Understanding the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics

As parents, it is important to understand these new standards and the changes being made in the classroom.
By Jennifer Hogan
Jan 14, 2014



Understanding the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics

Jan 14, 2014

Since 2010, states have been adopting the Common Core in both English Language Arts and Mathematics across the United States.  Thus far, 45 states have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in their entirety and are implementing them throughout each state.  As parents, it is important to understand these new standards and the changes being made in the classroom.  As a mother of a third grader and kindergartener, I have asked many questions and read the standards to familiarize myself with them.  And as a math consultant, I have spent the last two years working with teachers and districts across my state to help build understanding of the Common Core and how it should be implemented in classrooms.  

Change can sometimes not be easy, especially when it is not how we learned as children ourselves.  The CCSS were created to ensure college readiness and career preparation.  The standards are extremely specific and focus on concepts of mastery and fluency.  In mathematics, there are fewer standards, which allow for more focus time of concepts and procedures.  You may be noticing your child's homework looking different or strategies you are not familiar with.  I have many parents asking, "How can I help my child when I don't understand it myself?"  Don't be afraid to ask questions and read the standards to feel more comfortable with what your children are learning.  You are not alone!  The CCSS in Mathematics is broken into 3 sections:

1.    8 Mathematical Practices: There are 8 Math Practices that begin in kindergarten and are taught all the way until high school.  These practices don't change depending on grade level but will look different as students grow and become older.  For example, how a 1st grader uses math tools will not look exactly the same as an 8th grader.  However, they are carried over from year to year so students can build upon these practices and become more proficient in their skills.  The math practices are in place to develop the habits of mind of an excellent math student.  For example: perseverance – teachers will be creating situations for students to persevere in the math class; developing this skill to extend a child's thinking past the first possible answer and so as to not give up.  Below are the 8 Mathematical Practices (You can read more in-depth information about these here.)

1)    Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
2)    Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
3)    Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
4)    Model with mathematics.
5)    Use appropriate tools strategically.
6)    Attend to precision.
7)    Look for and make use of structure.
8)    Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

2.    Critical Areas:  Each grade level has several critical areas for instruction in the introduction of the CCSS.  These critical areas outline the important topics and concepts to be taught throughout the year.  It is important for parents to understand what their children will be learning throughout the school year.  These critical areas highlight the main topics and give understanding to the concepts being taught.  (The critical areas for each grade are in the introduction section of the standards) For example, the three critical areas in Grade 4 are:
In Grade 4, instructional time should focus on three critical areas: (1) developing understanding and fluency with multi-digit multiplication, and developing understanding of dividing to find quotients involving multi-digit dividends; (2) developing an understanding of fraction equivalence, addition and subtraction of fractions with like denominators, and multiplication of fractions by whole numbers; (3) understanding that geometric figures can be analyzed and classified based on their properties, such as having parallel sides, perpendicular sides, particular angle measures, and symmetry.

3.    The Standards:  The math standards are broken into different domains that carry across the grade levels.  In each domain are the standards which specifically identify the concepts needed to be taught with given examples.   For example, geometry is the only domain that begins in kindergarten and continues throughout High School.  Other domains will change depending on grade level and conceptual expectations.  To read the standards, follow the link and click on a specific grade level: http://www.corestandards.org/Math.

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