Making sense of the Standards for Mathematical Practice

Item 7 in the Standards for Mathematical Practice in the Common Core reads "Look for and make use of structure". What exactly does this mean? And how might teachers create experiences to help students “make use of structure"? The Illustrative Mathematics Project is designed to do just that.

Although we featured a story about its release more than a year ago, the "Illustrative Mathematics Project" is worth calling to readers’ attention once again.

How many K-12 teachers have read the Standards for Mathematical Practice in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and thought, "Huh?" Apparently enough so that a committee was formed to create a website on which every single standard in the CCSS will eventually be accompanied by a task or explanation designed to illustrate that standard. The tasks, many of which are submitted by K-12 teachers, go through a 'vetting' process to ensure quality. The result is a website with down-to-earth examples of the standards and ways to engage students at all grade levels in practicing them.

So, a teacher who really wants to provide an experience for students that encourages them to “look for and make use of structure”, can find such a task on the Illustrative Mathematics Project website. In fact, there is even a brief video showing students sharing solutions to a problem in which structure was found and used.

See the "Math Challenge" in this newsletter for an example of a task and the standards which it addresses. If perusing the Illustrative Mathematics Project website makes you think of some lessons you have developed which address certain standards, you are encouraged to submit them.