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Proposed state math standards shift some skills to earlier grades

Posted: February 10, 2012 - 12:14am

Newly proposed state math standards shift a lot of what’s taught in grades 6-8 down to grades 3-5 — which would require the learning of core algebraic concepts earlier.

The Alaska Department of Education & Early Development is proposing new mathematics and English language arts standards — which are up for public comment through March. The state anticipates new standards being ready for classroom use as early as this fall, with first testing based on the new requirements in 2016.

The department held a webinar on Thursday explaining the changes in the proposed math standards from the current Grade Level Expectations (GLEs). It was facilitated by Cecilia Miller, math content specialist for the state.

One of the largest changes in how the state expects students to learn math is that it’s shifting when students tackle new concepts like fractions, decimals, measurement and data-solving problems regarding volume and geometry. Those concepts are currently taught in grades 6-8, and will instead be shifted to grades 3-5 so that upper level students have the foundation for algebra.

“Students should be prepared for algebra in eighth grade,” she said.

Miller said that in the GLEs, six content strands repeated for kindergarten through 10th grade. The new standards focused content in more limited ranges, emphasizing mastery of foundational skills early on. She said that high-performing countries, in regard to mathematics, use a set-up like what the state is proposing.

“The goal is to move students along the continuum,” Miller said.

Math standards are divided out by sections of grade levels — K-2, 3-5, 6-8 and high school. High school level courses don’t set expectations by grade level, but by core concepts — or “domains.”

Domains include: Counting, cardinality, and ordinality; operations and algebraic thinking; number and operations in Base 10; measurement and data; number and operations — fractions; geometry; ratios and proportional relationships; the number system; expressions and equations; functions; statistics and probability.

The proposed standards list what mathematically proficient students will be able to do for each of the eight standards. The list of what that entails grows in not only the number of requirements, but complexity through the grade levels.

Miller said they are organized by “domains” and conceptual categories that can appear in several course offerings.

“The districts will have the flexibility to determine the course offerings to cover the math content standards,” she said. “The core standards are for all students to be college and career ready.”

Miller said that many of the ninth- and 10th-grade standards in the GLEs are moved down a couple grade levels as well. Another difference between the two sets of standards is that a focus on mathematical functions will be added. She said because functions are not complete, GLEs are less rigorous. Work in statistics also has been expanded.

Miller focused on kindergarten for part of the presentation. She said the emphasis will be on numbers — especially quantities and beginning to learn addition and subtraction. Kindergartners should also be exposed to shapes both in two and three dimensions — and at varying sizes — as the standards currently suggest.

Math standards are divided into eight areas: make sense of problems and persevere in solving them, reason abstractly and quantitatively, construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others, model with mathematics, use appropriate tools strategically, attend to precision, look for and make use of structure, look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

For more information on the proposed standards, future webinars or to submit comments on the regulations, visit

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at

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