By Aaron Locke, Curriculum Specialist
Growing up in
the country as
boy, I had a lot
One of those was
spending hours with my dad fishing in our pond. Everything I know
about fishing I learned from him, and he was a pretty good teacher. I
don’t by any means consider myself a “bass master,” but for the most
part I know when, where, and how to catch fish – information passed
down to me that I’m currently trying to pass to my sons.
Besides teaching me how to fish, my dad spent a large portion of
his life teaching mathematics. So, it’s only fitting that one of his favorite
sayings was that old Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed
him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” As
a math teacher, he firmly believed that understanding the how and why
of solving a problem was more important than just having the right
answer. I’d have to agree – content is important but having the ability to
understand a problem and think critically to arrive at a solution is what
students need in order to succeed. This is what the Common Core
Standards for Mathematical Practice tries to capture.
You are probably familiar with, or are becoming familiar with, the
content standards for math (and English/language arts) developed by
the people with the Common Core Initiative. At the time of this writing,
48 states and territories have adopted the Common Core standards.
But perhaps slightly less well known is that there are eight Mathematical
Practice standards that accompany the math content standards.
- Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
- Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
- Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
- Model with mathematics.
- Use appropriate tools strategically.
- Attend to precision.
- Look for and make use of structure.
- Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.
These standards are about teaching a kid how to fish . . .
or how to do math.
At Pitsco Education, we believe that deeper understanding occurs
when concepts are presented in real-world and relevant scenarios,
using hands-on activities as much as possible. This makes our
curriculum a natural fit for the Standards for Mathematical Practice.
Here are just a few ways we address some of these standards:
- Make sense of problems and persevere in solving
them. Because we tackle math with real-world scenarios,
it provides students with a context for understanding and
reason in solving a problem.
- Reason abstractly and quantitatively. Our solution
gives meaning to numbers and quantities. Because of the
context of the math problem, students better understand
the relationship between quantities and what happens
as those quantities change. Students are also expected
to decontextualize problem scenarios and manipulate
quantities aside from the context of the problem. This
decontextualization enables students to apply similar skills,
processes, and techniques to other problems.
- Model with mathematics. Students solve problems that
come up in everyday life. They map relationships between
quantities using tables, charts, and graphs and analyze these
relationships to make decisions and draw conclusions.
- Use appropriate tools strategically. Students learn to use
many types of measurement tools, graphical displays of data,
software, and calculators to help them solve problems and
make models to aid in understanding.
You can read more about the Standards for Mathematical Practice
by visiting the Common Core Web site at www.corestandards.org/.
I have many books on how to fish. Books can teach me what
temperature of water bass prefer, but it is useless information unless I
can make that perfect cast under the branches of the willow tree in our
pond. No book can give me this skill. It only comes through experience
and practice in the real world. I think the same goes for math. Deep
and meaningful understanding comes from knowing how, why, when,
and where to use the right skills, tools, and processes to solve useful
problems in our lives. This is the essence of Pitsco’s math solutions. To
learn more about Pitsco’s math solutions, go to our Web site at www.pitsco.com/algebra.