Throughout Worthington Schools we have implemented new academic content standards in Language Arts, Math, Social Studies and Science. The Language Arts and Mathematics standards have attracted the most attention because they are fully aligned with the more rigorous Common Core State Standards.
In order to help teachers teach and students learn the new standards, Worthington has invested in resources that align with the standards. In elementary math that means Worthington moved from our long used Everyday Mathematics to Stepping Stones grades K-5 and Digits Math grades 6-8.
The new standards are designed to be more rigorous, thus it was logical when I heard several parents ask the same question. “If the standards are more rigorous, why does it seem like my elementary child is doing easier math?” Good question.
In the new math standards students will be working on fewer standards, at deeper levels for the specific purpose of gaining mastery at the conceptual level rather than just memorizing tricks and algorithms.
The primary focus in kindergarten through fifth grade is on number. This focus develops intentionally through learning progressions of the new standards. The number line plays an important role not just as an aid but to support students’ learning and understanding the concept behind number, fractions, etc. Parents may perceive that the work is easier because it “looks” like they are spending more time on certain concepts or not getting to concepts as quickly as they had in the past. It should, in fact, be more rigorous as they are going deeper and focusing on mathematical thinking and conceptual understanding. Students should, for example, be able to explain, or show, how they got their answer and why it is right.
As an easy illustration – in the old curriculum students would learn how to add 10 + 1 and give the answer. They would be exposed to place value but getting the answer right was proof that they understood why it was 11. In the new way they may have to draw, explain, or show, how they got the answer and what 11 looks like on a number line.
Our previous mathematics resource “spiraled.” It introduced many different concepts in small doses and then came back to the concepts at different times during the student’s elementary career. Our new resource works to make certain all students have a deep understanding of important mathematical concepts before building upon them. Building on one concept may seem easier than dealing with several different concepts at the same time, but the rigor is intense as students are constantly asked to explain, justify and demonstrate their mathematical knowledge. Our goal is to help students become both competent and confident. Building a strong foundation is key to achieving that goal.
– Trent Bowers, Assistant Superintendent