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Getting everyone on the same (math) page

When Iowa adopted the Iowa Core Standards, I was teaching high school mathematics. In my school’s professional learning communities, we would discuss what the standards meant. We would sometimes differ on what we thought was important when it came to the key vocabulary, domains, depth of knowledge, strategies for assessment, and so on. I found that we could read the same standard and each interpret it a little differently.

One of the things that helped us was looking at the resources available on the Illustrative Mathematics website. It contains math tasks written to align to the standards that would help give us ideas about interpreting the standards. We could go there and see examples of what the standards looked like as a problem, example questions, commentary, etc. Doing that helped us identify what the standard meant, how they would build on other standards, and what the important concepts were which would help us have meaningful conversations that deepened our understanding.

Now, I am an elementary mathematics instructional coach and still work with teachers about what the standards mean and how that translates into classroom instruction and learning for students. I still use the Illustrative Mathematics site but also find myself using many of the resources on the new Mathematics Resources webpage on the Iowa Core website from the Iowa Department of Education to gain a deeper understanding of the Shifts for Mathematics, the Content Standards, and Mathematical Practices in the Iowa Core. The resources on these pages have been vetted by a group of expert Iowa mathematics educators called the Statewide Mathematics Leadership Team. I found lessons aligned to the standards as well as videos that demonstrate what the classroom instruction might look like. It is helpful to see what other educators are doing and it is very handy to have so many tools to support instruction and assessment for students to meet the expectations of the Iowa Core in Mathematics.

As the state moves toward the Smarter Balanced Assessment, I find myself wondering what the standards look like when assessed. I have found many resources that could help me on the Iowa Core website Mathematics Resources webpage. On the Summative Assessment in Mathematics webpage, there are grade level documents that give the characteristics I am looking for like DOK, vertical alignments, achievement levels, evidence required, vocabulary, response types, materials, attributes, questions types, and examples according to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. This helps me to look at our curriculum and see how the standards and assessment are connected.

As educators, we know our content, pedagogy, and students. However, we do not always know what standards aligned resources we should use. It makes the life of a teacher a little easier when they have access to resources vetted by Iowa experts rather than needing to invent everything from scratch. These resources give me a deeper understanding of the characteristics of the standards and help me focus on how they translate into teacher instruction and student learning in the classroom.

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