Illinois said yes to the idea of raising educational standards and improving college and career readiness through the use of common core standards. One thing Illinois is bragging about is that they are going deeper rather than wider with instruction. This essentially means that instead of covering a wider range of material, they focus on getting students to learn content more fully, going higher on Blooms Taxonomy where analysis and synthesis is found. Mathematics is one particular subject of change.
Teachers in the state are taking part in some new professional development, called The Professional Learning Series (PLS). Through PLS they will be able to partake of training, materials, tools and strategies that they can use to implement the common core standards.
When it comes to Math, there are some definite new standards in place. The verbiage found under the 8 varied Math disciplines reads differently than before. For example, #1 reads, “Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.” To translate this to how it will look in the classroom, consider how students will be required to look for some entry points to solving each problem after they can explain it to themselves. Since Math comes with goals, constraints and relationships; students have to learn how to identify and work with those particulars. Starting on a solution right off the bat is discouraged and students are taught how to be more strategic in planning how they will approach solving a problem. They will stop and question themselves about the sensibility of the steps they take to solve the problem.
The second standard reads, “Reason abstractly and qualitatively.” This means they will learn to decontextualize a problem and represent it abstractly with symbols. They will also learn to contextualize by pausing and probe into the meanings of symbols. Objects and symbols and knowing math operations becomes more important and students will have to pay attention to the meaning of symbols in order to solve problems.
In skipping to standard 4, which reads, “Model with Mathematics,” students will have to solve everyday math problems. A middle school student may plan a school event or look at a problem in the community. To take this a step further, they will have to identify important quantities in practical situations and use tables, graphs, flowcharts, formulas and diagrams to analyze problems and draw conclusions.
Standard five deals with using tools like calculators, rulers, spreadsheets, concrete models, paper and pencils in a strategic fashion. It also requires using judgment to decide which tool is best for approaching the resolution of a particular math problem.
Standard six deals with attending to precision. This requires the right vocabulary, stating what symbols mean, specifying different units of measure, etc. The key word here is precision.
Standard seven requires students to look for and make use of structure in order to solve math problems. This entails looking for a possible pattern or a structure. Sorting, using distributive property and solving algebra problems are all involved in this standard. Shifting of perspective may also be required.
Finally, with standard eight, students will look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning. Using general methods and shortcuts when they are called for will enable students to oversee problem solving while attending to the important details.
Basically Math instruction will call upon students to grow in math maturity and expertise. A flexible base upon which they build their math skills is provided in the early years. The goal is for students to understand effectively so they can solve math problems.
A Kindergartener will be practicing describing shapes and space; while representing, representing and operating on whole numbers. Starting off, they will use objects, also referred to as manipulatives, but they are expected to be weaned from this practice.
Mathematics has been around since 70,000 BC or longer. It is by and large an evolving discipline. It’s small wonder that it has been a key focus of the core curriculum revamping. Illinois has entered this arena of change and it is evident in Math classrooms throughout the state.