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Transition to the Common Core

My name is Francis (Skip) Fennell. I’m a professor of Education at McDaniel College, Westminster, Maryland. I direct a project called the Elementary Math Specialists and Teacher Leaders Project. I’m the past president of the National Council of Teacher of Mathematics.

With regard to Dreambox and the Common Core State Standards, one of the things I think is really important for teachers, and I talk teachers a lot about this having been with all the writes and involved with the Common Core, and that is- The first question I say is, “What’s different?” And one of the things that’s different is that, particular areas of content have been pushed one direction or another. That’s easy to track. But throughout the language of the Common Core State Standards is the member of times the word “Understand” or “Understanding” is used, and the number of times when particular representations are called for whether that’s an area model or a number line or what have you.

Dreambox did that, and now they have really sort of taken a look at that and made note of the fact that, “Here’s something that’s Common Core aligned”, “Here’s something that’s frankly Common Core ready” at a time when there is thirst all around this country for critical materials that do that, and do it well. And that’s the Dreambox’s credit.

To me, Dreambox was out there as a program who really believed in not just conceptual understanding, but also using representational tools. Let’s consider Dreambox as a vehicle to help transition toward implementation of the Common Core State Standards, and there are multiple aspects of that type of implementation. One is to ensure that the content domains and the particular standards within those content domains are accounted for in the program. So I think anybody who uses Dreambox or who looks carefully at Dreambox can really kind of check that off in terms of really key concepts particularly in anything connected with number.

Connected with that, are the standards of mathematical practice. And so one should be concerned about to what extent our children engage in problem solving, to what extent our kids reasoning abstractly and quantitatively. Do they engage with problems and then have an opportunity to sort of look at the reasoning behind their solutions as compared to yours and so forth? Are they modeling with mathematics? Are there opportunities to sort of look at the precision around mathematics? Are there- are they engaging tools whether there is a representational tool or other tools to help them get that mathematical problem and persevere in solving it? Are they engaged in the structure of mathematics whether that’s pattern related to composing and decomposing numbers?

The practices in fact are content and need to be interfaces with the domains of the Common Core, and I think Dreambox has been diligent about really thinking hard about that, and I think that’s really important. And anybody who’s looking at materials has to consider that.

Francis (Skip) Fennell , PhD
Professor of Education & Graduate and Professional Studies
McDaniel College