California Educator

March 2013

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Page 36 of 47

The Common Core Math Standards require three shifts in math: "Where" the mathematics works 1. Focus within the grade levels identifying essential skills and understandings for deeper learning. 2. Coherence: Think across grades, and link to major topics. 3. Rigor: In major topics, pursue conceptual understanding, procedural skill and fluency, and application. Problem Solving Adding fractions isn't the only source of student frustration under current practices. In an effort to correct what some view as another obstacle to student engagement and progress in math, one of the biggest changes to California's math curriculum was the elimination of California's 15-year-old Algebra I requirement for eighth-graders. In January the California State Board of Education voted unanimously to drop the requirement, leaving some students the option of an alternative path for that would still include some algebra but that would not be more transitional than the current requirement. While some argue that the move lowers standards and rigor, others point to the high failure rate among students who may not have been quite ready and who need additional foundations before attempting a complete algebra course. Algebra may still be offered to eighth-graders deemed ready, and it will remain a requirement for high school graduation. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson praised the move. "The Common Core — and common sense — calls for a student's progress in mathematics to be based on their readiness to advance, not a timeline or a mandate from Sacramento," Torlakson said. "Making this change now will help our schools make the transition to Common Core, and marks another step in our push to provide students the practical, real-world skills they need." Wu agrees with the board's move. "There has been a prevailing and erroneous belief that earlier is basically better and more rigorous," he says, "and some have tried to discredit new standards because they don't do algebra in grade 8. But the new standards actually make algebra learnable in grade 8 for the first time in decades by using part of grade 8 to provide students with the geometric knowledge needed for learning algebra." CTA members can and should begin preparing now for the coming changes to the math curriculum and to the related assessments. Department and grade level meetings should include discussions of the new standards. Additional resources are available at, and Sample assessment questions are available at "Why" the mathematics works "How" the mathematics works Computational & Procedural Skills Doing math Conceptual Understanding Common Core State Math Standards: Do: • Set grade-level standards for grades K-8. • Identify standards for Algebra I. • Provide conceptual cluster standards in high school. • Provide clear signposts along the way toward the goal of college and career readiness for all students. Do not: • Define intervention methods or materials. • Define the full range of supports for English learners, students with special needs and students who are well above or below grade level expectations. • Dictate curriculum or teaching methods. Generally, the Standards do NOT define: • • • • How teachers should teach. All that can or should be taught. The nature of advanced work beyond the core. The interventions needed for students well below grade level. • The full range of support for English language learners and students with special needs. • Everything needed to be college and career ready. March 2013 37

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