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Quick and Dirty Guide to CCSS Math

Written For Tutors

In all my years of tutoring (20+) I have yet to go through one full year without a major issue arising, in mathematics education, that tutors have to face.  This year (and over the past few years) that issue has been Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  Many tutors want to know how to help their students when standards have changed, or become more uniform across states.  These changes have resulted in the development of mathematics curriculum and use of new texts in many school districts.  However, although many states have adopted the CCSS, the standards do not require a specific curriculum or text.  (This leaves the door wide open for companies to sell their products claiming to be aligned with the standards.)  To make matters more confusing, many districts can make their own decisions about what materials to use to teach their students.  This creates a struggle for many tutors: the materials changed suddenly, the expectations are higher for students, and parents can’t begin to explain why their child struggles with the content.

In light of this, I have good news… for tutors!  The standards are for teachers to worry about; your concern is helping your students learn the material being taught.  Below I listed a few tips/strategies for helping your students during the CCSS era.  Many of the tips here are not original or new, but may be more relevant to the expectations placed upon students as a result of the CCSS.  So, let’s get going…

Please feel free to add to these or modify them to accommodate your students’ needs.  I hope this is helpful and will alleviate some stress!

  • Help students think critically and analytically – higher order thinking is an expectation
  • The standards are for teachers to use during instruction – no need to feel compelled to include them in your instruction
  • Know and understand the standards so you can help your students – know what your students are expected to do and understand
  • Tutor with the same confidence you had before CCSS adoptions – students will trust you more if they feel you are confident
  • Get your students accustomed to justifying their answers – if your students can justify their answers, then, most likely, they understand the concept taught
  • Change the format of the problems so you can check for understanding – students should understand the concept behind the problem rather than just the procedure for solving it
  • Know the language used in the standards – encourage your students to use and know it as well
  • Speak positively instead of negatively about the standards – if you resist the change, so will your students, but they will hurt in the end
  • Don’t panic – or your students will panic as well
  • Relax – so your students can relax and learn

Resources:

  1. Common Core State Standards
  2. Common Core Math Standards
  3. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)
  4. National Research Council’s “Adding it Up”
  5. EdReports.org
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Reading the Perimeter of a Rectangle Formula


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Why Math Education

I am a math educator at heart.  I have tutored students from various backgrounds in mathematics for approximately 20 years (one-on-one and small groups).  During my high school years, I tutored my fellow classmates in math and have always had the reputation as the “Math Wiz.”  After high school, I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania.  After I graduated from Penn, I sub-matriculated into their Master of Arts in Education degree program, but later withdrew to focus on family issues.  Eventually, I became a Payroll Specialist for a corporation and worked there for approximately 7 years.  Although I held a full-time position in payroll, I did not ignore my passion for teaching math.  I tutored students privately to fulfill that passion.

In 2004 I enrolled in Arcadia University’s Master of Arts in Education degree program, but later withdrew.  In April 2006, the corporation I worked for outsourced my job.  I was liberated to pursue my true love and passion: math education.  I finally earned my Master of Arts in Education degree (Concentration: Secondary Mathematics) from Arcadia.

My immediate goal was to continue to teach students in a way that they could learn math more effectively (one-on-one instruction/tutoring).  I tend to direct my efforts toward students who have an interest in learning and excelling in mathematics, but I also work with students who simply need help getting through a math course.  Of course, the latter is more laborious.

I primarily work with high school students because the teachers who had the greatest impact on me were my high school teachers.  It takes a lot to reach high school students and I know because it took a lot to reach me when I was in high school (Martin Luther King, H.S.).  Today I tutor high school students and teach college students; an ideal combination!

I will always pursue higher learning.  The more I learn about math, the more I want to learn.  I want to devote as much of my time as possible to learn every aspect of math available to human kind.  Even if I don’t master every subject or topic, I want to be aware of its existence.  I believe that one must reach a certain level of mastery in their field in order to be the most effective in that field.  I believe in being the best and that means never ceasing to learn.  Personally, I am just fascinated with math for reasons I can not explain.  Math excites me!