Although implementing the standards can at first appear daunting, approaching the task as an opportunity to engage students’ natural curiosity and using the tools already available in the classroom can help teachers embrace the new standards and even enjoy teaching Common Core math.
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Although Common Core is a relatively new term in our education system, the concepts outlined in the Common Core math standards have been in use for some time. The difficulty in implementing the new standards lies in teaching students a different way of approaching math, which is one that emphasizes concept over process.
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Let Students Discover
Instead of demonstrating processes and expecting students to commit those processes to memory, teachers can tap into students’ curiosity by providing them with manipulatives and situations that encourage students to come up with those processes on their own. Instead of walking students through, step-by-step as they work with manipulatives, teachers can give them time to explore, seeking their own methods and patterns. There is still room for step-by-step instruction as needed. The difference is that when students have time to seek out patterns and discover mathematical relationships, they are much more likely to connect with the material and feel comfortable utilizing what they have learned in analyzing future mathematical situations.
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Use Centers and Interactive Learning
A teacher successfully using Common Core math in the classroom will get to spend more time coaching students as they take their learning into their own hands, rather than standing in front of the room and teaching “drill and kill" type methods for students to memorize. Teachers can use center time to allow students to rotate tables with different math explorations. Students will also benefit from investigative activities, in which they work with their peers to gather data, analyze patterns and relate new information to what they already know. The teacher can facilitate learning by using quick, interactive activities to catch students’ interest (such as games), rewarding students for their critical thinking skills and encouraging class discussion of concepts and questions.
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One of the hallmarks of Common Core math is the frequent use of the term “real-world application" across the standards. This can work to the teacher’s advantage, as students can apply their math knowledge to situations they encounter in their daily lives, thus answering the age-old question of “When will I ever use this?" Teachers can incorporate items from the classroom, grocery stores, garden or students’ homes to give students the opportunity to connect what they learn to their own lives.
For example, upper-grade students who are using Common Core standards in the classroom should be able to take an ad from a local store and analyze prices, determine unit rate, organize the information into measurable data and create their own math problems with solutions, all using the mathematical knowledge they have gathered and applied throughout the year.
Although Common Core math presents new challenges for teachers, parents and students, it also provides a unique opportunity to make math more enjoyable and understandable for students to learn and for teachers to teach. Parents can support this learning at home by encouraging students to use their reasoning skills to solve mathematical problems in real-life situations, which will give students an added measure of comfort when learning new math skills in the classroom.
Approaching Common Core math with a little creativity and excitement can go a long way toward promoting student success, and can help engage the students in our country in a way that encourages them to compete on an international level with their peers.