The new framework for national standards has arrived, and it is a powerful document. The committee garnered a lot of feedback from the mathematics education community and created a set of standards that did exactly what it set out to do; lessen the number of standards taught at each grade level, make the standards more rigorous, and provide structures and processes for the learning of mathematics.
I am impressed and in my first reading (yes, it will take several to figure out all of the nuances) my initial reactions are:
- Grade 8 looks a lot like traditional algebra I used to look like; this is loaded with important implications. (I will save this for another post)
- There is considerable expectation that students are fluent in number sense as well as number computation; I hope that educators everywhere are prepared to help students become fluent in number sense and not just focus on times tables.
- High School algebra looks much more conceptual in nature, with connections and being able to create expressions and equations as essential skills.
- Grades 4 & 5 are the cornerstones of rational number development for later years.
I have a lot more observations that I will be discussing as I reread and process the new standards, but for now these are my initial, WOWs. The last one keeps coming back to me as being critically important. It’s not that the expectations for 4th or 5th grades are any more difficult than any other grade, but the expectatios are more rigorous. There are, also, mediating factors involved with these grades;
- many students moving into content specific courses for the first time,
- teachers who are elementary specialists and not necessarily mathematics specialists are being asked to teach content that may be beyond their training.
New Content, New Expectations
How do we plan to quickly support these teachers to implement these standards successfully? I’m sure there will be a lot of pieces written across the country to help address this and I look forward to reading, and experiencing as much of the ideas as I can. My own initial thoughts are to:
- Create communities for teachers to plan for achieving new standards in their district/state
- Develop coaching plans that allow teachers to experience the activities that will be crucial to deepening student understanding,
- Support teachers as they try to implement these new approaches,
- Work with other teachers to observe/experience the kind of teaching for depth that has not previously been the focus of many mathematics classes.
- Work with teachers to fully understand the content beyond basic application and the ways of representing rational numbers:
- forms: fraction, decimal, percent, written
- models: set, length, part/whole
- Develop a key set of processes that teachers can utilize across grade levels to model and communicate their understandings.
- Multiple representations and understanding of modeling
- Developing deeper and intentional mathematical literacy opportunities
The new standards address: equivalent fractions, fraction computation, decimal place value development, proportional reasoning in several forms including unit conversion, and the introduction of systematic pattern recognition and quantification. These are all skills that have traditionally been the domain of grades 4 through 7 and even 8 in some cases that are now focused on grades 4 & 5. Yes, they have fewer standards to develop with students, but does this population of teachers have the requisite skills necessary to develop conceptual understanding so that students can flexibly apply these concepts to linear functions, to analysis of data, to applications of systems of equations? It is a question that we will find out the answer to in a few short years.
I look forward to these conversations with teachers and I know I’m going to start my conversation with the 4th and 5th grade teachers I work with because I think they are going to be expected to up the ante with these new standards!
Photo: Yes, Maths by akirsa