Let me guess, if you had a nickel for every time you heard about the "increase in rigor" required by the Common Core math standards and the online Common Core assessments, you'd probably have a pretty heavy piggy bank, right?
Hey, we're guilty of sounding the CCSS rigor alarm too and being aware of the increased need for students to obtain Level 3 and Level 4 Depth of Knowledge (DOK) skills is all well and good. However, for educators, the true challenge lies in helping students obtain and utilize these skills. The best way to do so is to scaffold and foster the development of their higher-order abilities in a real-world math setting.
But don't worry, the requirement of higher-order thinking in the new math standards is not all doom and gloom. The following four tips provide fun and effective strategies to expand upon as you seek to help students take that deeper dive in their mathematics application and understanding.
1) Promote relevant discussion to bridge real-world importance and application
Getting students to talk about math from a real-world perspective may seem like an easy no-brainer, but (as we know) it's actually harder than it looks. Do you want to get your students to check-in and connect with the concept? Begin by relating the concept to something your digital natives love and do everyday!
Knowing your kids' environment and interests goes a long way. For example, let's say you're teaching a ratio lesson to a classroom of fifth graders. Instead of showing typical ratio examples using simple objects, think of something they love and put it in terms the students can relate to while learning, like Angry Birds (For every one Yellow Bird shot, I eliminated 3 pigs. The ratio of yellow birds shot to eliminated pigs is 1:3). The kids will eat it up and the relevancy will be a driver for your actual real-world application and analysis discussions.
2) Make Project-based Learning a focus in your classroom
Okay, so you've done a good job of helping your students connect the required math concepts to fun and relevant ideas. Now, it's time to cross the bridge between Level 1/Level 2 DOK skills and your students' ability to problem solve, collaborate, analyze, and apply.
By introducing project-based learning activities that provide students avenues to use their learned concepts, context clues, and observations to work together (and/or independently) and investigate, solve problems, or create comparisons and conclusion. These activities promote peer collaboration and collective critical thinking, which will go a long way in helping students master the CCSS math standards.
For more on the advantages of Project-based learning, be sure to check out Edutopia's Project-based Learning page.
3) Leverage EdTech resources and content to enhance digital literacy and collaboration
Project-based learning activities help students connect learned concepts to needed deeper understanding of real-world situations. As an educator, you can further enhance the real-world understanding and application by utilizing collaborative, self-driven educational technology tools and resources.
The great thing about the recent EdTech boom is that many software development companies and organizations, big and small, are using the powerful computing ability of netbooks, tablets, and laptops to create amazing interactive learning resources that promote collaboration, personalized learning, and individual student data analysis.
For example, Cool Tools for 21st Century Learners has a great collection of education options provided by Google Docs. These new EdTech tools are going to change education and are integral to developing college and career readiness in the 21st century.
4) Prepare students for the need of Level 3 and Level 4 DOK skills on assessments
Students taking the PARCC and Smarter Balanced Common Core math assessments in 2015 will be held 100% accountable for skills associated with the DOK 3 and 4 levels, according to a UCLA National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST) study.
This ramp-up in rigor in the new standardized tests (the state tests used as the control of the study tested DOK Level 3 and 4 skills an astounding 0% of the time) means that students will require a different kind of preparation*. Instead of focusing on concept memorization and basic usage, students will be required to analyze, infer, and even writing-in-math.
*To learn more about the increased usage of higher-order thought on the CCSS assessments, download our new eBooklet, "Mastering the Common Core Digital Math Assessments".