
Common Core State Standards
Understanding mathematics
These Standards define what students should understand and be able to do in
their study of mathematics. Asking a student to understand something means
asking a teacher to assess whether the student has understood it. But what does
mathematical understanding look like? One hallmark of mathematical understanding
is the ability to justify, in a way appropriate to the student’s mathematical maturity,
why a particular mathematical statement is true or where a mathematical rule
comes from. There is a world of difference between a student who can summon a
mnemonic device to expand a product such as (a + b)(x + y) and a student who
can explain where the mnemonic comes from. The student who can explain the rule
understands the mathematics, and may have a better chance to succeed at a less
familiar task such as expanding (a + b + c)(x + y). Mathematical understanding and
procedural skill are equally important, and both are assessable using mathematical
tasks of sufficient richness.
The Standards set gradespecific standards but do not define the intervention
methods or materials necessary to support students who are well below or well
above gradelevel expectations. It is also beyond the scope of the Standards to
define the full range of supports appropriate for English language learners and
for students with special needs. At the same time, all students must have the
opportunity to learn and meet the same high standards if they are to access the
knowledge and skills necessary in their postschool lives. The Standards should
be read as allowing for the widest possible range of students to participate fully
from the outset, along with appropriate accommodations to ensure maximum
participaton of students with special education needs. For example, for students
with disabilities reading should allow for use of Braille, screen reader technology, or
other assistive devices, while writing should include the use of a scribe, computer,
or speechtotext technology. In a similar vein, speaking and listening should be
interpreted broadly to include sign language. No set of gradespecific standards
can fully reflect the great variety in abilities, needs, learning rates, and achievement
levels of students in any given classroom. However, the Standards do provide clear
signposts along the way to the goal of college and career readiness for all students.