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How is your child’s school teaching math?

Chances are your child’s math class is different than what you remember. Here’s our guide to some of the popular math curricula in schools today.

By Jessica Kelmon

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Investigations in Number, Data, and Space

This inquiry-based curriculum emphasizes math thinking and reasoning over rote practice. Its aim is to teach problem solving in conjunction with discrete skills.

Grades covered: K-5

What it looks like: This “student-centered” curriculum encourages more small and large group activities and less direct instruction from teachers. Students spend time building creative representations (drawings, models, etc.) and engaging in “math talks” with other kids. Lessons are organized into themed units that last anywhere from two to eight weeks and include a series of investigations that may last anywhere from one hour to multiple days. On the first day of an investigation, the teacher introduces new concepts during a large group activity. From there, kids explore the concepts in smaller groups or pairs through a few in-depth problems or math games while the teacher floats around helping. The goal is for students to learn to reason through problems and explore different strategies. Each day, kids discuss what strategies they tried and what worked (and didn’t) to build their understanding. In addition, there are daily routines that include math writing, math skills drills, and data analysis practice.

Homework: Less is more when it comes to Investigations homework. You can expect to see fewer — but tougher — problems, and don’t be surprised if the “solutions” involve writing or drawing in addition to computing. Also, kids learn to use appropriate materials and tools — so when your child pulls out a calculator, that may be A-OK. The curriculum includes a “parent letter” that your child’s teacher is likely to send you at the beginning of every unit. These letters orient parents to what their children will learn in that unit, what homework problems may look like, and how best to help your kids with homework.

is an associate editor at GreatSchools.org.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

04/24/2012:
"Last weekend my child is 7 grade in school public(good school) receive 40 question of Math on Algebra, geometric. She has Asperges and answer it in 30 minuts but my husband and I check her answer and we taken 2 days chech all this. She had write correctly 80% and only 20% she had mistake but as near her answer. I must said that my old math was easy now is complicated, but quality on Math is very complicated and hard. When she will study high school hasn't any problem with math. "
04/16/2012:
"What is your opinion on Connected Math? "
04/16/2012:
"My son did Saxon math up to 6th grade in private school. When we switched to public school for 7th grade we were told by the new school that Saxon wasnt satisfactory in their view since it didn't comply with California state standards. "
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