Getting to the Core

Common Core is coming to a school near you this fall, and teachers, students and parents are entering new territory.

Common Core Institute

In August, Mississippi will join 44 other states that will teach the Common Core education standards designed to have consistent and clear educational goals in math and English for students across the country.

"It (Common Core) is being implemented this year, whether we like or not, and we want them (teachers) to like it," said Dr. Richard Holden, professor of education at Mississippi University for Women.

Adopted in Mississippi in 2010, Common Core State Standards (CCSS) provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn so that teachers and parents know how to help them. The goal is to provide appropriate academic benchmarks for all students, regardless of where they live.

This summer The W hosted a four-week institute on campus focused on Common Core Mathematics. The institute was made possible through a grant secured by Holden to assist middle school mathematics teachers in developing technologyrich, instructional lessons, strategies and activities that support implementation of the new CCSS for mathematics.

"After the grant was written and approved, I notified the other three instructors to begin planning for the institute. All of us have received training or professional development on Common Core but that training is ongoing and much of it is through independent study from sources readily available on the Web," he said.

Holden's team of instructors included Dr. Bonnie Oppenheimer, associate department chair and professor of mathematics; Lindsay Harrison Miller, Algebra I teacher at New Hope High School; and Tiffany Phinisey, pre-algebra teacher at West Lowndes Middle School.

As part of the institute, 19 participants received additional training on technology hardware items such as the Promethean interactive whiteboard, classroom response systems and mathematics applications for mobile devices. Also, there was instruction on TI-Nspire graphing calculators in solving functions problems and graphing equations. Miller, who teaches ninth graders, said she was excited to be sharing her knowledge with other educators.

TI-Nspire"The TI-Nspire calculator allows teachers to send questions to all students to evaluate learning of a new concept or a skill that has been previously taught," she said. "The software allows teachers to show responses and discuss any misconceptions that the students may have when approaching a problem."

Miller added that students love real-world application. "This device allows the teacher to bring multiple presentations of real world situations and put it in the students' hands while in the classroom."

An example she provided was graphing quadratics and shooting a basketball, where students are able to model a basketball's flight through the air using a quadratic function. Arrica Chandler Smith is one of the teachers participating in the institute. Smith teaches seventh and eighth grade math at B.F. Liddell Middle School in Noxubee County.

"I want to gain more knowledge about Common Core since it will be implemented in the school and learn techniques to keep my students interested and informed and make it relevant to them," she said.

Simeon Weatherby, who teaches ninth through 12th grade math at West Lowndes, added, "This institute is giving me an advantage on Common Core, and it will give me different strategies that I can implement in the classroom."

Holden said, "I can only assume the participants will hope to gain a sense of confidence and feeling of preparedness as the state fully implements the Common Core State Standards this coming school year.

"I'm sure they will be looking to leave the institute with concrete lesson plans, activities and ideas on how to present and clarify mathematical concepts.

1100 College Street Columbus, MS 39701phone: 662.329.4750 or 877.462.8439