SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

September 21, 2012

Column: A new way to teach math

Adopted by 44 states including Massachusetts, the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSS-M) was created to ensure that all students in grades K-12 are college- and career-ready in mathematics. The Salem Public Schools are gearing up for full implementation of the CCSS-M in the 2012-2013 school year. The Framework for 21st Century Learning and CCSS align and support each other.

The new Massachusetts Curriculum Framework, a subset of the CCSS-M, was distributed to every Salem teacher in grades PreK-12 last September. Page four of the introduction states: “These standards are not intended to be new names for old ways of doing business. They are a call to take the next step. It is time for states to work together to build on lessons learned from two decades of standards-based reforms. It is time to recognize that standards are not just promises to our children, but promises we intend to keep.”

The CCSS-M includes eight Standards for Mathematical Practice (SMPs). These eight practice standards describe the varieties of math practices that math teachers will seek to develop in their students. These are the habits of mind employed by proficient users of mathematics. These standards focus on what it means to do mathematics and will help to support our students to be math learners and thinkers in ways that will serve them K-12 and beyond.

Some examples of the standards: SMP2 (reason abstractly and quantitatively) is making sense of real-world problems and attending to the meaning of quantities and units, not just how to compute them. SMP7 (look for and make use of structure) is stepping back for an overview of the mathematics: if you multiply 42 by 5 you may easily break apart the 42 and multiply each part (40 + 2) by the 5. Students often use visual arrays to picture what is happening when they multiply.

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