They focus on developing a depth of knowledge about fundamental mathematical and scientific content and processes.
They include content, teaching, professional development, and assessment; that is, they recognize the need to define more than what students should know and be able to do.
They emphasize content more than curriculum; that is, the documents do not define the order, structure, and organization of school mathematics and science programs. Curriculum decisions are left to states and local school districts.
They emphasize a comprehensive, focused, and coherent approach to mathematics and science education.
National standards reflect the consensus of experts from around the country, at the time of standards development, about what students should know, understand, and be able to do in mathematics and science and propose educational approaches. The national standards documents were developed by the professional communities of mathematicians, scientists, educators, and teachers, with extensive input and review. They are intended to suggest strategies for the improvement of mathematics and science teaching and learning in the K-12 arena. Research about mathematics and science teaching and learning guided the standards development (NCTM, 1991; NRC, 1996a; Romberg, 1992; Schoen, 1988). The documents represent valued goals; measures of their effectiveness will be available only after the idea of standards is widely accepted and enacted.
It is important to note that the NCTM Standards are under revision, with release of the revised document scheduled for the year 2000. This revision was part of the original plan for the development of the NCTM Standards and will preserve the spirit of the original documents. There is ongoing discussion in the mathematics and mathematics education communities about the important details of this revision.