I think the adoption of the Common Core has made me a better math teacher. I really do! In the times of Washington State’s EALRs (Essential Academic Learning Requirements), I was probably a decent math teacher. I am certain I didn’t harm any student’s math journey. In fact, I’d like to hope I helped most students along the way. The problem is that I have to use that word I don’t like in the previous sentence – MOST.
Most isn’t enough. Every student deserves to grow as a math student. And every student deserves a teacher that helps them along their journey. CCSS has helped ensure that students have a conceptual understanding of topics before using algorithms, tricks or shortcuts.
In my role as an interventionist and ELL teacher this year, I find myself working with an even broader range of students. The groups of kids I see range from grade K-5, newcomers to kids who have never left our city, and needs of extreme intervention to benchmark students. This means I teach content from all over the CCSS, using a wide range of strategies. Ensuring success for each and every student has become even more challenging – but more important too!
This week I worked on rounding decimals with 5th graders. There’s a cute poem floating around the internet that, pre-CCSS, I would have used in a heartbeat! I can see that beautiful anchor chart in only the brightest colors hanging in my room with a rhyme that goes something like this:
Find the number,
Look right next door,
5 or more?
Raise the score?
4 or less?
Let it rest!
However, this week, there was no chant. There were no hand movements. There was no poster. Instead, my students and I had strips of adding tape. Plain, white strips of paper. That’s it. The reason? We looked at rounding with number lines. With the adoption of CCSS, I realized that the conceptual understanding on numbers on a number line is essential to all math content, across all elementary grades (and beyond!). This means to teach rounding of decimals, my little mathematicians made number lines and divided the space between 1.1 and 1.2 to find fractional parts. The use of anchor numbers gave my students the background knowledge they needed to cognitively reason with mathematical problems.
To get to this point we, using a number line:
- Rounded tenths to whole numbers, dividing whole numbers into tenths
- Rounded hundredths to tenths, dividing tenths into hundredths
- Used peer discussion to understand one another’s reasoning when rounding to whole numbers or tenths
- Found patterns in the number lines as a class
Will there be a cutesy song? Yeah … eventually. There will be a chant and total physical response – after all, I know there are kids that thrive on that. When my students come back from Thanksgiving break and show that they still have conceptual understanding, I’ll have them remind me about the patterns we found together and name the process or ‘trick’ for more quickly rounding numbers. But that will come after we play with those strips of paper a little more.
Thank you, CCSS, for making me a better math teacher. These standards require me to use place value charts, manipulatives, and classroom discussion in grades K-5 to really help my students grow as math students. Now I know I’m helping ALL of my kiddos on their journey!
I grew up here in Western Washington, wanting to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. As the oldest child in my family, I had plenty of opportunities to "practice" teaching my younger siblings. I enjoyed this. They may not have. :) When I'm not working, I enjoy outdoor activities with my husband and our two Australian Shepherds (whom are far too spoiled for their own good!). I also love spending time with my family, being an auntie (to the cutest kids ever to grace this planet!), hosting dinner parties for friends, crafting, taking photographs and shopping.