Sunday, November 4, 2012

Problem Based Learning for Common Core Math FREEBIE

How many of you are still confused about Common Core? I just learned this week that my state will not test on Common Core for a couple more years. My students will still be tested over the old state standards which I'm no longer teaching. CRAZY! I think the thing that concerns me more than anything is the differences I'm seeing in implementation.  The literacy seems to be consistent across the board BUT the MATH is has me very concerned. I've been trained exclusively in the Problem Based Learning (PBL) method. This is a stark difference from the old way of teaching. Before you had a set of standards that you taught and checked off the list. (By the way, I've seen numerous checklist for Common Core on TpT.) The PBL method is the complete opposite of the checklist method. The skill and drill is definitely OUT with this method. Students are asked to solve  real-world problems. Students will use various methods for solving the problem and no one way is correct. Teachers will no longer teach students a set of rules or algorithms. Students will "discover" these on their on by being immersed in student discourse. The teacher's role will be that of a facilitator. The problem I've been faced with is there is absolutely NOTHING on the market to help with implementing this type of approach, so I was forced to create my own. While spending numerous hours looking at student work samples, I noticed the lack of consistency. In many cases it was hard to even know what answer the child came up with. Even among trained professionals there was disagreement over what the child was thinking. In the PBL method student thinking is the key. Again I came up with a method to help reduce the confusion. I needed to create a standard for solving problems, so we could put our focus on the more important things. That's how the A.L.I.E.N. method came about. The students choose their own method for solving the problem but are then asked to make sure it is in A.L.I.E.N. format, so we get a clear understanding of their thinking. A.L.I.E.N. stands for Answer, Label, Isolate, Explain, and Number Sentence. I love it, and it has helped tremendously when it comes to math discourse.
I've had the opportunity to look at several examples of student assessments for the Common Core Assessment that is coming sooner or later.  If these examples are anything like what the real assessment will be like, those teachers not teaching the PBL method are doomed. Seriously these assessments are ridiculously hard. A child will need a lot more than the ability to add, subtract, multiply, and divide to score proficient. I'm very curious to know if any others states are being trained in the PBL method.

In my freebie for you, I've given you everything you need to implement this method in your classroom. simply click HERE or on the picture above  for your freebie. You can create these problems all on your own. If you are interested, I've created a TpT product with 110 problem sets (3 problems per set) for a total of 330 problems. This is enough problems for an entire year of teaching.I've also included an overview of the method and given you question stems for conferencing with students.  I'm also having a 24 hour Flash Sale for my readers. If you want to pick up a copy from my store, click on the picture below.


  1. Washington State is still testing their old standards. We begin implementing Common Core next school year. I know my district has been looking at how our current curriculum matches Common Core, but that's all we've done.

    1. My state will best testing old standards for two more years, but they still want us to teach Common Core Standards. Crazy!

  2. There is nothing in COmmon Core math standards that requires that Problem Based Learning be the method used. In fact, on p. 5 in the introduction to the CC math standards, it states. "These Standards do not dictate curriculum or teaching methods. For example, just because topic A appears before topic B in the standards for a given grade, it does not necessarily mean that topic A must be taught before topic B. A teacher might prefer to teach topic B before topic A, or might choose to highlight connections by teaching topic A and topic B at the same time. Or, a teacher might prefer to teach a topic of his or her own choosing that leads, as a byproduct, to students reaching the
    standards for topics A and B."

    The Standards for Mathematical Practice (SMP) also do not dictate a particular type of pedagogy. But PD vendors, school districts, administrators and publishers are interpeting CC math standards in this manner. I have written about this in an article in The Atlantic:

  3. I enjoyed reading your article. However, based on the assessment examples we've been given, students will not be prepared to take the test without a change in teaching methods. The examples we've been given require students to apply the math concepts, not merely puke out algorithms.