Sunday, July 12, 2009

Standards Sundays: Grade 5 math

Since I'll be back in fifth grade classroom in the fall, I might as well start with the fifth grade content standards. And since I like math, not to mention it'll probably be one of the first subjects I'll pick up to teach, I'll start with, well, math. CTs, professors, and supervisors alike typically tell student teachers to start with math because it's "easier." I disagree with the "easy" part. Teaching and learning math is just as complicated as the other subjects. It only seems easier because most of the time, the curriculum/textbooks used are straightforward intro-lecture-practice types with some manipulatives thrown in every so often. And even then, manipulatives are still optional.

Note: manipulatives are things like counting blocks, tangrams, rulers, protractors, realia (items used in real life, like measuring cups), etc. Even a shoelace can be called a "manipulative" when used for teaching. Also, it should be noted that there is a clear distinction between curricula and standards. Standards are WHAT the government things students need to learn. These are mandated by law as part of public education and enforced by school officials. Curricula is the program of units and lessons used to teach content. The curricula and books a district chooses to use for its schools may or may not follow the standards. Curricula also includes things the teach invents him/herself. That's why you often see a lot of teachers making the leap from classroom to publishing - it's monetarily worth it, there are big bucks to be made in curricula development.

The full math standards for K-12 can be found here in pdf format. It's a pain in the butt to scroll through; probably because it's meant to be printed out as a whole document. Apparently, no one at the department of ed has figured out how to make it more online viewer-friendly.

By the end of grade five, students increase their facility with the four basic
arithmetic operations applied to fractions, decimals, and positive and negative
numbers. They know and use common measuring units to determine length and
area and know and use formulas to determine the volume of simple geometric
figures. Students know the concept of angle measurement and use a protractor
and compass to solve problems. They use grids, tables, graphs, and charts to
record and analyze data.

See the focus on skills? This is a good thing, but it does end up being a little difficult setting up opportunities for students to see connections from one math concept to the other, and to things outside of purely math. Often times, each lesson plan I write touches on multiple standards, sometimes crossing subjects too. This is because of the whole, "making connections" dilemma. Also because there are just so many standards that you have to double up in order to thoroughly teach everything in those 32-odd weeks.

Each subject is divided into subtopics, which is then divided into individual standards, which is again divided into sub-standards. Whoever worked to create this must have had a headache organizing it all.

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