Math professor Dev Sinha takes Common Core training statewide

April 16, 2015 - 6:00am

UO mathematics professor Dev Sinha has been traveling the state of Oregon in recent weeks to give the keynote address at a series of Oregon Department of Education K-12 trainings in Portland, Eugene and La Grande.

The department holds annual trainings for educators around the state, with different school subject themes each year. Math is the theme for this year’s series, and Sinha, also a content leader at Illustrative Mathematics, is widely recognized as a national expert on the Common Core math curriculum and has trained Lane County math teachers in the past.

Sinha made his address along with Patrick Callahan of the University of California at Los Angeles, who heads the California Math Project. Their keynote speech focused on hands-on mathematics, science and social science learning in real-world contexts as well as the process of validating one’s academic work and ensuring that teachers have the resources to be successful.

The speech, “What Does College/Career Readiness in Mathematics Look Like? (Hint: Different from what most of us thought it does!),” set the tone for the 90-minute trainings, with each event boasting hundreds of teachers in attendance.

To watch a video of their address, click here.

The main concept of Sinha and Callahan’s message was that the study of mathematics should center on three things: procedural fluency, conceptual understanding and the ability to apply math problems to real life. Currently, Sinha said, too much emphasis has been placed on procedural fluency.

“Currently, there’s a large disconnect between what we want kids to come out with and what we are asking them to do in class,” he said. “Real-life math is a big part of it, especially in high school and going into college.”

Sinha’s message was not received without resistance. Several principals and district superintendents have voiced uncertainty on the Common Core curriculum, saying that math classrooms today don’t look anything like they did when they were growing up.

“You want to aim for kids who can walk into a UO math class and use the algebra that they know, or choose between two different financing plans for a car,” Sinha said. “We shouldn’t be teaching kids to raise a calculator.”

Going forward, Sinha plans to keep working on implementing Common Core ideas in math classrooms around Oregon, using the California Math Project and similar programs around the region as a guiding light for the state.

— By Nathaniel Brown, Public Affairs Communications