What is the Difference Between the Common Core Math Standards and Your Math Curriculum?

Posted by Zack Blois on Nov 14, 2013 2:05:00 PM
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You have probably recently heard or read at least something that shed a negative light on the Common Core math standards.

Screen_Shot_2013-11-14_at_10.16.39_AMNow, I'm not here today to jump on one side or the other. This blog post's sole purpose is to set the record straight on something we often hear misquoted or misrepresented: the idea that the Common Core math standards are a "curriculum".

Simply put, if you hear someone utter those words, they probably don't know the difference between "standards" and "curriculum".

Okay, so what’s the difference?

First, let's take a quick look at the general difference between the terms, "standards" and "curriculum":

  • Standards are a description of what a student should know by the time they reach a certain grade level or progress point. For example, students should be able to multiply two-digit numbers by the end of fourth grade. Think of them as a "road map" for required learning.

  • A curriculum is how an educational traveler gets to their learning destination. Local educational leadership still makes decisions about the methods and materials that will be used to make sure students stay on that "road map". A curriculum is aligned to standards (not vice-versa), but they certainly aren’t analogous.

It's important to key into those italicized words: standards serve as the "what" and "when" of learning, curriculum serves as the "how".

Why new standards and why now?

Each state has had their own set of learning standards for decades. Some states, like Massachusetts, Texas, and Delaware, saw great gains from their standards sets. However, because there is so much variability between standards, many officials felt that this difference from state-to-state was holding back the aggregate achievement of students across the nation.

Enter the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Whether you agree with the "what" and "when" of the new standards, we can all agree that the main goal of the standards is valuable: to provide all students a "road map" to reach the goal of college and career readiness

The Common Core math standards seek to define the goal of college and career readiness via a set group of learning standards and mathematical practices:

  • The CCSS math standards serve as the "what", defining very specific concepts that should be obtained within each grade level.

  • The CCSS mathematical practices serve as the guidelines for "what" skills students should master while progressing thought the standards (higher order skills, collaboration, critical thinking, etc.).

What do the new standards mean for your math curriculum?

Here's the big question: We know the new standards and practices are not a curriculum, but what do they mean for your school/district's math curriculum?

There's no doubt that the new standards are a key component because they give the math lesson a direction. However, they truly only make up about 10 percent of the content when compared to "how" you meet learning goals -- i.e. the procedure, objectives, goals, materials, and desired learning outcome. 

As the educator, you define how these standards are taught (and how goals are met), whether it be via a blended learning model, project-based learning activities, or real-life application. You still have control of the "how", including the means of differentiation, pacing, and focus within the school day and year. 

By combining engaging elements/resources and your own abilities within your math curriculum, you can make great strides towards increasing student progress and achievement. This is a key factor to remember when making the distinction between "curriculum" and "standards".

Tell us about your CCSS integration experiences

The new standards are not your actual math curriculum, but they still most likely represent a shift in the direction of instruction. The Wowzers Team can't tell that story. Only you can, and we'd love to hear about your experiences in developing a Common Core-based math curriculum

  • Do you feel like your methods of instruction and lesson plan development have changed drastically after adopting the new standards?

  • What are some methods you have taken to integrate the math standards and fun and innovative ways?

  • What apprehensions and concerns do you have about the standards in relation to your math curriculum?

Connect with the Wowzers team via our Facebook page, or Tweet us at @Wowzers.


More free CCSS resources from the Wowzers Team!

CCSS Content eBooklet download link


Topics: Common Core Content

Wowzers is a comprehensive online math program covering all Common Core State Standards for grades K-8. The research-based program adapts to each learner and allows for an individualized path through the curriculum. Content is presented in multiple ways, and appeals to tactile, auditory, and visual learners. Assessments mirror those found on high-stakes achievement tests and provide teachers and administrators with the information that they need to personalize learning for each student.

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