A Look at the Common Core - Math Example

In education changes happen rapidly. These changes seem to occur frequently in the eyes of an educator leaving many asking "Is this worth the effort, won't there just be a new reform next year?" The biggest change hitting education is the implementation of the CCSS. A collective of states have adopted these standards, and they are tied closely to extra money for many states. While many can argue about the benefits or downsides, the potential they hold,  or the problem of implementation, but I am going to spend this post showing three examples of text for a given standard. All are labeled "CCSS" or "written for the CCSS."

Having spent the most time teaching 6th grade mathematics including classroom time, curriculum writing, district presentations, thesis papers, etc. I am going to focus on a standard in 6th grade math. Note that I could create the same scenario for any grade within the 5th-8th grade spectrum. (I will not openly state about anything above or below as I have spent significantly less focus with these grades).

The Standard (Taken from www.corestandards.org):
  • CCSS.Math.Content.6.NS.C.5 Understand that positive and negative numbers are used together to describe quantities having opposite directions or values (e.g., temperature above/below zero, elevation above/below sea level, credits/debits, positive/negative electric charge); use positive and negative numbers to represent quantities in real-world contexts, explaining the meaning of 0 in each situation.
Here the standard states in fancy language what is expected then inside the parenthesis states examples. As a 6th grade teacher this would show I need to have a strong focus on life examples.  There are at least four examples given of real life context.  

- Most 6th grade text I had seen prior to CCSS did not contain this focus on understanding of real world context. In the above, students would need to have an understanding of a vertical and a horizontal number line and where zero is located. Previously in Oregon positive and negative numbers were not introduced until 7th grade. 

The three texts I am about to show are from the Oregon Focus Supplement, Jefferson County School District in Oregon, Engage NY, and Ten Marks a corporate sponsored program that has been live for at least 2-3 years. Looking at these different texts condensed gives an educator a quick view on what changes will look like from the Oregon Focus text. This quick glimpse will give a shock and awe effect followed by a feeling of overwhelming at the depth of which topics are to be taught. It is my perspective that it will become essential to have math specialist in all grades and certified/endorsed/highly qualified teachers in mathematics in grades 4 and up. I will assume that despite budgets more money will be spent on these positions as the rigor of new standardized assessments will show marginal results otherwise.

Text 1 Oregon Focus:

Here you see basic questions; stating the opposite and placing a few numbers on a number line that is already created. The above is what many texts commonly look like in current books. A series of rote pattern practice followed by a few problems that are a little more complex or have more words, these are the ones that are commonly skipped by students. (I would say at minimum 1/3 of 6th graders can't place zero, and positive and negative Integers correctly on a number line independently - This is solely based on experience)

Text 2 - Jefferson County School District

This insert comes from a series of five question quizzes.  Here students are given a real life scenario to determine which matches. The following question continues to build upon the students previous results. What is interesting about these pictures is students will have to be able to locate zero and understand the spacing in the thermometers. Notice even from question one there isn't a series of rote practice.

Text 3 - Engage NY

Engage NY is currently in the process of publishing modules. The modules are lengthy, though this is integers, for example there was over thirty pages on dividing fractions with an area model to use with students in class and as homework(In a separate section not included in the above stated 30 pages). It'll be interesting to see what they continue to publish for "free" as some districts in other states are adopting their material! (My independent suggestion start downloading and saving now!) Regardless here is a look at a few more in depth questions. Students needing to rewrite statements, matching integers by marking which will require careful reading, and an explanation statement. Explain ideas is a very large focus in CCSS and in Smarter Balance. I can not over emphasis the importance of students being able to know correct vocabulary to not only understand the directions on smarter balance, but to also be able to explain in concise correct words.

Text 4 - Ten Marks

Ten Marks is one of the first company's I saw that had material that looked truly aligned. Yes, it does cost money, but the free version is more than adequate for quizzes or even in class practice.  While I hate to pedal paid products, this is truly aligned to CCSS and will give students better exposure to more in depth selected response answers. The first time I attempted quizzes like these with 7th graders they struggled to understand the format/directions of multiple correct answers etc. 

-What is remarkable is how similar Jefferson County, Engage NY, and Ten Marks are for all standards. All three of these texts present different formatting, but deliver the same standard in what they consider aligned to CCSS. There must be a correlation of understanding on what the standard means. I would imagine all those involved in the creation held experience/degree in creation, development, and design of curriculum of mathematics education. As a professor once told me get your PhD in math education and you will find a job anywhere; the demand is high and population who fit that profile are low. Pick any college in the US and you could have a job there. Similarly any large school district would be interested.

Lastly, as educators it is important to reflect on what we are using in the classroom, why, and what standards it correlates to. By viewing the four content samples you can see different perspectives on what CCSS is.  

(The last three resources are completely Free! If interested in obtaining copies Engage NY can be found at http://www.engageny.org/mathematics , Ten Marks can be found at http://www.tenmarks.com/ , and Jefferson County materials can be obtained by leaving a comment with an email address or emailing me directly.)

PS - This could be a promising side of the early CCSS, lots of materials are being created and currently available for free. I also have a complete CCSS aligned 6th Grade from McGraw Hill that was downloaded from their website during the primary creation of CCSS if interested.


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