Rhymes and reason: The New Math TEKS arrive!


September 22, 2014 by HCDE Communications

As you well know, the new math TEKS are here. You have new resources to help assist in the transition. It’s definitely taking longer to plan and generate lessons and assignments to meet these new standards. As my own children come home with work, I realize that some teachers may be looking for clarity on the key focus of the new standards.

Per the Texas Education Agency:
“The process standards describe ways in which students are expected to engage in the content. The placement of the process standards at the beginning of the knowledge and skills listed for each grade and course is intentional. The process standards weave the other knowledge and skills together so that students may be successful problem solvers and use mathematics efficiently and effectively in daily life.”

These new math TEKS emphasize the process skills in all grade levels, from kindergarten through high school. Teachers are expected to use the mathematical processes to acquire and demonstrate mathematical understanding. All teaching, lessons, activities and WORKSHEETS should address these standards.

So what are these standards? To sum them up, I have put them into four categories:

  1. Application and problem-solving (analyze relationships, make conjectures, justify, evaluate reasonableness)
  2. Tools and techniques
  3. Communication (using precise mathematical language)
  4. Representation (using multiple representation)

Last Monday, my daughter came home with a homework packet for the week. The math practice sheets included “drill and kill,” out-of-context exercises or word problems only addressing application at the simplest level.

As she worked the first three, I noticed her answers were wrong. I asked her what she was doing.

“My teacher told me a rhyme for the rules,” she said.
“5 and above, give it a shove. 4 and below, keep it low.
You know…5 and above are big partiers and 4 and below are calm.
So when 4 and below go to the neighbor’s house, they want to move.”

I think my daughter mixed it up at the end, but she loved it. The pun was fun. However, I noticed my girl was a bit confused as she worked the drill-and-kill problems.

Each time I asked her to explain her thinking or represent it on a number line, she went back to the rhyme. When asked what it meant by round to the nearest 100, she couldn’t tell me.

This is what I might suggest to teachers to clear the murky waters:

  1. Use multiple representations to teach overarching concepts in context and follow up with homework that looks like the lesson. For our example, teach using a number line. Give many examples using the same number, like 1,839. Use it to show how it works within each place value. Next, give examples of number lines and have students generate 10 or more examples of different questions that could be asked.
  2. Do not teach tricks or mnemonic devises out of context. The TEKS explicitly state to use “precise mathematical language” using multiple representations. When children learn a trick without understanding the overarching context, it is memorization.
  3. After enough examples have been given to show a pattern, let students create the rule. Let children make conjectures and create memory devices like the one my daughter was told, but only after they can describe it using precise academic vocabulary.
  4. Have students write about what they have learned. Last night I had my daughter write down directions on how to solve rounding problems for her sister. I was amazed with her vocabulary and accuracy by saying “underline the place value digit.”

Even newly adopted materials need some editing to make lessons meet the new TEKS. So make sure you add in all 4 categories of the process standards!

How are you using the process standards?

About the Blogger:
Nicole Shanahan is the math specialist at HCDE. A self-professed Julia Roberts of presenters, she vows to weave a bit of entertainment into each of her math workshops. As teacher, mentor, trainer and coach, Nicole serves up workshops ala carte within districts or at HCDE headquarters at 6300 Irvington, Houston, TX.  The mother-of-three clocks in more volunteer hours than the average bear can handle. She often writes about her cubs in her posts. Follow Nicole on Pinterest at: Secondary Math | Elementary Math

One thought on “Rhymes and reason: The New Math TEKS arrive!

  1. Jim Schul says:

    I am glad I am not your daughters teacher. Nice article!

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