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Description of Mathematics and Science Initiative
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The Secretary's Mathematics and Science Initiative

"As information becomes ever more quantitative and as society relies increasingly on computers and the data they produce, an innumerate citizen today is as vulnerable as the illiterate peasant of Gutenberg's time." (Steen, 1997, p. xv, Preface: The New Literacy, in L. A. Steen [Ed.], Why numbers count. New York: College Entrance Examination Board).


When the federal government last launched a major initiative promoting mathematics and science education after Sputnik, within 12 years, America had upgraded mathematics and science education, launched satellites, and seen its astronauts orbit the Earth and land on the Moon. Since then, however, federal attention to elementary and secondary science and mathematics education has waned. Student achievement scores often fall below international standards, mathematical and scientific literacy is not adequate for full participation as productive citizens in the 21st Century, and the pathway to jobs in mathematics, science, technology, and engineering is not full of people determined to become professionals in these areas, nor is the composition of those who are on the pathway representative of the group that began the journey. It is essential to develop a new generation of citizens who have the mathematical and scientific skills to create and understand new strategies and technologies to keep America safe and prosperous. The Administration will, therefore, launch a major five-year Mathematics and Science Initiative to improve mathematics and science achievement, focused on three broad goals:

  1. Conducting a broad-based public engagement campaign that draws attention to the need for better mathematics and science education in our nation's schools. Parents must know what children should study to prepare for success in a world requiring a greater knowledge of science and mathematics than their parents needed. Students must understand the benefits of careers in mathematics and science and the need to prepare throughout school for them. And the public must realize that advances in technology and productivity, necessary for the U.S. to remain competitive in the global economy, depend on all students learning more mathematics and science than is currently required, and also on increasing the number of students who extend their mathematical knowledge beyond algebra so they may proceed to more advanced scientific and technical subjects.

    The Initiative will work with the business community; professional organizations of mathematicians, scientists, engineers, and educators; and researchers to: (a) define the concepts that all students must master; (b) sponsor events that excite students and parents about scientific and mathematical careers; (c) bring science and mathematics professionals into schools to work with students and teachers; and (d) send teachers and students to work with such professionals at the scientific job site. Businesses and federal departments and mission agencies will develop the messages and dissemination efforts, while coordinating their programs and materials with state standards in mathematics and science. Interactions between scientists and mathematicians and policymakers may strengthen state standards.

  2. Initiating a major campaign to recruit, prepare, train, and retain teachers with strong backgrounds in mathematics and science. To increase the number of new teachers with strong backgrounds in mathematics and science, the campaign will work with colleges of arts and sciences, colleges of education, teacher training programs, school districts, and states to ensure strong content knowledge in both today's and tomorrow's teachers through professional development programs known to boost student achievement. It will also promote promising alternative routes to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers.

  3. Developing a major academic research base to improve our knowledge of what boosts student learning in mathematics and science in the classroom. Teachers need to know what programs and strategies are effective in improving student achievement in mathematics and science. A rigorous research agenda will seek to specify the learning processes essential for success in a wide range of learners, to identify effective instructional strategies, and to transmit that information to all who need it. Research will aim to: identify workforce requirements and citizenship needs related to mathematics and science, better understand student learning in mathematics and science, explain successful interventions, and develop and apply valid assessment tools to measure progress and need.

The U. S. Department of Education (ED), National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), as well as other federal departments and mission agencies involved in education and workforce development, will work together to develop the particulars of this Initiative and to assure its success.

First Step

The first step in the Secretary's Mathematics and Science Initiative, the Mathematics Summit, has been called to announce the Initiative and to accomplish five things:

  1. To announce participants the three critical goals to be addressed by this new initiative, a critical component of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation.
  2. To emphasize that the three goals are components of a whole that must come together to succeed. To be successful, the objectives and plans for activities that will follow must be research-based, understood by parents and America's communities, and assure that each child has a talented, well-prepared teacher of mathematics and science for every level and course.
  3. To encourage participants to work after the Summit on the development of action plans for each of the three goals which will make this Initiative a success.
  4. To encourage participants, as leaders of their peer groups, to participate in follow-up working sessions and support the on-going work necessary to realize the three goals.
  5. To reinforce that while these goals will not be easily met, they are essential. The Secretary knows that meeting them is necessary to achieving the President's top domestic priority. He will, therefore, spare no pains to assure their fulfillment and encourages all participants to do the same.

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Last Modified: 09/14/2004