Archive for March 2011
The release of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is a milestone in the standards movement that began more than 20 years ago when the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) published Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School. NCTM, along with the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics and other mathematics organizations, supports the goal of the CCSS to describe a coherent, focused curriculum that has realistically high expectations and supports an equitable mathematics education for all students.
The Standards for Mathematical Practice, which describe expertise that math educators at all levels seek to develop in students, is also a key component of the new Common Core Standards movement. These practices rest on key “processes and proficiencies” with longstanding importance in mathematics education, including the NCTM process standards and the strands of mathematical proficiency from the National Research Council’s report Adding It Up. The five process standards which run through all grade levels are problem solving, reasoning and proof, communication, representations, and connections. The strands of proficiency specified by “Adding It Up” include: adaptive reasoning, strategic competence, conceptual understanding, proceduaral fluency, and a productive disposition.
Other key elements in a student’s success in mathematics are: • Making sense of problems and persevering in solving them. • Reasoning abstractly and quantitatively. • Modeling with mathematics. • UsIng appropriate tools strategically. • Attending to precision. • Looking for and making use of structure.
So, what is behind the common core standards for mathematics….RESEARCH!
Let’s face it; math is the same everywhere. What other subject can say that?
In a very simplistic example the reason for math’s universal nature is easily explained: one thing is true of all people in all nations of the world. Barring a freak nuclear reactor incident or in the case of my good friend, Bentley, who lost a finger in a battle with a pig, we all have ten fingers and ten toes. Our counting system is based upon this number. Kids the world over are taught to count by raising one finger at a time….watch for it….it doesn’t vary from country to country. The properties of the geometric shapes are the same the world over. The fundamental principles for the manipulation of numbers, the order of operations, is an accepted practice throughout the universe. The words are different, but the math is the same!
So, if all that is true why do we HATE math in America? It is NOT socially acceptable to be bad at reading ….no one ever says, “I can’t read and I’m doing just fine in life”, but it is screamed from the mountaintops that people don’t get math, never got math, can’t help their kids in math, hate math, see no reason to spend time doing math, and furthermore, don’t ever use math! No one is embarrassed to say these things aloud! There is no social stigma attached to these statements like there would be if we were referring to reading. How has this happened? We literally have a math pandemic in America and it is hurting us as a nation.
I feel really strongly about the need for teachers to educate themselves in the area of mathematics and the best practices for teaching it to our children. We, as teachers, are products of the system of instruction that we lived through. We had math “malpracticed” on us and we (including myself in the early parts of my career) have carried on the malpractice. We learned math as isolated skills without connection to other concepts or real-world application and wondered why we were doing it or when we were ever going to use it. We learned math by memorizing procedures, often without understanding, and then when there got to be too much to memorize, we quit taking the subject.
So what do we do to turn this around? It’s all up to us: the life-long learners, the people who love working with kids, the idealists who want to make the world a better place to live. We have to first recognize in ourselves the need for new information. We, as professionals, have to be willing to learn new ways to help kids understand math conceptually. We have to immerse ourselves in math content beyond the grades we teach, so we know where the math we teach leads. We have to work together with other teachers to develop a cohesive plan of instruction for all grades, based upon research into best practices, a common set of standards and a common vocabulary.
We need kids to believe math is fun! We need kids to believe math is important! We need kids to believe math is relevant! We need kids to believe math is not something to be feared! In order to make all those things true, teachers have to believe it first!!!!!!!!
The Common Core Standards for Mathematics, have focused on fractions, and for good reason. In its comprehensive report on the state of math education in America, the National Math Panel said understanding fractions is “the most important foundational skill NOT developed among American students,” and is key to learning Algebra. Since fractions are the gateway to Algebra and Algebra is a required class for high school graduation, elementary and middle school math teachers need to have a clear understanding of fractions and fraction instruction.
Today, in many middle school classrooms, students struggle with fractional concepts. In the common core standards, students will first be introduced to fractions in the third grade. They will learn that fractions are numbers, not just parts of cookies or pizzas. This transition from thinking of fractions as “parts of a shape” to numbers will make it easier for students to comprehend their use in operations. Students will be expected to work proficiently with fraction operations by the end of sixth grade and understand the relationship between fractions, decimals, and percents by the end of seventh grade.
With the new, and long overdue, emphasis on fractional concepts in the common core standards, it will behoove teachers to examine their own understanding of fractions. It is often true, we teach the same way we were taught and most of us weren’t taught about fractions from a conceptual standpoint but rather in a very procedural manner. In response to this new focus on fractions, teachers need to look for professional development opportunities that will increase their own conceptual understanding and provide them with instructional strategies to use to help their students. Here at ESSDACK, we have established a facebook page called, Geared Up: Common Core Standards where teachers can interact with each other as we move toward full implementation of the Common Core Stndards. We are also working on a website called , All Things Common Core, where teachers can share resources and ideas.
Just “sum” things I hope you will check out.
For teachers who are proficient at navigating their current state standards, the Common Core Standards may have a completely different look. In the area of mathematics, the content of the document is divided into domains, clusters, and standards. Domains are the overarching term and refer to a large group of related standards. Clusters are groups of related standards. Because mathematics is a connected subject, standards from different domains and clusters may be closely related. Finally, the standards define what students should understand and be able to do. An example from fourth grade would be: Domain – Operations and Algebraic Thinking; Clusters – Use the four operations with whole numbers to solve problems (three separate standards), Gain familiarity with factors and multiples (one standard), and Generate and analyze patterns (one standard).
Within the document, each grade level does not necessarily have the same domains or number of domains as the preceding grade. However, the standards are aligned vertically from one grade to the next. Unlike some current state standards, the Common Core State Standards do not spell out every step in the instructional process and some do not have example problems. Therefore, educators are going to have to investigate the new standards thoroughly and translate them into new instructional practices.