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Understanding the Process Standards/Mathematical Practices

Whatever standards you use to guide your instruction, there are two types of standards: content and process. The content standards are different at each grade level and can be thought of as the skills students are expected to learn. They are grouped by the five broad strands of math. The process standards (referred to as Mathematical Practices in the Common Core State Standards for Math) are exactly the same from Kindergarten through 12th grade and describe how students are expected to interact with the math they are learning. I like to picture them as an umbrella over the content standards.

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The process standards, or mathematical practices, are often not well understood and many teachers have a hard time incorporating them into their instruction. Enter Christine Moynihan’s book, Common Core Sense: Tapping the Power of the Mathematical Practices.

Moynihan shot to the top of my favorite author’s list with her first book, Math Sense: The Look, Sound, and Feel of Effective Instruction.  What an incredibly usable book! I was thrilled to finally meet Christine at CAMT, and I learned that she is as dynamic a speaker as she is an author.

Why the Standards for Mathematical Practice?

The more I work to understand the Mathematical Practices, the more I see that they transcend the teaching and learning of mathematics.” (Moynihan, 2015, p 2)

Moynihan begins the book with a compelling Introduction explaining the importance of the Standards for Mathematical Practice and acknowledging the difficulty that many educators experience trying to incorporate the MPs into their instruction. For those of you not in a CCSS state (like me…), I love that she describes how far-reaching the MPs are and that they go way beyond teaching and learning math.

They embody all that is connected to thinking–deep and substantive thinking. (Moynihan, 2015, p 2)

Why You’ll Find this Book Useful

The format of this book is pure GOLD. And by that I mean the G-O-L-D Framework that Moynihan uses to present the MPs in a way that allows you to see the Practices come alive in a classroom. Each chapter in the book features one of the eight Practices, while Chapter 9 provides suggestions for moving forward. Within each chapter, Moynihan identifies major goals related to the focus practice. For example, she breaks down MP 1 (Make Sense of Problems and Persevere in Solving Them) into three major goals:

  1. make meaning of the problem, understand what is being asked, and chart a general course of action;
  2. develop strategies for solving problems for which little or no direction is given, possibly drawing from similar problems;
  3. demonstrate flexibility and perseverance when solving problems.

She unpacks each goal using the GOLD Framework, organized in an amazingly teacher-friendly format.  Check out the first major goal related to MP1:

Common Core Sense GOAL
(Moynihan, 2015, p 9) Figure 1.1

In addition to the GOLD charts, each chapter includes a classroom lesson with student samples and lesson reflections.  Each chapter wraps up with comments about the focus Practice from teachers and students.

Remember, whether we call them mathematical practices or process standards, our math instruction must incorporate these skills. Take a few minutes to grab this book and take your instruction to a whole new level!

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