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Analyzing Rigor And Relevance In Science And Mathematics Curricula

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Assessment of K-12 Engineering Programs and Issues

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.216.1 - 14.216.22



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Paper Authors


Doug Kueker Vivayvic

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The Instructional Design and Curriculum Evaluation Lead for Vivayic, Inc. Prior to joining Vivayic, Inc., in September 2006, Doug worked for the National FFA Organization as a Project Management Specialist. In his professional career, Doug has led and participated in more than 25 national curriculum design, development, implementation, and evaluation projects. He received his M.S. Ed from Purdue University in December 2007and holds a Bachelors Degree in Agricultural Science Education from the University of Missouri.
Address: 69 Eagle Crest Road, Lake Ozark, MO 65049
Telephone: (573) 286-0597

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Pam Newberry Project Lead the Way

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The Director of Strategic Curriculum Initiatives for Project Lead The Way, Inc. Prior to joining Project Lead The Way, Inc., in July 2002, she served as the Associate Director for the International Technology Education Association?s Technology for All Americans Project for five years. She taught technology education and mathematics for 10 years. During that time, she was an Albert Einstein Fellow in 1996 and received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching in 1994.

Address: 177 Stone Meadow Lane, Wytheville, VA 24382

Telephone: (276) 228-6502


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Analyzing Rigor and Relevance in Science and Mathematics Curricula Introduction

To be successful in today’s educational climate schools must select and implement rigorous and relevant science and mathematics curricula. Since the publication of a Nation at Risk 19 (1983), schools across the U.S. have sought to meet a growing demand from business and government to increase the level of academic rigor in disciplines, such as mathematics and science for all students. Enhancing the quality of mathematics and science curricula remains as a priority for our nation’s educational institutions. In fact, accountability legislation, such as No Child Left Behind 36 (2001) creates additional pressure for educators to take a serious look at curricula, especially in the areas of mathematics and science, selected to support local, district, state, and national learning priorities. Creating and implementing both rigorous and relevant mathematics and science curricula is also necessary to support U. S. business and industry in meeting employment and training needs for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers (NSF22, 2004).

Despite the standards based movement to improve science and mathematics curricula in schools, the nation continues to lag behind others. The 1999 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study looked at the ways that mathematics and science instruction differs among seven countries. High-performing countries avoided reducing mathematic and scientific tasks to mere procedural exercises and they placed greater cognitive demand on students by encouraging them to focus on concepts, explaining connections among those concepts, as well as explaining their reasoning when solving a problem (Hiebert10, 2003; Roth28, 2006). Improving the cognitive rigor and relevance of the instructional tasks in U. S. curricula plays an important role in the quest to provide a high-quality, globally-competitive educational system that enhances students’ educational career options and meets the needs and priorities established by business and government.

The Role of Rigor and Relevance

Daggett7 (2005) suggests that lasting gains in student achievement come from applying high- rigor expectations in relevant, real-world settings. Daggett’s framework for improving school curricula, considers both cognitive rigor and relevance. In his framework, rigor is defined as the level of cognitive demand, or the quantity and quality of the cognitive processes, required to complete an instructional or assessment task. Relevance, on the other hand, deals with the context in which the content is applied. Context of application varies based upon the degree to which the context in which the content is to be applied, or transferred, approximates the real world.

Educational research supports Daggett’s assumptions about the importance of rigorous and relevant instructional tasks to student learning. Students demonstrate gains on measures of reasoning and problem-solving when instructional tasks are set up and enacted at a high level of cognitive demand (Henningson & Stein9, 1997). Encouraging students to explain connections among concepts and offering justification are just two examples of practices that foster high cognitive demand (AERA 3,4, 2006, 2007; Stein, Grover, Henningsen31, 1996). Further, Lave &


Kueker, D., & Newberry, P. (2009, June), Analyzing Rigor And Relevance In Science And Mathematics Curricula Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4678

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