As you think about the challenges that elementary and even anything K-12 in the name of teacher is facing in these times, there are number of issues that come immediately to mind. Certainly one of them is there are at this moment, very close to 40 states that have signed on in one way or another to the Common Core State Standards, so what’s that transition look like and is it going to look different in one state versus another and so forth. And one of the clear messages in the Common Core is a really solid, deep understanding of the concepts that drive place value, whole number operations, operations with fractions, and so forth. That’s at the heart of elementary curriculum and frankly that’s at the heart of what Dreambox is doing and has done with it. You know, you can probably say prototype materials that are online for kids and teachers too sort of have kids, you know, in some cases for the first time really understand the Mathematics they’re learning. So, the Common Core and what Dreambox is doing and has done really is a nice glove in hand kind of fit. I see that is important. Similarly, along with Common Standards will soon become an assessment. And so, how does the conceptual work that Dreambox has done, how does frankly the reinforcement work that Dreambox has done kind of connect you these forth coming assessments, and how might teachers use that as avenues. Those are important things to me.
The issue around the curriculum discussion actually for some time now has been the fact that the United States mathematics curriculum has been portrayed as a mile wide and an inch deep. And so, what frankly the NCTM did with their curriculum focal points in year 2006, followed up now by a much, much more broad way by the Common Core Curriculum Standards is basically to say that you don’t need nor should you ever have a hundred or more expectations at the fourth grade level to teach Mathematics, in other words, what’s important for children at fourth grade level: curriculum focal points, common or state standards, far fewer expectations somewhere around 30-ish at particular grade levels with a sincere and solid expectation that “We’re going learn these. You, child, are going to learn these and you’re going to learn them well.” And also says to you teacher “You got time to do this.” There’s no excuses now. You only have 30 couple of expectations. Will your kids have to dig deeper? Sure. Will they have to have – get the concepts as well as connecting those two procedures, as well as being able to solve problems using that Mathematics?-All of the above. It changes the expectation level and it also changes the depth question in a big way in my opinion.
Francis (Skip) Fennell, PhD
Professor of Education & Graduate and Professional Studies