New Standards in Math, and Learning to Think Mathematically

  • Math is a big part of other subject areas — from physics to economics — and plays a role in countless jobs and professions. Math is part of everything from counting change to designing rockets, and math skills and the ability to think mathematically to solve problems can pave the way to a successful career in a high-demand profession.

    The Common Core State Standards new window (on which Maryland's new standards are based) recognize the importance of math and prepare students for solving real-world problems with the precision and logic that mathematical thinking and reasoning demand. Here are some ways that math class will look different under the new standards.

    Less is moreElementary students types on a computer

    Under the new standards, students will understand the how of math—and also the why. This means mastering both concepts and processes. Teachers will cover fewer topics in each grade, but they will go into each topic in a lot of detail.

    It adds up

    The standards at each grade level build clearly on what has come before. As students add onto the foundations laid in the preceding year, they'll be deepening their understanding of math concepts and how they relate to one another.

    Fluency: Not just for reading class

    To help students develop deep understanding, teachers will be emphasizing skills in solving problems quickly and accurately. When students are "fluent" in performing calculations, they can use more of their thinking power to understand concepts and apply them to more difficult situations.

    Going deep

    With a clearly outlined progression of math learning, students will have the opportunity to understand concepts deeply. The goal is for students not only to "get the right answer," but to be able to explain how and why they did so.

    Real-world applications

    By emphasizing deep understanding of math concepts and processes, the new standards will help students "think mathematically." That type of thinking allows students to use math to tackle real-world problems.

    For example, by high school, students will be doing things like analyzing the risk involved in playing extreme sports or planning the runways and terminals at a model airport that allow most efficiency to move airplanes around.

    The right balance

    Math involves deep understanding and lots of practice. The new standards make room for both.