UO's Sinha training local math teachers on Common Core standards

Dev Sinha, UO associate professor of mathematics, is helping Lane County K-12 students become better problem solvers.

This week, Sinha is putting his national Common Core development into play at the local level, giving Lane County math teachers hands-on training in the new standards that will bring Oregon students up to speed in math ability.

Sinha is a nationally recognized content expert on the Common Core and a Content Leader for Illustrative Mathematics, which provides guidance to states, assessment consortia, testing companies and Common Core curriculum developers.  

The Common Core state standards focus on math and English. They are meant to provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The robust and relevant standards are meant to reflect the knowledge and skills American students need to be successful in college and careers in a global economy.

The Common Core math standards, specifically, are designed to bring the math skills of U.S. students up to the level of students from other countries by placing emphasis on the focus and coherence of the math curriculum.

Sinha and others have developed real-world problems for students to solve mathematically – such as buying a car – that not only raise the bar on the level of math they are using, but provide relevant situations that engage students in the problem-solving tasks.

“Something like 40 percent of students entering college in most state systems, including Oregon, need to take remedial classes," Sinha says. "We’re working to change that.”

To help local math teachers become knowledgeable about the Common Core standards, “Lane Ignite the Core” workshops are ongoing this week at Lane ESD, where Monday morning, approximately 60 of Lane County's K-5 math teachers assembled for Sinha’s Common Core standards training.

Later this week, middle and high school teachers will attend trainings.

The workshops are meant not only to train teachers in the new curriculum but also to alleviate concerns some teachers have that the curriculum is too one-size-fits-all.

“Some have been looking for these kinds of shifts – increased challenges in ways that engage students well, so they like just about everything about it,” says Sinha.

But, he adds, “a lot of teachers don’t understand or even have misconceptions about the changes, or maybe understand at a first level and are reserving judgment – that’s who we want to eventually reach.”

Sinha says the Common Core sets out the basic outline of how things should go, but teachers will have “plenty of opportunity to innovate, and then all the greater ability to share” what they are doing and how students are responding – not just with teachers in their own buildings or school districts, but with teachers across the country.

-by Aria Seligmann, UO Office of Strategic Communications