Because the Common Core math standards require flexible thinking, mathematics teaching has undergone a tremendous change. It’s not effective anymore to present facts and one way to solve a problem
In an increasingly complex world, educators recognize that challenges or problems rarely present themselves in the same one-dimensional way, requiring the same solution every time! Educators also know that without a deep conceptual understanding of mathematics, students may be able to pass a math test at one point in time; however, over time, the same students may forget the steps the teacher taught or why the steps worked.
The newly adopted Common Core State Standards stress the importance of flexible thinking and problem solving. The standards in mathematics provide a clearer and more consistent understanding of the concepts and skills to be mastered at each grade level. Previous math curricula across the country have been described as a mile wide and an inch deep. In contrast, the Common Core emphasizes a sharper focus, with fewer, more rigorous standards at each grade level to enable students to gain a deeper understanding and increased proficiency.
The standards for mathematics are being implemented this year in Worcester County Public Schools. At the elementary level, for example, the Common Core aims to build a better understanding of foundational skills to prepare students for higher-level math. With the Common Core, not only will students be able to multiply and divide fractions, they will also be able to explain why steps work, what the answer means, or draw a picture to illustrate the process.
Because proficiency with fractions becomes an important factor in predicting success in Algebra, the standards associated with fractions are becoming more rigorous, shifting the need for a deeper understanding of fractions to lower grade levels. Instead of having a basic fraction unit in each grade through eighth grade, fraction content standards are taught in concentration from third grade through sixth grade. By the end of sixth grade, students will be able to add, subtract, multiply, and divide fractions to solve real-world problems.