This past couple of weeks I had the experience of a lifetime. I traveled to Singapore to lead an Algebraic Thinking Institute for a cohort of about 20 teachers from Southeast Asia who had convened at the Singapore American School. The teachers are teaching in American-sponsored overseas schools and are training to become Math Specialists in International Schools (MSIS). They are the future mathematics teacher leaders in the international education community.
Teachers in the cohort are in the process of implementing the AERO Curriculum Framework for mathematics which is based on the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics (CCSSM). My sessions focused on the CCSSM content and mathematical practices. I hoped to provide a deeper understanding of algebraic concepts and instructional strategies in order to facilitate instruction.
One homework assignments I gave during the three days was for each of the teachers to share their greatest challenge in implementing the CCSSM. Quite honestly I wasn’t sure what to expect, but what I found were the same challenges that had been identified to me by teachers here in the states and studies that have been conducted.
In the “The Challenge of Implementing the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics” study, Dr. William H. Schmidt of Michigan State University surveys math teachers and questions their knowledge, concern, and regard for the standards. The study notes lack of needed mathematics content knowledge, lack of textbooks that support the standards, lack of parental support, student inability to learn the material, and the lack of state assessments that are aligned to the standards that provide feedback to districts/teachers as major obstacles in implementing the CCSSM.
The challenges that the MSIS teachers wrote on their post-it notes were almost identical to those in Dr. Schmidt’s study as shown in Figure 1 below.
The cohort teachers, like teachers in the states, know that it will take much more time to teach for conceptual understanding, which is a major focus of the CCSSM, than to simply teach a procedure or process. They also recognize that many teachers will need additional content knowledge and training to be effective at teaching for conceptual understanding.
We also talked about the challenge of finding quality curriculum materials and resources that actually do align to the nw standards. Reviews of textbooks supposedly aligned to the CCSSM show that 60 percent of the first through ninth grade textbooks are identical to pre-standard texts (Schmidt). In addition, only 15 to 20 percent of the material covered was not tied to the grade-level CCSSM and most failed to cover between 10 and 15 percent of the content in the standards (Polikoff).
But the biggest challenge for teachers globally, is inadequate funds to carry out all aspects of implementing the CCSSM. It takes funding to provide training for teachers and to purchase materials and resources. And inadequate funding is an issue that most all schools are facing today both in American-overseas schools and stateside schools.
The good news is there are a number of free online readily available resources that align to the standards that can increase teachers’ knowledge and understanding of the standards and provide rich learning opportunities for students. Here are a few of my favorites that convey and clarify both the CCSSM content and practice standards:
- Progression Documents for the Common Core State Standards http://ime.math.arizona.edu/progressions/
- Illustrative Mathematics http://www.illustrativemathematics.org/
- Learn Zillion http://learnzillion.com/
- Engage New York http://www.engageny.org/
- Mathematics Assessment Project Professional Development Modules http://map.mathshell.org/static/draft/pd/modules/3_Problem_Solving/html/index.htm
- Fractions Progressions Videos http://www.illustrativemathematics.org/fractions_progression
I also encourage you to sign up for our free LearnBop trial. Our online tutorials provide an engaging and challenging learning experience for each student through rich content, processes, and practices that support learning concepts and skills through a step-by-step process. Each step of a tutorial is aligned to the appropriate CCSSM so it can serve as a rich resource for teachers in providing examples of appropriate hints, visuals, and models that convey both the content and practice standards.
Sign up today for this rich resource that can help your students learn the mathematics they need to know and help you meet the challenges of implementing the CCSSM.
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