NCTM recently asked for Grand Challenges that are ambitious but feasible, positively impacting many people, and which should capture the public interest. Here is my grand challenge:

  • Develop a comprehensive, national professional development model that supports the high quality mathematics instruction they have been promoting for many years.


Here’s what I think that could look like:

  • We start by norming between a fairly large team of mathematics educators a core set of high quality mathematics teaching practices are, and what they look like in a real classroom.
  • We then carefully study (to ensure that the practices work) and implement these practices in model classrooms where the educators who have previously normed continue to study their practice while continuing to discuss and collaborate with the original group of educators.
  • These classrooms should be substantially open to the public (perhaps through video cameras, one-way glass, etc…) so that other educators, parents, and policy makers could come and visit the classrooms.
  • Once each original educator has established clear evidence (from evidence of student learning) that they are able to consistently and reliably use the set of core practices (along with whatever other practices they have developed), they start norming their practices with another group of educators.
  • This process continues until we have created a substantially similar core set of instructional practices that fairly large group of mathematics teachers consistently use.
  • Two of the core practices we would establish are the teacher as researcher into their own practices and the collaboration with other educators to study each others practices to see what works.


There are some other core practices that I think that every mathematics teacher should do, but the most important core practices are to study your own practice and to collaborate with others in doing the same. Once this is established, then at least when each of us is experimenting with a different practice it will be easier for us to see the connection between what we do and student learning.

Here are some other ideas I think are also worth pursuing.

  • Develop teacher training models at scale where teachers spend at least six months in close apprenticeship with an experienced classroom teacher with time to reflect on their emerging practice during this time. Follow this up with at least two years of additional support.
  • Support many (one in every major city) smaller TMC-like mini-conferences with the overall aim of building local communities of mathematics teachers. Continue support of these groups by creating online space for these educators to continue their conversations and share resources with each other.
  • Actively support the use of online professional development to increase the number of mathematics educators connecting with each other.