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Understanding Common Core Math

Understanding Common Core Math

Author: Kathleen Johnson

In this lesson you will learn the basics of the CCSS Math Standards

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Hello, ladies and gentlemen. I hope you're having a great day today. Today, we're going to be looking at understanding common core math. And for today's lesson, I've chosen kind of a fun quote by Snoop Dogg which says, "If you stop at general math, you're only going to make general math money." To me, this really gets at the ultimate question for math, which is, what is the point? When am I ever going to use this again? And I find it kind of funny that Snoop Dogg adds a little bit of relevance to that, even if it's a little tongue-in-cheek.

By the end of today's lesson, you are going to be able to review the origin of the common core math standards as well as analyze those common core math standards. So first, let's take a look at the history of common core math. Common core math began development in 2009. And the development was really led by a number of state leaders, governors, state commissioners, other people that came together through both the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, also known as the NGA Center, and the Council of Chief State School Officers, the CCSO.

All of these people gathered together across 48 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia to really focused in on both the college and career readiness skills as well as those K through 12 standards, looking at, what should students be able to do from elementary through high school, grade-by-grade, as well as what should they know and be able to use and understand by the time they graduate high school? The common core called for some key shifts in mathematics in order to achieve those readiness standards. And it's those key shifts that we're going to focus on as we go through.

The first key shift we're going to focus in on looks at greater focus and fewer topics. The goal here is to really focused on the major mathematical work that needs to be done at each grade level to help students create that solid foundation of understanding and then add to it bit-by-bit as they continue on through their academic career, knowing how to apply math both inside and outside of the classroom. You'll notice here, in grades K through two, the major focus area or concept skills and problem solving related to addition and subtraction.

What I love to see when we put them side-by-side is, then, when we go to three through five, we keep very similar language, very similar focus, but then we add to it multiplication and division of whole numbers and fractions. So you can see, we're already starting to build on top of what grades before have done.

When we focus in on grade six, you can see we're now adding in those ratios and proportional relationships, as well as the early algebraic expressions that we're going to see backed up as we move on. In grade seven we continue that, but now we're focusing in on arithmetic of rational numbers. And finally, by the time we get to grade eight, we're looking into that linear algebra and linear functions. The goal with greater focus and fewer topics is to really create that strong foundation, a solid understanding of those concepts, so that we can continue to add on as the grades increase.

The next major key shift was in coherence. Really focusing in on that coherent progression from grade to grade, and the linking of topics and thinking between grade to grade. For example, if we look at standard 4.NF.4, focusing in on fourth grade, it states that "Students in fourth grade must apply and extend previous understandings of multiplication to multiply a fraction by a whole number."

If we then look at 5.NF.4, we see that one grade up, "Students in fifth grade must apply and extend previous understandings of multiplication to multiply a fraction or a whole number by another fraction". We're building upon what has been learned before in order to help students really follow through and reinforce those major topics in each grade. These standards were all taken from the, and you'll be able to find more examples there as well.

The next key shift that we're going to focus in on is rigor. Really looking at-- and again, I take this from "Pursue a conceptual understanding, procedural skills, and fluencies and application with equal intensity". I'd really like to break that down just a little bit.

We know that rigor, here, is referring to students reaching a deeper understanding of the major work. But let's really focused in on those key areas. So conceptual understanding. What we're looking at here is the understanding of those key concepts, but from varied perspectives. Looking at it from a bunch of different ways so that we really can grasp the concept. Knowing the why of math.

The next area that rigor focuses in on are those procedural skills and fluency. What we mean here is the speech and accuracy in that calculation. Am I able to complete the calculation accurately? And then, can I speak confidently about what I've done to help show my understanding?

Finally, we're then looking at application. Applying mathematical concepts and practices across a variety of settings, situations, and, most importantly, real world problems. Getting back to the, what's the point, when am I going to use this, and really showing that to students. What rigor calls for in these core standards is that we focus in on these three areas with equal intensity.

Now, let's look at some of the positives and negatives that come with common core math. First of all, these are not national standards. That is a little bit of a misconception. They have been adopted by the majority of states, but all states have the option to adopt them or not. This obviously brings into consideration the difficulty in ensuring that all students across the entire country are learning the same material at the same level.

Also, these standards can be assessed in three different ways, which makes it really difficult to make those state-by-state comparisons when you have states using the same standards. Some states will use the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, some states will use Smarter Balance, and some states will assess using their own state-developed assessment. Again, this doesn't necessarily pose a problem for the learning of the information, but it's very difficult for us to then put two states side-by-side and say, this one has stronger math students than this one.

Finally, some positive news is that the SAT, the AP, and ACT are beginning to incorporate these standards into their assessments. The benefit here is that students are seeing the payoff when they go to take these major tests, in what they've been learning all in throughout. And really, if we're trying to align all of our students in our nation, it's important that we show them that these standards are going to have application in future grades and career elements.

Now that we've come to the end of the lesson, you are able to review the origin of the common core math standards and you've been able to analyze those common core math standards. Now, I want to take some time for a little reflection. As you reflect on this information, what are the challenges you foresee if you started implementing that linking of those math content standards from grade-to-grade?

It's your turn, now, to apply what you've learned in this video. The additional resources section could be super helpful to you. This section is designed to help you discover useful ways to apply what you've learned here, and each link includes a brief description so that you can easily target the resources that you want.

Notes on "Understanding Common Core Math"

(00:00-00:31) Intro

(00:32-00:42) Objectives

(00:43-01:51) History of CC Math Standards

(01:52-03:35) Key Shift: Greater Focus, Fewer Topics

(03:36-04:49) Key Shift: Coherence

(04:50-06:24) Key Shift: Rigor

(06:25-08:12) Positives & Negatives

 (08:13-08:22) Review

(08:23-09:04) Reflection

Additional Resources

Index of Flipbooks

A terrific tool to implement the mathematical standards from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics in Kansas.  Click on the grade that you teach from the list of flipbooks.  The flipbook provides teachers with instruction on how to apply the standards at their grade level, offering examples and embedded professional learning within the document.



LearnZillion is a terrifc portal of online lessons aligned to the ELA and Math CCSS by grade level. Teachers can create playlists and track data within this free resource. The resource also includes handouts and communication components for parents.