing multiple times in the comparison. (Had the comparison been organized by benchmarks, of course, the opposite effect would have occurred.)

Benchmarks often integrates the meaning and understanding of computations, connecting them with applications in familiar contexts. Also, Benchmarks provides more concrete examples of how a student's number sense and facility with computations should be demonstrated. Often benchmarks are more specific than the standards they relate to, offering examples for, commentary on, or expansion of standards. Yet some benchmarks are more general than standards, providing an overall interpretation of the nature and processes of mathematics and science rather than specific procedures, concepts, or strategies.

Standards is organized in three grade level groupings, K-4, 5-8, and 9-12, and by topic areas within each grade grouping. Benchmarks is organized by topic and by four grade level groupings within each topic, K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. In order to make the comparison most accessible to mathematics educators, the comparison uses the organizational scheme of Standards. Since the grade levels overlap, benchmarks for K-2 and 3-5 are included under K-4 standards and benchmarks for grade levels 3-5 and 6-8 are included under the grade 5-8 standards. This approach to organizing the comparison sometimes results in taking individual benchmarks out of context and making them vulnerable to misinterpretation. In a few cases, this approach may make it appear that a particular standard has either no similar benchmark or that the related benchmark does not treat the topic comprehensively. The reader is encouraged to refer to the full Benchmarks document in order to obtain the most accurate and comprehensive interpretation of benchmarks that relate to a particular standard.

The set of benchmarks that follows such a grouping should be understood as being relevant to the set of grouped Standard statements. If a benchmark relates to more than one Standard, a footnote indicates which other Standards are also relevant.

The coverage of the K-4 standards by Benchmarks is perhaps the most comprehensive. Although both K-2 and 3-5 benchmarks have been use in the comparison, the level of knowledge seems to be an appropriate match. K-4 teachers should find the comparison especially useful, since mathematics and science are often integrated at this level. The first four standards are clearly important ones for this integrated approach. Benchmarks provides useful comprehensive and in-depth interpretations of these standards.

Conceptual understanding of operations is illustrated in Benchmarks through its emphasis on being able to explain computations and judge their reasonableness. At this grade level, modeling appears informally in both Benchmarks and Standards, developing the notion of concrete representations of mathematical ideas. In Benchmarks, students are expected to describe and compare many properties of things and ideas.

The concepts and uses of number in Benchmarks is primarily focused on quantities rather than on number in the abstract. Benchmarks also connects measurement, computation, estimation, and other uses of numbers more extensively than does Standards. In measurement, Benchmarks mentions specific meanings of length, area, volume, weight and time as well as measuring dry and liquid materials. The ideas of patterns and relationships is mainly drawn from real world examples in Benchmarks, rather than being an explicit area of study as in Standards.