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The 2020 Emma Castelnuovo Award

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) (USA and Canada)
2020 Emma Castelnuovo Award


ICMI is delighted to announce that the 2020 Emma Castelnuovo Award for Outstanding Achievements in the Practice of Mathematics Education goes to NCTM – the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (USA and Canada) – in recognition of 100 years of development and implementation of exceptionally excellent and influential work in the practice of mathematics education.    

Founded in 1920, NCTM is the world’s largest mathematics education organization, with 40,000 members and more than 230 state, provincial, and local affiliate organizations and other affiliates whose scope covers the USA and Canada. The Award Committee found evidence to fulfill all criteria related to the Emma Castelnuovo Award. In the following, some exemplary activities of NCTM‘s past 30 years are highlighted. These activities fall into a wide range of domains – principles and standards as foundations for policy and practice, publications including research journals, professional development, legislative and policy leadership, and international collaboration.

In 1989, NCTM presented Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics, which turned out to be a highly influential document, not only in North America, but all over the world. This document was followed by a series of further book-length reports aimed at establishing a broad framework to guide reform in school mathematics, Professional Standards for Teaching Mathematics (1991), Assessment Standards for School Mathematics (1995), Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (2000), Curriculum Focal Points (2006), Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All (2014) and Catalyzing Change in High School Mathematics: Initiating Critical Conversations (2018).

Since its inception in 1920, NCTM has published professional journals for teachers of mathematics. Starting with January 2020, a single journal Mathematics Teacher: Learning and Teaching PK-12, published 12 times a year, will replace what has been for the past 30 years three journals. In 1970, NCTM began publishing the Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, one of the world’s first journals devoted to this subject. These periodic publications are supplemented by an extensive publication catalogue for teachers at all levels. Some NCTM publications have been translated into other languages, including Arabic, Chinese, German, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish.

For the professional development of teachers, principals, and other stakeholders important for mathematics teaching, NCTM holds an annual meeting and exposition along with three regional meetings each year, with a combined attendance of about 25,000. In addition, NCTM offers multiple professional development activities, professional services, and resources via its webpage. NCTM’s Mathematics Education Trust (MET), established in 1976, provides funds directly to classroom teachers, affiliates, and institutions to enhance mathematics education. MET offers 30 grants annually, totaling USD 125,000. In addition, it offers scholarships, award programs, and – usually two – annual lifetime achievement awards.

NCTM is influentially engaged in constructive policy discussions among all stakeholders (in particular in the USA), focusing on improving mathematics teaching for all students. This process is supported by the NCTM Advocacy Toolkit, a collection of materials which provides NCTM members with tools and the guidance they need to advocate for mathematics and education.

For spreading NCTM ideas internationally and for establishing contacts and collaboration worldwide, NCTM founded the International Corresponding Societies, currently with 19 organizations in all continents, and has supported several initiatives with educators in Latin, Central, and South America.
NCTM’s work has influenced the efforts by teachers, researchers, administrators, and other stakeholders to foster excellence in the practice of mathematics education. Here are some selected quotations from letters supporting NCTM’s nomination for the Emma Castelnuovo Award.

An internationally well-known mathematics educator stresses: “I have never lived or worked in the United States, and yet, as a teacher and as an academic, I was aware of the work of the NCTM. I drew on their resources and publications knowing that I could access a wealth of high quality materials developed by expert practitioners in the field. … (T)he NCTM Principles and Standards and the Curriculum Focal Points are curricular documents that I return to frequently when looking at putting together mathematics teacher education courses for pre- and in-service teachers in ways that ensure breadth and depth, with inclusion of the big ideas in mathematics. I have often passed these documents on to students from many parts of the world to use to think about the relative emphases and absences in their own national and regional curricula. Later, as an academic, I made widespread use of articles published across the raft of NCTM journals. … The NCTM has worked tirelessly to advocate for high quality mathematical access for all children. ... The NCTM is an organization that has succeeded in doing this kind of work at a scale that is bigger than any other organization that I can think of.”

An internationally well-known mathematics educator from the USA emphasizes, among other considerations, the important role NCTM plays in supporting ICMI activities, for example by providing grants to NCTM members for attending ICME conferences, and by supporting the writing and distribution of documents about mathematics education in the USA since ICME-9 in 2000.

Finally, here is the voice of a former mathematics teacher in the USA: “NCTM has been an integral part of every stage of my nearly 50-year career in mathematics education, from classroom teacher, to school and district supervisor, to state mathematics director, to my varied leadership efforts that continue at the state, local, national, and international levels. … It is clear that the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has been the voice of mathematics education for at least these past five decades of my personal involvement. More than that, there is no doubt in my mind that the Council has also served as the leader within our profession – articulating a shared vision of professional mathematics educators, supporting and disseminating research behind that vision, and providing resources for the classroom and the board room to make that vision a reality. NCTM is absolutely indispensable to anyone who cares about or works in any area related to mathematics teaching and learning.”

There are many more such quotations that could have been included. It is fully evident that NCTM is an outstanding organization that well deserves the recognition of the Emma Castelnuovo Award for excellence in the practice of mathematics education.