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We're All Teaching the Common Core Math Standards

Alice Keeler

Educational Technology Specialist
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Teacher sitting in front of class holding a book laughing with students

As a math teacher, I would ask my students to write. They would complain that it was math class and they should not have to write in math. I would tell them that there's no such thing as "math day" out in the real world. Outside of school, math is integrated into everyday tasks and work tasks. While numbers in isolation are rarely useful, writing about what the numbers mean is important for clearly communicating ideas.

Mathematics is modeled in almost any field. Common Core standards ask students to do research, look at real-world contexts, make sense of the world around them, and be able to reason and justify conclusions. The eight Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice can be applied in any subject area. Here are some suggestions for how we can all be teachers of the Common Core math standards:

1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. (CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP1)

Any subject area can ask students to make sense of problems. Rather than giving students step-by-step instructions where everyone's outcome is the same, pose an interesting problem or question for students to figure out the solution. The problem does not have to be a math problem -- every subject has things that students can figure out. The solutions need to be more than a quick answer. To persevere, students should work their way through solving a multi-phase problem. The answer to one part becomes information they'll need to answer the next part.

2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively. (CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP2)

Use numbers to reason. All subject areas have data that can be analyzed. If teachers are posing DOK 3 and DOK 4 problems, students need to look at evidence, make sense of it, and draw conclusions. This is done with textual evidence as well as numerical data. Have students analyze the water crisis in California. Part of that is looking at the data on rainfall, crop irrigation needs, farmers' crop outputs, household water use, etc. Every class should have students looking at this data, analyzing it, making charts, and drawing conclusions.

3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others. (CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP3)

Piggybacking on the previous standard, students should defend their arguments with data that they've reviewed. Viable arguments don't have to be about numbers. Every subject should have students construct an argument. Doing peer evaluation allows each student to critique others and defend his or her own reasoning. Students can also critique the reasoning of authors of texts. This can be done in any class.

4. Model with mathematics. (CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP4)

Math is present in everyday applications. How does your subject area utilize math? Whether in art, music, history, economics, or science, we all have uses for math. How are math concepts represented in your subject area? Make an effort to expose your students to the ways in which your subject area models math.

5. Use appropriate tools strategically. (CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP5)

When students are faced with a problem, do they realize that they need to utilize a ruler, protractor, computer, or spreadsheet to solve it -- without your telling them? All classes can use spreadsheets to organize information. Tools do not need to be math tools specifically. In the course of their everyday lives after graduation, students will need to decide whether they should they use a text document or spreadsheet, create a flowchart or timeline, use one of many collaborative or web 2.0 tools, or punch numbers into a calculator. Now is their chance to learn the best strategic use for these tools and many others.

6. Attend to precision. (CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP6)

Students tend to give vague answers, so we must work with them to be specific and back up their statements with evidence. This evidence doesn't have to be with mathematical numbers. When dealing with data and numbers, students should be able to come up with a precise answer whenever it is required.

7. Look for and make use of structure. (CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP7)

Every world language has patterns and structure for students to observe and analyze. Looking for patterns and structure in history should already be occurring. In any subject area, students could be seeking patterns and structure to give them a deeper understanding of a problem.

8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning. (CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP8)

All students should be continually evaluating the reasonableness of their intermediate results. Throughout the process of solving any problem (not just a math problem), students look for things that repeat. When writing an essay, they're using a similar structure throughout the writing process.

As you construct your lesson plans, consider which of these eight mathematical practices you can include. Quite possibly, you're already including some of the practices in your Common Core lessons. If we want to strengthen students' reasoning and numerical literacy skills, we can't just relegate the mathematical concepts to math class. The more cross-curricular thinking we apply to our lesson plans, the more opportunity students will have to find value in what they're learning.

How do you use the Common Core math standards?

Was this useful? (1)

Alice Keeler

Educational Technology Specialist

Comments (11) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Merlin's picture

Excellent blog Alice Keeler. Thanks for sharing.

Applying math standards in various subjects is really a great idea. It makes learning interesting for students.

I hate maths basically but to make me understand its importance my dad used to say often that maths plays vital role in our life.

Now from your tips of using Common Core math standards in any subject made me more clear on it.

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Alice Keeler's picture
Alice Keeler
Educational Technology Specialist

Glad it is helpful! Supporting mathematical thinking across subjects is good for everyone!

Bon Crowder's picture
Bon Crowder
Math Mom & Education Advocate

One of the best articles on math learning that I've read in a long time. I'm going to share this one like crazy!

Mathew Hendricks's picture

Hit the nail on the head! I think every teacher needs to read this! So much pressure is on the math and reading teacher when it comes to testing and assessments but the weight should fall on all teachers. Even in my math class I have kids working on their writing skills and their reading skills.

Kristen P's picture

When my school implemented the Common Core Standards last year, a lot of the math teachers were having a hard time understanding how to incorporate the math practices alongside the content standards. The best explanation we received was that these practices were daily habits that were already incorporated into every lesson - we just did not point them out because they came so naturally to us, as mathematicians. I love how you are pointing out that they are not only relevant in the math, but in every subject. The math practices are a way to logically think about and solve problems, which occurs in everyday life, and therefore should be evident in every classroom.
I am working on an activity to demonstrate how the math practices are used through playing games. For example, playing Sudoku is attending to precision or solving logic puzzles is making sense of problems and preserving to solve them. My goal is to have my students play eight different games that individually highlight each math practice so that they can understand how these practices can aid them in solving problems (or winning games!).

A Tucker's picture

These are some great insights for approaching the standards. I enjoy the fact that you are emphasizing that all teachers, not just math, can apply these practices. Suggestions 4, 5 and 6 in particular made me think of how well or how often I incorporate these notions. It cannot be stressed enough the importance for making connections to everyday life, whether it be through teaching a particular skill or providing examples of when and how something can be used.

LFerber's picture

I thought this post was very encouraging for prospective teachers like myself as I prepare to plan lessons using the common core state standards. At the end of the day we want our students to come away with these skills as they progress through life. These 8 standards for math practices can easily be applied to other content areas and should be considered when planning for lessons in these content areas. I was unaware that the common core had standards set aside for mathematical practice. I would be interested to see if the common core had similar practice standards for literacy. I imagine those standards would be much like these math standards. Standards 2 and 3 in particular stand out to me. I think it is so crucial that our students are never satisfied with an answer. We should encourage them to ask questions and persevere in finding other ways that we can come to a conclusion. They can do this by being critical of other students answers and encourage their peers to use other strategies.

Shannon McCombs's picture

Your post was perfect and practical for what our teachers are grappling with in supporting the math CCSS. I will certainly share this with the math team today! Hopefully, they will be willing to share it with the entire staff on our next whole school collaboration.
There is one word that seems to be challenging for the teachers - model. You wrote: "Make an effort to expose your students to the ways in which your subject area models math." So many teachers, and students, think they need to build something whenever it says to model. I like how your questions bring out what modeling can look like, beyond that literal understanding. Thank you again for sharing!

Erin Pinning's picture

Great insight on math integration! I feel like I am constantly talking to my students about being problem solvers. The practice standards link so well with the problem solving skills students use in other classes with almost anything they are doing. Looking at the practice standards helps break down the stigma that math is too complicated and challenging for most people to understand. I find that secondary teachers shy away from mathematics and are intimidated by the prospect of using it in their teaching for fear of messing up or not making it clear enough to have any impact on student learning.
I appreciate how you broke down the practice standards and gave examples of the cross-curricular alignment. It is so vital that we as teachers are on the same page with our students about the essential problem solving skills needed to be effective thinkers in the world today.
Thanks so much for sharing.

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