The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, responding to criticism that America's students are lagging behind Japan and Europe in math proficiency, have come up recommendations for a new approach to the subject.

The major recommendation from the NCTM is for schools to reduce the conventional "math workbook" method of assigning students dozens of repetitive calculations, News USA reported.

The NCTM recommended replacing that method with giving students practical problems to solve where such calculations - long division or multiplication - are needed, thereby replacing the rote method with critical math thinking.

Another recommendation is that teachers lead group discussions about practical math problems as a way of teaching, rather than just assigning a theoretical math exercise.

NCTM President Shirley Frye said the 78,000-member organization is promoting the new standards with a campaign, including mass mailings to 220 affiliated teacher groups and to local and state officials.