Incremental Shifts in Classroom Practice: Supporting Implementation of the Common Core State Standards-Mathematics

by Cathy Carroll; Nanette Seago

Nov 1, 2018

Teaching mathematics is complex work. Effectively implementing the Common Core State Standards-Mathematics (CCSS-M) requires teachers to engage students in meaningful learning in which students make sense of mathematical ideas and representations, and communicate and reason mathematically. Teachers must also ensure that they are providing mathematical access to all of their students. Instead of expecting teachers to implement the large-scale changes called for in the CCSS-M overnight, change may be more likely and more sustainable if teachers are encouraged to shift their practice incrementally in a continuous improvement model (Star, 2016; Hiebert & Morris, 2012; Stigler & Hiebert, 2004).

Accordingly, the expectation should be for small yet powerful changes that teachers can implement relatively easily in their instruction (Star, 2016). For example, teachers may initially implement manageable new ideas that make sense to them, such as:

- Math talks to support students to conceptualize and represent operations

- Structures and practices to support student-to student discourse in small group work

- Counting objects to support students to sort, organize, and count by groups

- Choral counting to engage students in reasoning, predicting, looking for patterns, and justifying things they notice in their counting.

Incorporating any of the above changes can make small yet powerful differences in a classroom (Star, 2016), but it is the accumulation of these types of incremental shifts over time that will most likely result in the fullest implementation of the CCSS-M.