Friday, October 5, 2012

Common Core Math Problem Solving

I'm a big believer in the importance of daily math problem solving. It's far more effective to integrate problem solving into other instruction than it is to teach problem solving in isolation. For years, I struggled with how to include problem solving lessons in my regular math instruction, and I finally developed an easy plan that takes just ten or fifteen minutes a day. This was the start of my Daily Math Puzzler program, a series of four ebooks with problems on different instructional levels. Recently, several people have asked me if my Daily Math Puzzler program is aligned with the Common Core. The answer is not as simple as it might seem because of the design of the Common Core Math Standards.

Two Types of Math Standards
The Math Standards are divided into two major categories. The mathematical practice standards describe the "how" and the content standards describe the "what" in math instruction. Much attention has been given to the content standards, but it's easy to overlook those all-important mathematical practices. Yet those practices are at the heart of good mathematics instruction. Because it's easy to forget about the practices, I created this Standards for Mathematical Practices chart to use as a checklist to be sure that you are addressing these important areas throughout the week. Print it out and keep it in your lesson plan book. As you plan each math lesson, review the eight Standards for Mathematical Practice to determine which standards you can incorporate into each lesson. If you would like more specific information on what the Standards for Mathematical Practice mean at your grade level, you can find that information in a set of documents called Unpacking the Math Common Core. I have included links to all grade levels K-6 on my Math Problem Solving page.

Daily Math Puzzler Program and the Common Core
Each ebook in the Daily Math Puzzler program includes a variety of word problems integrating different content areas across the various mathematical domains. Because these books are not specific to a particular grade level, it would be impossible to align them with the Common Core Math Content Standards. When students solve problems, they need to integrate content from previous grade levels, so it wouldn't really make sense to align the books with one grade.

However, the entire Daily Math Puzzler program IS compatible with the Standards for Mathematical Practice, the "how" of mathematics instruction. These eight standards can only be addressed by having students solve math problems on a regular basis, use mathematical tools, and discuss their thinking and reasoning with others. If you download the Standards for Mathematical Practices chart above, you'll see that they range from "Making sense of problems and persevering in solving them," to "Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning." All eight practices can be integrated into math instruction when you have a daily problem solving program in place.

Problem Solving Assessment Freebie
Before you begin a problem solving program, it's a good idea to assess your students to determine how they solve problems. You'll find this free Problem Solving Assessment booklet to be really helpful because each page of the assessment requires students to show their work. You can also require students to explain their answers in writing if you want to gain a more complete understanding of their thought processes. You can download this freebie when you sign up for my Candler's Classroom Connections newsletter. This resource is on the newsletter freebies page.

The Common Core State Standards have definitely raised the bar for all students in mathematics. Incorporating math problems into your instruction on a daily basis is one of the best way to ensure success with the new standards.

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