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Math Group Releases Guidance on Common-Core Teaching Practices

New Orleans

A new document from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics aims to go a step further than the Common Core State Standards in math by describing specifically what teachers and education leaders need to do to help students reach the new requirements. 

I sat down yesterday with a lead writer of Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All, Steven Leinwand of the Washington-based American Institutes for Research, along with the outgoing and incoming presidents of NCTM, Linda Gojak and Diane Briars, respectively. (Briars will officially take office on Saturday afternoon.)

"The issue of implementation begins with high-quality teaching and learning," said Leinwand. "People think when you give [teachers] standards and hold them accountable on a test, somehow it's supposed to happen magically."

The NCTM guidance (which the group is selling for about $30 a pop as a bound book) synthesizes and illustrates much of the current pedagogical research on effective math teaching, said Briars. It explains "in one coherent document what are the teaching practices that need to happen on a daily basis to ensure kids develop the conceptual understanding and the ability to use the mathematical practices the common core calls for," she said. 

The 135-page book lays out eight math teaching practices for supporting deep learning in math. Those practices include, "facilitate meaningful mathematical discourse," "pose purposeful questions," and "elicit and use evidence of student thinking." The guide also addresses "productive" and "unproductive" beliefs teachers can have on math teaching and learning.

NCTM published its own math standards 14 years ago. Gojak said the group has "come to grips that we're out of the standard-writing business" and is now able to "focus on good teaching in math." NCTM has publicly voiced support for the common core saying it "presents an unprecedented opportunity for systemic improvement in mathematics education in the United States."

As an interesting aside, I haven't heard a word of pro/con debate about the standards themselves since I got here—teachers are, as I've seen, absorbed in discussing how to teach them. 

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