Should we be concerned about Common Core?

The Common Core State Standards for Mathematics grades K-12 was released by National Governors Association (NGACBP) a few years ago. These Standards were supported by the Conference Board of Mathematical Sciences (CBMS), which include AMATYC, MAA, and ASA to name a few.  Since the North Carolina High School curriculum is phasing in the Common Core Standards starting with Math I, the NC Community Colleges are yet to see the impact of these changes since we have not yet enrolled high school graduates that have gone through four years of high school Common Core.

Two sessions at the 40th AMATYC Conference dealt with the Common Core Standards, one being our “key note” Conference Opener given by Zalman Usiskin. His talk entitled “Cleaning Up after the Common Core”  pointed out some content omissions in the high school curriculum recommended by the Common Core, but one of Zalman’s main complaints is the lack of time between the Proposed Common Core Standards and the Implementation into the Schools. This lack of time largely impacted the amount of Professional Development, or I should say lack of PD, that was needed to successfully implement the changes 

called for by the Common Core.  Zalman’s entire talk can be viewed from the AMATYC website and I would highly recommend that you view his talk. Zalman does give AMATYC some challenging areas to focus its work in response to The Common Core.

The second talk at AMATYC that related to the Common Core was given by Scott Adamson and Ted Coe of Arizona. They spoke in detail of the Practice Standards and the Content Standards recommended by the Common Core. Their report
included the 8 Standards for Mathematical Practice which are:

  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 sense of structure
  8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning

The speakers gave examples of activities that require the application of these standards. They also spoke of assessing these practices. Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers are two organizations that are developing assessments of the Mathematical Practices of the Common Core.

If students came to my community college comfortable with using these above 8 mathematical practices, then I would be ecstatic! Many of these Standards are included in our own AMATYC Crossroads Revisited Report and I attempt to use classroom activities that support many of these mathematical practices. Giving students occasional non-routine problems to explore and ask them to reach a solution that is not immediately found is a valuable learning activity, but rarely appreciated. Having students use various technologies to find numerical rates of change and percent rates of change in various linear and exponential growth and decay situations can help students develop a deeper understanding of function types which creates structure and applies technology appropriately. Having students prove their solution method to a problem and giving them the opportunity to analyze the solution methods of fellow peers is valuable for many educational reasons. I challenge each of you to find and use activities that allow your students to apply the Practices from above and help your students develop a mindset that enables them to explore situations mathematically.

Jay Martin
Wake Tech CC

1 Response to Should we be concerned about Common Core?

  1. Luke Walsh says:

    The 8 standards for mathematical practice are great guidelines for all math classes, from developmental to calculus. I have been trying to focus “Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others”. I use a free website , where students can offer input and see a collection of anonymous ideas. Many great math conversations have occurred because of this. More information about the math practices can be seen at this link .

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