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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Making Math Relevant With the Common Core Standards

A few weeks ago I received an email from Maria Jamella over at www.teacherlingo.com.  Here is some info on this website that I have been perusing since she approached me about posting a guest article on my blog:

“TeacherLingo.com is a teacher friendly, safe community dedicated to teachers.  We know that teachers like to share ideas and experiences and that having a family of teachers in similar teaching situations can make it easier to get through the week.  We want this to be a rewarding blog community where you can come to share and publish your thoughts and concerns about education.  We also hope that you will participate in the community and offer your thoughts and comments to other members."

I do like what the site has to offer so I am very happy to include the following article, written by Stacy Zeiger, contributing author to www.teacherlingo.com.   I would love for you to comment on the article and to check out the site and let me know what you think.  (I was not asked to post anything on the website itself, but after looking through the site, I do think it is a resource teachers would like to use.)

Making Math Relevant with the Common Core State Standards

Author Bio:  Today’s guest post comes from Stacy,  she previously taught 8th grade English for 5 years and now focuses her efforts on educating educators by designing curriculum and assessments on a variety of subjects.  She has been featured by multiple online publications and is a regular contributor to Teacher Lingo.   

The Common Core State Standards for mathematics are designed to introduce students to a more rigorous curriculum and improve higher order thinking skills. However, the standards will only work if taught in a way that makes them internalize what they are learning. To make the standards stick, teachers must make math relevant.
The Importance of Relevance
At the elementary level, teachers typically do a good job of making math relevant. Word problems and activities focus on basic uses of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Children learn about fractions by cutting pizzas and pies. They develop an understanding of how money works through classroom stores and pretend play. When students get to middle and high school, these real world and hands-on experiences are often replaced with confusing equations. Students may be doing the most complex math, but if they do not understand how solving for x or y applies to real life, they will quickly lose interest.

In addition to creating a more rigorous curriculum, the Common Core State Standards are all about making math relevant. Included in the standards are indicators that require teachers to bring in real world examples and help students see how the skills they are learning apply to their current and future lives.

Word Problems
Word problems offer a way to bring in relevance while also building higher order thinking skills. Instead of simply giving students an equation or basic problem to solve, students must use the information in the word problem to come up with the equation or determine which process to use on their own. When writing or choosing word problems, look for those that feature scenarios your students are likely to encounter. For example, students at a middle or lower class school may not see the relevance in a problem about comparing country club memberships, but may relate to a problem about ordering from a menu.

Career Spotlight
Highlight how different careers use the skills students are learning helps make math relevant. Even if students are not considering a specific career path, it will help to see that adults really do use these skills on a daily basis. Try to include careers students may not automatically think involve math. For example, they know an accountant works with numbers, but may not realize there is math involved with a career in nursing or architecture. Invite parents and community members into the classroom to talk about how they use math in their jobs too.

Conducting Research
Give students a chance to conduct research to determine the relevance of what they are learning on their own. Students may be challenged to find their own real world examples of a concept or research the math behind famous inventions. They can also conduct research to learn how math plays a role in their future careers or conduct research and use their skills to create a budget, buy a car or invest in the stock market – all mock transactions, of course.

Making it Stick

The Common Core State Standards for mathematics are designed to help maximize students’ learning by building a strong foundation of basic math skills and making connections among those skills as students advance. In order to build that strong foundation and make those connections, the math students are learning must be relevant. By bringing real-world application into the classroom through word problems and research, students can begin to truly internalize the skills so they will be prepared to use those skills long after they have graduated from high school.

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