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Decorative Math image

What do you notice?

What would the next figure look like?  What about Figure 100?


Why are we teaching the Washington State Learning Standards in Math?

  • These standards were adopted in 2011. They outline what students should learn at each grade level in order to foster College and Career Readiness.
  • In addition to the grade level content standards, the Washington State Learning Standards for Math include eight practice standards that are the same for grades K-12. These are the all-important “habits of mind” that help students develop into mathematical thinkers and problem-solvers.
  • Like any standards, the Washington State Learning Standards do not dictate how a teacher should teach. They do, however, lend themselves to more inquiry-based teaching methods. For example, instead of a teacher simply telling students how to write a linear equation, the class might start by inquiring about the structure of the diagrams above.  What is happening in this pattern?  How are the figures growing?  How can we determine what Figure 100 looks like without drawing each one?  How is the figure number related to the number of tiles?


Why is my child’s math class so different from the classes I had as a student?

  • Research shows that students do not learn math deeply with traditional teaching methods (teacher at the board dispensing knowledge). Instead of applying algorithms to solve procedural problems, students have more durable math learning when they understand why those algorithms work by actively engaging with foundational concepts and reasoning.
  • When students leave high school for a career or college, it is imperative that they be able to understand problems, determine a solution path, communicate their ideas, and justify their reasoning no matter what kind of work they end up doing or what they end up studying.


Why isn’t the teacher showing the kids how to do the problems?  Why do they have to figure it out on their own?

  • This is called productive struggle, and it:
  • Promotes deeper understanding and ownership of mathematical concepts
  • Helps students to see that their effort is worth it
  • Yields results; students are more likely to persevere
  • Empowers students to see themselves as mathematical thinkers with worthwhile ideas. This, in turn, helps students feel hopeful about math by chipping away at the idea that you are either born with a “math brain” or you aren’t.
  • Emphasizes understanding and ideas rather than speed; emphasizes sense-making rather than memorizing unrelated and disconnected procedures and facts.


So what will my child’s math class look like?  What will the teacher be doing?

  • Group work – students actively construct knowledge instead of passively receive
  • Lots of discussions – students justify (“I think this is true because…”) and generalize (“This will always work because…”).
  • Productive struggle – the students’ cognitive process is emphasized alongside the final product.
  • The teacher’s role shifts from being the “sage on the stage” (the keeper and dispenser of knowledge) to the “guide on the side” (asking intentional questions, facilitating meaningful mathematical discussions, assessing student understanding on an ongoing basis, and refining and revising plans to meet the needs of all learners).


How can I help my child be successful in math?

  • If you have “math anxiety” or struggled with math yourself, try not to share negative or fixed-mindset messages about math with your children. This has been shown to impact their achievement!  For example, instead of saying “This is way too hard,” you could say “This looks challenging.  Let’s start by figuring out what the problem is asking.”
  • Engage in reflective discussion with your child about the math they are learning. This does not have to be tutoring session; just asking them about math at home will amplify their learning at school by solidifying understandings and clarifying questions.
  • Parent Curriculum Resources:
    • CPM (Core Connections)
  • All grades: http://cpm.org/parent-support/
  • Includes links to homework help and parent guides by course or grade
  • Further reading on research-based math instructional practices and how you can help your child cultivate a growth mindset:
  • YouCubed Parent Resources
  • “How Relearning Old Concepts Alongside New Ones Makes It All Stick”
  • “Does Our Approach to Teaching Math Fail Even the Smartest Kids?”