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Jeremy Kilpatrick

The proactive versus the reactive role of the JRME in mathematics education—what might that mean? Everyone knows that journals are reactive. They serve as the collective memories of a field. reacting to what is being done and attempting to preserve the best of it for today's subscribers and tomorrow's searchers. The JRMM is a repository of much of the seminal work in mathematics education over the past quarter century, and one can scarcely imagine what the field would look like had the journal not been around to react to what was happening.

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Jeremy Kilpatrick

Readers of the journal who did not attend General Interest Session No. 243 at the Annual Meeting in Toronto last April missed an extraordinary occasion: Jim Wilson, editor of volumes 8 to 13, was rather thoroughly roasted by his colleagues. Presentations were made by several distinguished scholars (names available on request; all were old enough to know better), including an original analysis of Wilson's epistolary style; an imaginative account, in saga form, of the grizzled editor entering Valhalla; some erudite impressions of encounters between the editor and the Editorial Board; and a plaintive ballad in which the Job-like editor lamented his fate. The spectators were so moved by the dramatic display of scholarship and talent that sessions in the two adjacent rooms were disrupted. Regrettably, no recording was made of the event; it lives on only in the memories of the participants. Dick Shumway recently quoted a British colleague as observing that Americans insult one another as a way of showing special friendship. Ample special friendship for Jim Wilson was shown in Toronto.

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Jeremy Kilpatrick

For your new editor, who had observed the editorial process at a distance for several years, probably the most pleasant surprise on taking over the position was to discover the generally high quality of the reviews we receive. The reviewers of a manuscript seldom agree co mpletely on its quality or on whether it is publishable, and the comments they provide the author usually emphasize different features of the manuscript, sometimes offering conflicting advice. But almost all reviewers show, by their comments, questions, and editorial marks, that they have given the manuscript a careful reading and that they have reflected on what they have read. Even when a manuscript appears to have little potential, most reviewers take time to offer constructive suggestions the author might use in a later study or publication. The reviewing process can be educational for autho r and reviewer alike, and most of our reviewers take it seriously. The only compensation they receive for what may have been several days' effort is the citation of their names in a list at the end of a volume, but they can also take satisfaction in having contributed to the growth of our field.

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Jeremy Kilpatrick

Many mathematics educators in American colleges and universities are housed in a department that carries “curriculum and instruction” in its title. Perhaps it's fitting, then, that these two abstractions cover the lion's share of recent research in mathematics education. The comparison of instructional methods has always been a popular research topic, and the curriculum development efforts of the past two decades managed to elevate the examination of curricula to a higher level on the nation's research agenda. A glance at the titles of the studies surveyed in this issue will confirm that researchers are still largely preoccupied with matters of curriculum and instruction.

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Jeremy Kilpatrick

In April, the President's National Commission on Excellence in Education released its report, A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform, which portrayed the educational foundations of American society as “being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.” According to the commission, “we have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament.” As one of the commissioners has admitted, these apocalyptic words were intended tO grab the fickle attention of headline writers, and through them the American people, who are deemed unable to assimilate a serious message that lasts more than 30 seconds. (Although one might note that attention easily given is easily withdrawn.)

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Jeremy Kilpatrick

Welcome to 1984! Orwell's nightmare is not yet our world, but no one who has read the appendix to 1984 can fa il to note how far we have moved toward Newspeak from the English of Orwell's time. One of his profound insights was that since thought rests on language, the range of people's thought can be narrowed by cutting their choice of words to a minimum. Newspeak had a separate vocabulary list of scientific and technical terms for each specialty, with only a few terms common across lists. Perhaps this year is an appropriate time to examine the language we use in writing research reports to see how well it reflects the range of our thought and how intelligible it is to readers outside our specialty.

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Jeremy Kilpatrick

In the recent grants competitions conducted by the National Science Foundation and by the National Institute of Education, a substantial number of proposals were submitted by researchers in mathematics education. Among the peer reviewers, too, were such researchers. In each case when the awards were announced, however, few or no researchers in mathematics education were named among the recipients. Several conjectures might be advanced to account for this underrepresentation.

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Jeremy Kilpatrick

Among the rewarding features of the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association is the opportunity it provides for researchers in mathematics education to break away from the pack and see what laborers in other parts of the vineyard are up to. At the meeting in New Orleans in April, one symposium addressed the issue of whether educational research has a waste disposal problem. The panel of distinguished senior researchers seemed to agree that the answer is yes. They balked, however, at a proposal to set up a commission to purge the system, arguing that one researcher's trash is another's treasure and that our current state of barely civilized anarchy is better than giving so much power to our colleagues, even if they are nice people. Maxine Greene made an eloquent plea that researchers come out of their “methodological ghettos” and learn what approaches are being used elsewhere—a piece of advice that might well apply to some folks in mathematics education.

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jeremy Kilpatrick

The Fifth International Congress on Mathematical Education, held in Adelaide, Australia, last August, attracted 1984 mathematics educators of every ilk from 68 countries. Among the participants were people whose primary professional interest is research in mathematics education, as well as people who are currently teaching mathematics in schools. The confluence of the congress with the biennial meeting of the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers guaranteed that a large share of the participants would be practicing teachers.

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jeremy Kilpatrick

When, this month and next, researchers in mathematics education get together at the annual meetings of the American Educational Research Association and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, they will be exchanging their latest ideas on how students learn mathematics and how teachers teach it. To the extent that our research enterprise is a science, it thrives on the newly discovered. As Edward Wilson put it in the American Scholar last autumn, scientists are the scouts and hunters of the intellectual tribe.