Meeting the Challenges of the New TEKS for Mathematics
by Marian Rainwater, M.Ed.
Each school year brings new opportunities and new challenges. The coming school year is no exception. Teachers in grades K–8 will implement the revised TEKS for Mathematics.
These new standards represent a major revision in the mathematics curriculum, and effective implementation will require thoughtful planning, ongoing professional development, and closely aligned resources.
The revised TEKS outline substantial changes in the math skills and concepts identified for each grade level. Although some concepts such as probability have been shifted up to the middle school level, there are many more concepts that have been shifted down in the curriculum. For example, many fraction and decimal operations have been shifted from grades 6 and 7 to grades 4 and 5. Likewise, some Algebra I concepts have been shifted to the middle school level.
The changes in the standards will definitely influence classroom instruction, but will also influence assessment, including STAAR. In the first year of implementation of new standards, the state test is usually designed to be an “overlap” test that assesses the concepts and skills that are present in both the old and the new standards. However, TEA announced in February 2014 that there will be no overlap test in 2015 for this new set of standards. The 2015 STAAR will be totally aligned to the new standards.
What can schools do to prepare for the new standards?
Here are some steps to consider.
1. Examine and unpack the standards. Teachers should examine the vertical alignment and related skills taught in previous grade levels. They need to identify gaps in learning that may be created by the change of standards and determine how these gaps will be addressed. Since the standards are written in formal mathematics language, teachers, with the help of a campus or district math specialist, might want to restate the standard to clarify the meaning.
2. Provide ongoing professional development. Classroom teachers will need training on both the math content and on effective ideas and strategies for teaching the new content. For example, dot plots and stem-and-leaf plots have been added in grades 4 and 5. Teachers will need training on how to construct, use, and interpret data from these plots as well as tips on how to effectively teach these concepts to children. Teachers will need common times to review standards and plan for instruction. Training should take place in vertical teams as well as grade level strands.
3. Establish instructional practices. Focused, aligned instruction, assessment, and reinforcement are essential for maximum student achievement. Instructional teams should determine the new resources needed for effective instruction. These resources may include print materials, technology-based materials, or manipulatives. For example, students in grade 4 are now expected to find the measure of an angle using a protractor (formerly a grade 6 skill). As a result, one new resource needed in grade 4 classrooms is a set of protractors. In addition, instructional materials should be examined to determine if all student expectations are adequately addressed, and decisions should be made on how to supplement the materials to address any gaps that are found.
4. Prepare for assessments. Educators should select practice materials that are deeply aligned to the readiness and supporting standards of the revised TEKS. Targeted interventions for identified areas of need should be planned and provided.
5. Build parent and community support. Mathematics has often been described as the critical filter for the selection of college majors and careers. Parents and community members should be made aware of the new standards and the increased rigor and focus that will be present in mathematics classrooms.