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AERO Math UpDate

October, 2016

It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled
the holy curiosity of inquiry. Albert Einstein
In order to positively impact student achievement, the Math
Standards must be not just adopted but implemented.

a set of standards represents the beginning, not the
end, of the process. The intent of the Standards is to add a
deeper level of inquiry to math class: making the ability to
describe how you arrived at a solution as important as
memorizing the facts. Teachers must make children partners
in the acquisition of knowledge, helping them to see that
math isnt only or even mainly about right answers, its
about exploration and discovery, and the sort of critical
thinking and problem-solving required in the real world.
Adopting the standards implies there is a goal to have a set
of standards that will impact what happens in the classroom.
Unfortunately, there are too many examples of adoption of
the Mathematics Standards but what is actually being taught
and learned in classrooms. bears little resemblance to the
intent of the standards.

The math standards also include a set of mathematical

practices that are essential for mathematical thinking. If a
student is able to model a problem, they can make some
picture (visual representation) of the problem, reason out a
process to solve the problem, and use the picture to help
communicate and explain their process clearly to someone
else. If the student has a wrong procedure or struggles with
the problem, then they have the opportunity to persevere
through the process..

The Standards do not dictate curriculum or teaching

methods. (CCSSM p 5). Curriculum is WHAT is taught, WHEN it
is taught, and HOW it is taught. The Standards define WHAT
all students are expected to know and be able to do, but not
the when or the how. The WHEN is defined by a SCOPE AND
SEQUENCE. Scope is defined as a list of the math concepts
taught at a grade level/course, and Sequence is defined as
the logical and developmentally-appropriate progression of
standards within a grade. This is important because not only
are the standards coherent across the grades, there is
coherence within the grade. The HOW is the differentiation
and creative ways teachers present and teach to provide

Lets take a look at what we are talking about. The

development of the Common Core Mathematics Standards was
informed by international benchmarking and began with
research-based learning progressions detailing what is known
about how students mathematical knowledge, skills, and
understanding develop over time. The content of mathematics
has not changed. Rather, the Mathematics Standards call for
three instructional shifts.

opportunities for ALL students to achieve the standards.

The graveyards of educational reform are littered with

The first shift, FOCUS, implies that instruction focus deeply on

only those concepts that are emphasized in the standards
(critical areas) so that students can gain strong foundational
conceptual understanding, a high degree of procedural skill
and fluency, and the ability to apply the mathematics they

once-promising innovations that were poorly understood,

superficially implemented, and consequently pronounced
ineffective. (Lewis, 2000, p. 33)

know to solve problems inside and outside the mathematics

classroom. The second shift, COHERENCE arises from
mathematical connections. Some of the connections in the
standards knit topics together at a single grade level. Most
connections are vertical, as the standards support a
progression of increasing knowledge, skill, and sophistication
across the grades. Finally, RIGOR requires that conceptual
understanding, procedural skill and fluency, and application be
approached with equal intensity.

The Standards provide a bold vision for teaching and learning

that requires a thoughtful, thorough approach to planning and
implementation. The overarching message of the Standards is
that effective teaching is the nonnegotiable core that
ensures that all students learn mathematics at high levels and
that such teaching requires a range of actions at the school

and classroom level. NCTMs Principles to Actions fills the

gap between the adoption of standards and their actions
required for successful implementation.

more. They should not be expected to shut their doors and

figure it out on their own. Teachers like professionals in all
other practice based professions, must constantly focus on
refining their craft in curriculum, instruction, and assessment.
Job-embedded professional learning experiences and contentspecific feedback to effectively implement standards-aligned
instructional strategies in their classrooms should be common

Innovations without clarity of content and the processes needed to

bring the central reform ideas to life are often particularly likely to be
implemented in unpredictable ways and look little like what was
originally intended.(WestEd.)
Understanding the expectations of the Standards is critical for
all stakeholders, not just classroom teachers! When that
understanding is missing, it is very easy to say, been there,
done that! Successful implementation depends on how well we
listen to lessons learned from the field.

The Standards call for a change in instruction and the reality

is that many teachers are not comfortable teaching math that

1. Connect the Common Core to all systems.

All systems, from instruction, curriculum and assessments to

professional learning and evaluation frameworks, must be
aligned with each other and clearly connected with goals
established in the standards. Focusing on only one component,
such as instruction, will inevitably fail. With these cohesive
and reinforced systems in place, implementation is not seen as
just one more thing to do, but rather as central to all
aspects of their work, and instructional leaders will be able
tomore accurately determine whats really working.

way. The Standards require high-yield teaching strategies

such as teaching through problem solving and using the
textbook as a resource only, not as the main teaching tool.
Teachers are being asked to teach in ways that they
themselves may not have experienced or seen in classroom
situations. Its difficult for many to teach differently from the
they experienced. Many teachers admit they learned math by
practice and drill, not by problem solving. So how does one
move from being the sage on the stage to being the guide on
the side; from practicing procedures to rich problem
solving; from the sit and get to the three part lesson?

Lets look at what is successfully happening in our schools.

2. Focus on assessing student progress

Successful implementation of the standards requires effective

formative assessment practices that monitor student
comprehension within lessons and use that data to inform and
adjust instruction not just preparing students for a test.

Over two decades ago, after they had studied Japans teaching
system and its method of embedded professional learning,
Stigler and Hiebert introduced Lesson Study to America. In
their study of math teaching in the United States, An
American Way of Teaching , they describe it as just learning
terms and practicing procedures. In contrast to this
prescriptive approach to mathematics, teachers in Japan would
ask students to come up with their own procedures for solving
problems. A typical class began with the teacher posing a
complex thought-provoking problem; Students engaged in
productive struggle with the problem; Students discovered
ways to solve the problem; Various students would present
their ideas and solutions to the class; The class would discuss
the solutions and the teacher would guide the discussions. The
teacher summarized the class solution; and students practiced
similar problems. They also noted a characteristic teaching
practice was to engage teachers in planning, teaching, and

3. Look for teaching and learning in the classroom.

The Standards do not dictate how teachers should teach, but

its clear that successful implementation requires teachers to
apply proven strategies that are aligned to the standards. It is
essential for instructional leaders to evaluate the quality and
efficacy of instruction, its equally if not more important to
focus on student actions and evidence of learning
particularly the higher thinking and reasoning called for by
the Standards. The Mathematical Practices must be evident in
every math classroom.

4. Give teachers the support they need and deserve.

When it comes to the required shifts in instruction, it can be a

steep learning curve. Research from Leveraging the Common
Core to Support College and Career Readiness, showed that
teachers receive a lot of information about what the
standards are, and very little about how to teach with them.
Additionally, data from The Center for Public Educations
Teaching the Teachers report showed that most mathematics
professional development is still a "spray and pray" two-day
institute (or similar) on the standards. Teachers attend
workshops where they might get great new ideas about
teaching. But when they get back to their classrooms and try
to put those ideas into practice, all kinds of questions come up.
And the expert who led the workshop isnt there to help.
Often, theres no one to turn to for help. Teachers deserve

developing lessons collaboratively.

As teachers are implementing the Math Standards, many are

looking for ways to deepen their students understanding of
and enthusiasm for math. Many have discovered an adaptation
of Lesson Study is a vehicle for improving students math
experiences and providing a deeper understanding of the
required shifts. Lesson Study places the power to change
instruction in the hands of those participating. It is more than
teachers planning together and observing each other: it is a
way of developing a deep understanding of the content, the
math practices, and lesson structure.

The model starts with teachers identifying their learning target(s), the content and math practices; The second step is to consider
how their success will be recognized. Subsequent steps involved planning the lesson together, identifying best practices, teaching
the lesson with others observing, and then coming together to review the lesson and student learning.

As one teacher recently wrote: Im more aware of my practice now. Every time I plan a lesson, I think about the representations
and visuals I can use to address the diversity in my class. I reflect on my practice all the time. I think about the problems I give
to them, I anticipate their questions and answers. I think about how I give instructions, where I stand in the room, and what
gestures I use.

In their 1999 book, The Teaching Gap, Stigler and Hiebert stated The premise behind lesson study is simple: if you want to improve
teaching, the most effective place to do it is in the context of a classroom lesson. They also noted that, rather than reform, the
aim of lesson study is to produce small, incremental improvements over long periods of time and however long the process there
remains an unrelenting focus on student learning.

Implementing the standards is critical and has the potential to provide students access to a coherent curriculum and instruction,
pedagogical strategies, that support the mathematical progress of all students. When implemented with fidelity, we have seen that
lesson study can be a powerful data-driven, job-embedded model of professional development that supports the continuous
improvement of instruction and increases personal and shared accountability for raising student achievement.

Lewis, C. (2000, April 28). Lesson Study: The core of Japanese professional development. Invited Address to the Special Interest Group on Research
in Mathematics Education, American Educational Research Association Meetings, New Orleans. Retrieved 18 March 2011 from

Perry, R. R., Finkelstein, N. D., Seago, N., Heredia, A., Sobolew-Shubin, S., & Carroll, C. (2015). Taking Stock of Common Core Math Implementation:
Supporting Teachers to Shift Instruction: Insights from the Math in Common 2015 Baseline Survey of Teachers and Administrators. San Francisco,
CA: WestEd.

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