The eight Standards for Mathematical Practice, often called the math practice standards, are part of the Common Core. Don’t get confused as they are referred to in so many ways: the math practices, the standards for mathematical practice, the SMPs, or the MPs. They all mean the same thing! Most often I see them referred to as MP1, MP2, and so on. Whether you are a fan of Common Core or not, these math practice standards will help your students think mathematically, conceptualize math, and become better problem solvers. Here are two ways I have started using them in my classroom.
First I keep a simple list of the eight mathematical practice standards. Most lists you find online have large explanations following each of them. I find it most helpful to keep this short list posted near my desk and in my plan book so I can refer to it often. I also print a large format poster of these for my classroom so students and I can discuss them in class.
Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them
Reason abstractly and quantitatively
Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others
Model with mathematics
Use appropriate tools strategically
Attend to precision
Look for and make use of structure
Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning
When you make a poster for your class make sure it is big enough for all students to read from across the room. That’s another thing I have found with many of the posters available online. They are cluttered and hard to read. What I need during the lesson is a simple list to foster student discussion.
Places that might be able to make the poster for you include your school department central office which may have a large format printer. Often town planning departments, departments of public works, or building departments have these printers for printing maps or blueprints. If all else fails, you can go to your local copy shop to enlarge one of the downloadable files below.
Another way to make use of the list is to have students paste a copy in their daily math journals so that they can refer to during class or at home. This is particularly helpful if you cannot readily print a large poster of the practice standards, It’s nice for students to always have this reference handy. One of the downloads below is optimized for this purpose.
Second, you are probably already using these practice standards in your class. I find one of the most important things about teaching is identify what you are already doing, naming it, and seeing how it could be applied to the most current trend. What I mean is that you are perhaps already using the standards at least in an unconscious manner. The mathematical practice standards were based on the five National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Process Standards—Problem Solving, Reasoning and Proof, Communications, Connections and Representations. So, you might already be implementing the math practice standards if you the NCTM process standards are an integral part of your math instruction. By identifying and naming the math practices standards you use, you can intentionally highlight their use for your students and focus on stronger implementation.
For example, helping students use correct terminology is part of MP6, Attend to Precision. By simply recognizing this, you can build instruction around this standard. On a day when I focus on this standard during class, I would write MP6 next to my daily objective and refer to it at the beginning and end of the class. Since the math practice standards are posted in my classroom, I don’t need to write it out. Student will know that I am listening, and that they should be listening, for precise use of featured math vocabulary for the day.