Saturday, November 10, 2012

Video as a Tool to Understand CCSS Mathematical Practices

Success at the Core is a free resource available to teachers and leaders to assist in the successful implementation of the Common Core Standards.  All materials are designed to complement—not supplant—existing school improvement initiatives. Video, print, and online materials can be selected by leadership teams or teachers, and tailored to fit their needs.  One of the powerful aspects of Success at the Core is the use of video to to illustrated effective pedagogical techniques in mathematics.  The following piece by Deb Gribskov provides a great example of how video can aid teachers in their math instruction.

They were 100 strong – an audience of teachers sitting at cafeteria tables, waiting. They had come here at 4:00 pm, after a long day, to learn about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in Mathematics. The evening’s session was to focus on mathematical Practice #1: Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
I was part of a group of teacher leaders and coaches from two neighboring school districts in Washington state who’d come together to lead this session. We hoped to create a critical mass of thought and effort to promote understanding of the CCSS in our districts, with a first-year emphasis on the mathematical practices. Our job that night was to help the assembled teachers understand Practice #1; gain insight into how to intentionally address it in their classrooms; and stay engaged and awake enough to want to come back for focus sessions on the remaining seven practices! I was the “opening act.”
As an instructional coach, I hear time and again: “Show me what it looks like. Let me see it, so I can understand it.” Tonight, I answered that request, specifically focusing on visual examples of perseverance. I began the session with a video of an elementary-school child working through a word problem. The video documented the student struggling with the problem – for almost two agonizing minutes. When he finally came up with his answer (the correct one, I might add), our teachers clapped and breathed an audible sigh of relief.
When I asked the teachers to reflect on why the student succeeded, the two most common answers were: “The teacher gave him the time he needed,” and “The teacher didn’t help him.” Indeed, the video drove home the teacher’s patience. As I watched it – and reflected on the audience’s responses – I thought about how often I’ve come to the aid of a struggling student. In those moments, I often find myself asking whether I’m actually keeping that student from developing the perseverance needed to solve the problem. Clearly, I’m not alone.
After this discussion, we watched a TED talk by Dan Meyer, who talked about why many students struggle with mathematics and don’t persevere. He addressed students who don’t and won’t engage, and how to change the way we present problems to change the paradigm for their learning. In the video, Meyer states, “Students need to decide, ‘All right, well, does the height matter? Does the side of it matter? Does the color of the valve matter? What matters here?’ — such an underrepresented question in math curricula.” Teaching students to think about problems, rather than spoon feeding them the answers, will also teach them to stick with it. This is critical in addressing this part the CCSS.  When I watch this video, I am inspired to think deeply about my own curriculum – not the texts I use but the standards I’m helping students learn.  Meyer models how to create the questions and tasks that really help students grow and learn.

As the second video faded to black, the light bulbs came on over the teachers’ heads. The nodding heads around the room confirmed that the videos drove home the idea of persistence and empowerment in ways that discussion alone could not. With these videos, the stage had been set for my CCSS group of 100. The teachers were now ready to move on to “grade band” sessions. For the remainder of the evening, they focused specific, grade-level skills that would help them intentionally address CCSS mathematical Practice #1 in their classrooms. In these break-out sessions, the teacher leaders asked probing questions and provided concrete examples to help teachers really grasp the essence of this practice.
Now, I’m busy planning next month’s session, which will focus on CCSS mathematical Practice #2: Reason abstractly and quantitatively. Again, I’ll kick off the session with a video to illustrate the practice. This time, I’m planning to use aSuccess at the Core video, “Challenging Students to Discover Pythagoras.” And we’ll examine and discuss quantitative and abstract reasoning.

Over this entire school year, my colleagues and I will repeat this coaching process again and again, until we’ve covered all eight mathematical practices. Each time, we’ll be sure to include video examples to answer their persistent request: “Show me what it looks like. Let me see it so I can understand it.” I can think of no more effective way to bring this rich discussion about CCSS to life.


  1. I love this idea. Do you have a link to the elementary student video that you can share?

    Thanks for the post!

  2. Very informative post. Keep up the good work. I would really look forward to your other posts
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