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National Math Teachers Council Warns of OER Risks

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) released a statement last week warning of the risks involved in relying too heavily on open educational resources, or OER.

The NCTM published its official position, emphasizing coherence and quality. It reads like this:

"A coherent, well-articulated curriculum is an essential tool for guiding teacher collaboration, goal-setting, analysis of student thinking, and implementation. In a time when open educational resources are increasingly available, it is imperative that teachers be provided with curricular materials that clearly lay out well-reasoned organizations of student learning progressions with regard to mathematical content and reasoning.”

The NCTM also articulated what it sees as the risks of open educational resources. They can include:

  • Teachers who are provided with little or no support for setting mathematical goals and organizing resources into a coherent learning progression;

  • Resources students have access to will vary widely from teacher to teacher and school to school, reinforcing inequities in situations where students who struggle are more likely to have inexperienced teachers; and

  • School communities will abandon the process of vetting and adopting agreed-upon curriculum resources, creating a lack of transparency and accountability.

The council also pointed out some advantages, as well as risks, to using OER. They include:

  • Vibrant discussions about mathematics teaching and learning that currently take place within online communities, and are built around sharing instructional resources and ideas;

  • Sharing open resources online allows teachers to form virtual professional learning communities to compare implementation and share student work;

  • In an ideal situation, teachers have access to a high-quality curriculum that supports them to make informed choices about adapting and implementing tasks. OER can provide teachers with resources to engage students in interesting or topical problems or applications, use technology in innovative ways, or bring in mathematics relating to students lived experiences.

To read the full position statement, click on the NCTM website. Also, to read an extensive article on the origins, current state and future of OER, read this article by Michael McShane on the site

About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at [email protected].

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