Why I Love Common Core Math - Eight Standards for Mathematical Practice, Part 1

Light Bulbs and Laughter - Eight Standards for Mathematical Practice, Part 1
The Common Core Standards.  Some people love them.  Some people hate them.  Most people have an opinion, and much that is said (just look at your facebook feed!) is not based on anything but heresay.

Well, here's what I have to say about Common Core Math.  Regardless of what grade you teach, from K-12, and regardless of the particular math standard that you are teaching at a given time, the Common Core has given us eight Mathematical Practice Standards that are awesome.  Yep.  I said awesome.  Here's why.  They're like sunglasses.
You put them on, and you look at a standard in a different way.  Your perspective changes, and you see it in a whole new light (dark?).  And when you look at anything in EIGHT different ways, well, you're bound to understand it better.

Let's look at the photo above.  I was introducing the standard of measuring time in minutes to my third graders.  They had already learned about telling time to the hour and half hour in first grade, and to five minutes in second grade, so it was definitely not a new concept for these students.

So we began looking at the standard through our special "lenses":

MP1: Keep Trying.  We asked ourselves, "What does it mean to keep trying?"  One of my sweeties pointed out that it takes TIME to learn something new (I know, right?  Pretty good sense of humor for an eight-year-old.)  So that's what we wrote down.

MP2: Think About Math.  "What are the words, numbers, and symbols we think about with this standard?"  The students came up with these: hours, minutes, seconds, a.m., p.m., quarter to, and quarter past.

MP3: Talk About Math.  "What do we say to each other when we talk about this standard?"  The students said that they would ask, "How do you know?", "Can you explain that?".  The question, "What about fractions?" was added later, after discussing MP8.

MP4: Model Math.  "What do we use to model this standard?"  The answers were a clock, a number line, and skip counting by fives.

MP5: Use Math Tools.  "What tools would we use to solve problems with this standard?"  The answers were clocks (I had the student get them and put them on the white board tray), number lines (the student told me how to draw one), and computer games.

MP6: Check Your Work.  This means, "Are we using the right words, symbols, and units of measurement?"  The students pointed out that the units of measurement for this standard would be minutes, hours, and seconds.

MP7: Look for Patterns.  "What patterns can we find to help us solve problems?"  The students immediately pointed out the pattern of counting by fives.  They wanted the pattern to go in a circle, like the clock, but said that it could also be written out on a number line.

MP8: Look for Shortcuts.  The question for this one is, "How can we break things apart and put them back together?"  I didn't know what I was going to get on this one!  First, a student said that you could break the clock in half, and that would be 30 minutes.  Then another student said that you could break the half a clock in half again.  I drew that on the whiteboard and asked what it looked like to them, and one student said, "fractions!"  So we talked about how one-fourth of an hour would be 15 minutes.

And there you have it.  In less than thirty minutes, we had a collaborative introduction to a standard that was very thorough, activated our background knowledge, and that we could refer back to (and add to) as we progressed through the unit.  Plus, it was a lot more fun than a written assessment!

I'm sure you noticed that these Eight Standards for Mathematical Practice have been modified.  I felt that the original wording was too difficult for young children to understand, and that my time was better spent teaching the math, instead of teaching them the meaning of words like "precision" and  "abstractly" and "quantitatively".

I'll tell you more about the modification process, and about how we use them at our K-8 school in my next post!

UPDATE #1:  I've been asked to place the links to my products on TeachersPayTeachers on this post.  Before I do, I want to say that you don't NEED a particular set to do this type of introductory lesson!  There are free sets out there, or you can make your own.  That being said, here are the links to purchase mine (and of course I would be thrilled if you do!).
Kindergarten 8MPS
Grades 1-2 8MPS
Grades 3-5 8MPS
Grades 6-8 8MPS   (These are more "grown up" - original wording, no clipart, no cards.)
Remember to print them ledger size to fit perfectly on a white board!!
UPDATE #2: The magnetic strips that I used  on the whiteboard to hold the standards up... I bought them at a local teacher store.  They are available (as well as lots of other cute styles) on Amazon  HERE.

Happy Teaching,


  1. This was great! I just wrote down your questions as well - they would help guide "our" thinking. In Ontario, we have TACK (Thinking, Application, Communication and Communication). I'd like to use what you have done when developing learning goals and success criteria. Many thanks!

  2. Came across this just now! What a wonderful way to bring the 8 Mathematical Practices to life for the 3rd graders. I share your thoughts in the initial para that despite the huge divide in opinion about CCSS, asking the right questions and developing these Mathematical Practices in students will help them so much more than just the drill and practice that i used to teach students "how" to solve a problem

  3. This is wonderful! I teach first grade and I have been teaching MPS without a great way to really break it down enough for my students. I am so pleased to have come across an authentic example of the MPS. This help me to gain better understanding of how to open my students meta-cognition of the 8MPS.

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