Sunday, September 16, 2012

New Math Standards: Initial Review

Massachusetts has published the new math standards and implementation process.  To learn about these standards in depth, and develop my repertoire when it comes to teaching math, I am currently taking a Math education course at Framingham State University.

The first assignment of the course was to analyze our grade-level standards in comparison to the former standards and practice. Since I know that many who read my blog are fourth grade teachers and elementary administrators, I've decided to share my assignment with you.  Please let me know if you have anything to add to my questions and thoughts regarding this curriculum change.  I will continue to share my assignments if I think they have merit for colleagues near and far.

Analysis of Grade Four Massachusetts Math Framework
September 16, 2012
Maureen Devlin, Fourth Grade Teacher, Wayland, MA

Massachusetts has updated their grade-level standards to reflect the common core in addition to other standards deemed important.  In this post, I analyze the changes this new document will bring to my overall math program.

To begin with I will emphasize the language and practice related to the Standards for Mathematical Practice outlined in the standards as noted in this blog post.

Next, my process of teaching the old and new standards will include the following:
  • Overview of standards related to each unit.
  • Inclusion of standards written in student friendly ways on our classroom math website.
  • Implementation of a wide-range of activities including projects, paper/pencil practice, games, online venues and video to activate student learning.
  • Formative assessment, reflection and revision along the way.
  • Summative assessment at the end of the unit. Reteaching if necessary.

Overall, The new standards reflect many changes including the following.
  1. The goals are less, but the depth is greater.  Hence we’ll have a greater chance to reach mastery given that we have fewer goals, so the emphasis will be focused on utilizing optimal teaching strategies to bring all students to mastery.
  2. The emphasis on the Standards for Mathematical Practice will lead us to include more problem solving activities, student discussion, model making and precise mathematical language.
  3. Math will be taught in a parallel way as we’ll be teaching students how to learn as well as the specific content.

Specifically, there are changes in the curriculum related to each main category, which I’ve noted below.

Operations and Algabraic Thinking
This area remains largely the same with regard to content standards. The main goal for our system in this area will be identifying the best problems and projects to fosters students’ attainment of these standards. We will look for meaningful, relevant, challenging projects and problems that provide review, grade-level learning and enrichment.  

Also in our system, there has been controversy about the best process to teach the four operations at grade four, and there will need to be decisions made about this. Finally, with every concept/content introduction I will need to utilize models, for example with regard to patterns, the standards requires one to “generate a number or shape pattern.”

Number and Operations in Base Ten
There seems to be a greater emphasis on model making and understanding.  It seems to me that the language leads us to teaching multiplication using the partial product method as that lends itself to “using strategies based on place value and the properties of operations.” I’m not sure if it is important to teach the standard multiplication and division algorithms at all at fourth grade, and will want to discuss this with colleagues.  I  want to understand and utilize “area models” with greater accuracy.  I found these two links which I’ll use to begin this exploration before including the approach in my teaching.
Illuminations Area Model Activity
YouTube Area Model Explanation

I have utilized a division project in the past which will easily meet the standards of understanding “the relationship between multiplication and division.”  In the past the standards required 2X3 digit multiplication and now it is 4X1 digit and 2X2 digit multiplication, and for division it is dividing a 4-digit number by a one-digit number with remainders.

Number and Operations--Fractions
For some reason, fractions have always been taught at the end of the year in most grade levels, this usually means that time runs out and fractions get little attention.  I really don’t want that to happen, and given that the fraction area of the standards has changed quite a bit, I’d like to include this unit in the December--February time frame if possible. The biggest change here is the inclusion of multiplication of fractions, and greater emphasis on the decimal notation for fractions.

Measurement and Data
There is less data/statistics measurement in fourth grade than before with the only main emphasis in that area to be the line plot.  There is a nice connection between patterns and measurement conversions--I’ll be teaching that this week with this assignment.  There is also greater emphasis on angle measurement and the use of protractors so I will learn more about that and change my unit with that in mind.

The geometry standards are less than what we had in the past, but there is a greater emphasis on “identifying the presence or absence of parallel or perpendicular lines, or the presence or absence of angles of a specified size.”

I’m very excited about the changes in the curriculum as less content means we’ll be able to dig in with relevant and meaningful, tactile investigations to lead student learning and understanding.  I will use a number of different tools, problems, projects, videos, paper/pencil exercises and online venues to develop a student-friendly, 21st century mathematics curriculum.  I am using a Google site to organize and share this work with colleagues, students, family members and the community. I look forward to our continued collaborative discussion and learning with regard to the standards throughout this course.