Challenging the thought process: Math (Common Core Style)

KOOSKIA – Although some of the Common Core State Standards have had negative light shed on them, in Joe Tosten’s Clearwater Valley Elementary School second and third grade classroom, the math techniques are making kids think.

“What do we need to do?” Tosten asked his class after writing a story problem on the board.

“RDW,” the class replied. “Read, draw, write.”

Leanne needs 120 tiles for an art project. She already has 56 tiles. If tiles are sold in boxes of eight, how many more boxes does Leanne need to buy? Bonus: How many boxes of tiles does she need in all?

“You need to have an equation,” said Lily, as Tosten wrote out 122-56 = y on the board. She wrinkled her nose as she penned out numbers on her scratch paper. “That’s not really my method – I started with 56+y = 120.”

Others in the class used estimated and rounding as one student, Bass, shot up his hand.

“64! It’s 64!” he said excitedly.

“Let’s think about that,” Tosten said. “What is 64? It’s part of the answer we need but is it the answer to the question?”

Anthony S. used a tape diagram – kind of like blank Scrabble tiles – to write “8s” in to estimate the boxes.

“It’s kind of hard to figure out by adding up all the tiles,” said Ella.

“Why is it sometimes hard to figure out the right numbers in a problem such as this one?” Tosten asked.

“Because the numbers are all buried in a bunch of words,” echoed Lily and Anthony F.

One student, Cody, was writing “120 divided by 8” on his paper.

“You have to really read the words carefully to figure out what to do,” added Lily.

The students collectively came up with “8” as the answer to the problem and “15” as the answer to the bonus.

The mathematical progressions, or sequencing of topics, are presented in the Common Core State Standards. Common Core is, among other benefits, meant to help with students who move from one state to another during their schooling process. In the past, different states covered different topics at different grade levels. Coming to a consensus on the standards is meant to guarantee topics will move up or down in a consistent grade level sequence.

“Although it’s been a new way of teaching and learning math for me that I had to learn myself, it does make sense to me,” said Michelle Fabbi, who is not only a kindergarten-first grade teacher at CVES, but is also a parent of four boys ages preschool to sixth grade. “I find it’s easier for my students and my boys to grasp mathematical concepts.”

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