Common Core Mathematics in New York

By Emily Dodd Topic Curriculum, Math and Science, Standards


Earlier this month Great Minds conducted its first professional development workshop in mathematics. Our math team traveled to Albany, New York where we engaged more than 300 educators in a discussion about the math content in Great Minds's forthcoming PK-5 mathematics curriculum, titled "A Story of Units."

New York's Commissioner of Education, John B. King Jr., kicked off the five-day session. The audience included teachers, representatives from Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), instructional coaches, education consultants, and superintendents. The training featured Jason Zimba, one of the authors of the Common Core State Standards for mathematics; Ken Gross, director of the Vermont Mathematics Initiative at the University of Vermont; and Scott Baldridge, lead writer and mathematician of the Great Minds Curriculum Maps in Mathematics. Each presenter offered a unique perspective on three key "shifts" embedded in the CCSS. These shifts involve intensifying the depth and focus of instruction and learning, enhancing coherence within and between grades, and stepping up the rigor of what students will be expected to know and be able to do.

Those "shifts" formed the basis for a series of dynamic gradespan-based training sessions that were conducted by several of the curriculum's teacher-writers and professional development leaders, including Catriona Anderson, Bill Davidson, Janice Fan, Melanie Gutierrez, Lisa Watts-Lawton, and Johnette Roberts. This team demonstrated lessons taken directly from drafts of Great Minds's curriculum. A highlight for one teacher was "actually seeing a lesson in action - especially seeing a kindergarten lesson and having an upper grade teacher bridge the concept to those grades."

New York educators participate in a Kindergarten lesson modeled by Melanie Gutierrez.

Educators began each day by completing a stimulating math fluency activity, known as a "sprint," designed to establish and enhance fluency by developing students' number sense through a focus on patterns. Educators later had the opportunity to create original fluency activities and practice their delivery. One teacher noted that "practicing the fluencies and sprints will make it easier to use [this activity] in my classroom."

Participants worked in small groups on various occasions throughout the training. They enjoyed opportunities to work though numerous models that can be utilized throughout the primary and elementary grades, including the use of the "bar model" to solve word problems.

New York educator presents his solution to a word problem.

Participants also had the opportunity to use tools such as place-value number disks, 2-sided counters, and rekenreks, chosen specifically to compliment the curriculum Great Minds is developing. These tools will soon be available through Great Minds's website. The teacher-ambassadors who attended the training are now charged with the task of bringing their knowledge of this new content and pedagogies back to their colleagues in districts around the state.

The participants' candor and willingness to share their experiences in the classroom enabled Great Minds's facilitators to gain a tremendous deal of insight into the challenges faced by teachers in implementing the CCSS. The teacher-writers of the mathematics curriculum will incorporate this knowledge into their work as they continue to develop this teacher-friendly tool.

In a gesture of enthusiasm and appreciation, New York's teachers concluded the five-day training with a standing ovation. This sentiment is reciprocated by Great Minds's team, who looks forward more than ever to working directly with teachers throughout the development and implementation of Great Minds's mathematics maps.

Hillary Marder