What’s Next After Common Core for Mathematics?

To go beyond the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSS-M), we need to think in terms of the ways we use actually use math skills – as tools for daily life and work, as well as systems that help explain and predict how things function in the professions.

The next step in the real transformation of math education standards is to clearly identify what skills students MUST KNOW when they graduate from high school, the “21st Century Core Standards (21CCS)”.

These would be provided in a required full year course at the junior grade level for ALL high school students to complete. This would include an assessment of competency for each of the standards during the year, along with opportunities to refresh, update, and upgrade the topics and skills presented in prior grades. The instructional and testing methods should be flexible and appropriate for particular learner situations.

This required course, called “School Math – Math for Life and Work” would consist of eleven units, starting with pencil-paper computations of whole and decimal numbers, and common fractions. The assessed competencies of this course would correspond to the 21CCS items and provide a basis for what ALL students NEED TO KNOW as they graduate into life, work, college, and career.

For each of the topics presented in “School Math”, though, it would be NICE TO KNOW how those skills connect to related subjects, such as STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics) and CCCSA (Communication, Creative, Cultural, and Social Arts) within the school. Collaboration between math and other subject area specialists can generate activities and problem sets which develop “Higher Order Thinking/ Depth of Knowledge (HOT/DOK)” understanding. These “Applied Math – Building Basicl Skill Sets” activities are recommended, but optional, for all students, who would earn additional credit for completed assignments.

A further level – “Workplace Math – Applications from the Real World” – would connect the core math topics to occupational situations that learners might want to explore in advance of their years beyond high school. Again, additional credit would be earned for completed assignments.

Some learners, though, might wish to continue beyond “School Math” to  a full year “College Mathematics – Preparing for the Professions” course in the senior year. Using a systems approach, this course first develops “Mathematical Methods”, and then applies those principles and techniques to number systems, algebraic operations, and functions, including linear, non-linear, polynomial, exponential, and trigonometric functions. This course would be optional for completers of School Math, and its topics would not be part of the 21CCS.

Putting the five pieces of this puzzle together, then, ALL students should be assessed for what they MUST KNOW of the “21st Century Core Standards” in the junior or senior years of high school.

The standards would correspond directly with the topics contained in “School Math – Math for Life and Work”, as to what they NEED TO KNOW for college and career.

For learners anticipating a college experience, they SHOULD KNOW about “College Mathematics – Preparing for the Professions”, which provides a foundation for further post-secondary study.

In any case, once learners show competency of the designated skills, they can expand their understanding through “Applied Math – Building Personal Skill Sets”, and “Workplace Math – Applications from the Real World”. These include various activities and projects that learners would find are NICE TO KNOW, according to their individual interests, abilities, and preferences.

Combining these gives “SCWAMS – School, College, Workplace, and Applied Math Skills” as a comprehensive systems approach to the next step beyond Common Core.

This approach also looks beyond the historical sequences in which mathematics subjects were developed through the centuries, to focus on how they can provide useful functions at home and work in this 21st Century.

This SCWAMS approach goes beyond reform, into a new transformation for mathematics education in the 21st Century.

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