The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Math are a blend of content standards, the content of our courses, and practice standards, the manner with which students tackle that content. In an ideal world, our students would bring the mindset of these practice standards, their math disposition if you will, to class each day. But these, too, have to be developed, facilitated, and practiced, which admittedly adds to a teacher’s load. Many teachers, and I would be bold enough to say rightly so, feel that a problem-based learning experience (mini-projects essentially) is a great way to allow students to participate in experiences that will ask for a blend of these two types of standards. NCTM research, New Tech Network work with math facilitators, and my own experience in the classroom back this up. But that doesn’t make it any less daunting to take this on – to go against the way you yourself was taught (and were likely successful at) math and probably the way you were taught to teach math as well. So where do you start? I have an idea!
The CCSS math practice standards come with some guidance stating, “Expectations that begin with the word “understand” are often especially good opportunities to connect the practice to the content” (CCSS for Math, page 8). If you are looking for spots to help develop your students’ ability to engage with the content, I suggest starting here. As an example, below is the Geometry Overview taken from CCSS for Math with the appropriate “understand” expectations highlighted. If you view the full list of standards, there are a few smaller strands that also begin with the word “understand”, but I think the big picture perspective of the Overview is just the ticket if you as you think about curriculum planning for next year.