January 15, 2015

Teaching math isn’t what it used to be—two profs explain how

New math standards for K-2 students are rolling out in schools across the nation. In a new article, professors Griffin and Ward explain why they’re important and how teachers can build on them.
  • Linda Griffin is a professor of elementary education and the author of a new article about how k-2 teachers can help students understand core mathematical concepts.
    Copyright, Steve Hambuchen

This year, new math standards for students are rolling out in schools across the Oregon and the nation. The standards, called Common Core, outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. The standards were created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the math skills necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live.

In “Teachable Moments in Math,” a new article in a special issue of Educational Leadership devoted to STEM education, professors Linda Griffin and David Ward explain why the new math standards are important and how k-2 educators can find teachable moments to build on them.

“These new standards are not intended to be new names for old ways of doing business,” write Griffin and Ward. “For many teachers, meeting the standards will require a major shift in their approach to mathematics instruction, away from rote memorization and toward understanding and reasoning.”

The professors lay out ways that elementary teachers can approach five different mathematical concepts—the equal sign, counting, associative and communicative properties (“4+5” = “5+4”), composing and decomposing (breaking numbers into simpler pieces, e.g., 12 = 10+2), and “unknowns” (“Dina had 12 marbles. She gave her cousin some. Now she has 5 marbles. How many marbles did Dina give her cousin?”). They focus on the importance of educators have a deep understanding of these concepts, and ways teachers can incorporate flexible thinking about math into their instruction to engage students .

“When teachers encounter and unexpected response or question from students, they must make an instant decision about the significance of the question and choose their response accordingly,” write Griffin and Ward. “The true success of the new math standards will be measured here, in the innumerable minute-by-minute decisions that teachers make.”

Access the article here (Educational Leadership subscription required.)

Read more about Linda Griffin and David Ward. Find out more about Teacher Education programs at Lewis & Clark.