If you're a teacher in a state that adopted the new Common Core State Standards, you're most likely in the process of adapting your current lesson plans to the requirements of the new specifications. Essentially, "the rubber is meeting the road" as the clock ticks closer to the 2014 deadline (especially in the math classroom).
When reading just the standards, they may not seem that different from your state’s previous mathematics standards. The real difference lies in the fact that the Common Core also provides a list "processes and proficiencies" students must develop to be successful, instead of just covering what they should know. These "how-to" definitions, eight in total, are called the Common Core Standards of Mathematical Practice and can mean big changes for your existing lesson plans.
The following five points cover general areas you can focus on within your math lesson plans to help students develop proficiency with the CCSS mathematical practice standards.
Don't confuse "increased rigor" with "higher work load"
Rigor may honestly be the key word in the entire Common Core movement, and the folks who developed the CCSS want more of it. But we often hear people confuse rigor with just assigning more work.
As a math educator, "Rigor" means holding student progress to high standards and continually asking them to accomplish challenges outside their comfort zone. This might mean utilizing more formative assessments or enlisting the help of a supplemental or online solution designed to instill a "deeper understanding" not usually found in multiplication tables or graph plotting.
Model real-world scenarios to improve college and career readiness
Practice Standard 4 (CCSS.Math.Practice.MP4) calls for students to be able to “model with mathematics”, meaning that students must develop the ability to apply what their math learning to their daily lives and their post-K-12 careers.
Satisfying this standard means less rote memorization and more real-world examples and scenarios in the classroom. Its an age-old education adage, but if you can connect the concepts to the student's environment, the students will become far more engaged, and thus, more likely to apply their mastery and proficiency in real-world situations.
Develop a forum for congenial math discussion and debate
Practice Standard 3 (CCSS.Math.Practice.MP3) asks students to construct viable arguments and to be able to analyze the reasoning of others. As you know, in many cases the best teacher in the room can be a student's fellow classmate or group of classmates.
Seek to develop a classroom atmosphere that is valuable and kind in nature to build more discussion time into your math classes and let students defend their thought processes. Doing so can help build avenues to a number of classroom learning experiences, including number sense activities and abstract reasoning.
Foster "describe your understanding", not just "show your work"
Teachers have been asking math students to show their work for as long as any of us can remember, but the past few years have seen a shift from "prove you know what you are doing" to "prove you understand what you are doing and why you did so." Practice Standard 2 (CCSS.Math.Practice.MP2) takes the show your understanding idea even further, asking students to reason abstractly and quantitatively.
When faced with a math challenge, students must find their own path to get there. Help your students develop this skill by scaffolding the process of "showing their math work", beginning with basic concept understanding and a step-by-step process of showing reason and methods. Model and practice rigorously to ensure they have an understanding of ways they can clearly describe "how" and "why" in words and numbers.
Don't fear setbacks -- Help turn them into success
Math can be frustrating, especially for struggling learners. The authors of the Common Core realize this and have written the practices as a "point of intersection" between the standards and the development process of math understanding. Simply put, the ability to persevere through the struggle is key to becoming proficient.
Wrap your head around the notion that it's okay for your students to struggle initially with these new concepts and processes. By not rushing into an outcome, right or wrong, you allow students to develop their own schema towards creating proficiency and progress with both the practices and the math standards.
Tell us about your methods to develop CCSS math lesson plans
Have the Common Core Standards of Mathematical Practice required you to make significant changes to your math lesson plans? If so, how did you do so? If not, tell us about how your lesson plans were already good-to-go! Connect with the Wowzers team via the Comments section at the bottom of the page, via our Facebook page, or Tweet us at @Wowzers!