The Standards for Mathematical Practice describe varieties of expertise that mathematics educators at all levels should seek to develop in their students. These practices rest on important “processes and proficiencies” with longstanding importance in mathematics education. The first of these are the NCTM process standards of problem solving, reasoning and proof, communication, representation, and connections. The second are the strands of mathematical proficiency specified in the National Research Council’s report Adding It Up: adaptive reasoning, strategic competence, conceptual understanding (comprehension of mathematical concepts, operations and relations), procedural fluency (skill in carrying out procedures flexibly, accurately, efficiently and appropriately), and productive disposition (habitual inclination to see mathematics as sensible, useful, and worthwhile, coupled with a belief in diligence and one’s own efficacy).
The Standards for Mathematical Practice are a significant focus of Common Core State Standards. These eight practices describe the thinking processes, habits of mind, and dispositions that students need to develop a deep, flexible, and enduring understanding of mathematics.
One way to build a deep understanding of the Standards for Mathematical Practice is to read one practice at a time and reflect on the following questions:
- Why is this practice important?
- What does this practice look like when students are doing it?
- How can a teacher model this practice?
- What could a teacher do within a lesson to encourage students in this practice?
- How can you assess proficiency in this practice?
After some discussion, students created posters to represent their thinking about the Mathematical Practices. In this task students explored prime or composite by building possible rectangular arrays for numbers 1-25.
These are some of the posters students created after the task and much discussion.
Which products are composite and which are prime? I’ll think of products that have one factor pair and which have more than one factor pair.
This number is prime so it only has 1 array for the number.
This number has 2 arrays so it must be composite.
Using correct math language to explain your thinking is important
Make sense of problems and
persevere in solving them.
Model with Mathematics.
If I’m going to tile the perimeter, how many pieces of tile will I need?
Do these side lengths make sense?
Model with Mathematics.
These color tiles help me to find the missing sides so I can write an equation to find the perimeter.
What do I need to know to solve?
This will be easy!
Kitty Rutherford serves as the North Carolina Elementary Mathematics Consultant for the Department of Public Instruction in Raleigh. She is an experienced leader, collaborator and licensed educator with a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education. She has received many honors such as the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and the NCCTM Outstanding Elementary Mathematics Teacher. She is a member of the NCAEE Board and will be presenting two sessions at that Elementary School Conference. For more resources for implementing Common Core Standards, visit the Mathematics Wiki hosted by the NC DPI.