The Intersection

Quality Resources to Implement the Mathematics Common Core Standards

December 5, 2013


One of the greatest challenges right now in the implementation of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics is determining the quality of resources, materials, and professional learning that claim to be aligned to the standards. Illustrative Mathematics is a website and growing community focused on illustrating the standards with high quality tasks reviewed by a math expert as well as a classroom expert. Illustrative Mathematics is building a community of expertise that writes and reviews tasks, discusses tasks and standards, and works together to better understand strong mathematics instruction.

The idea of Illustrative Mathematics came from the writing of the Common Core Standards. The author team envisioned example tasks to clarify the meaning and nuances of standards but these examples were not finished in time for the publication of the standards document. These examples became the basis for Bill McCallum’s project, The Illustrative Mathematics Project. The project aimed to illustrate the standards with tasks, and at the same time give recognition to the difficult art of task writing and reviewing. The community worked together to determine the necessary pieces of a good task, and formulated criteria for task reviews. As tasks were discussed, reviewed, edited, and revised expertise developed within the community, and The Illustrative Mathematics Project grew into its current form, Illustrative Mathematics. Illustrative Mathematics images a world where people know, use, and enjoy mathematics and we are collaborating together as a community to create that world.

Currently, on the Illustrative Mathematics website you can find more than 800 task illustrations of standards. Tasks are accessible either by clicking through the domains, cluster headings, and standards to the see illustrations links or in a searchable list where it says “Illustrations” on the left navigation bar. Also, available on the website are task, video, vignette, and lesson sketch illustrations for the Standards for Mathematical Practice. The first of the Common Core progressions documents has been illustrated with seven units on teaching fractions, including videos and tasks aligned to each topic. More Common Core progressions documents will be illustrated in the future.

There are many ways to get involved with the Illustrative Mathematics community. All of the tasks are available for free on the website and do not require a login. If you do choose to login, you can up vote your favorite tasks and make public comments on tasks. Additionally, tasks are used as fodder to bring members of the community together virtually. Once a week on Monday nights, community members join a Task Talk via adobe connect, focused on a different task every week. At least once a month community members come together to think about a particular standard, and then write and review tasks related to that standard in a WebJam. Illustrative Mathematics offers professional development for teachers across the country, bringing together our community of expertise with our illustrative tasks to start conversations and inspire teachers. In-person workshops are available in single day and multi-day formats either in pre-made or tailor-made versions and can be browsed on the website from the left navigation bar where is says “New! Professional Development for teachers.

Determining the quality of a product and its alignment to the Common Core is not only one of the most difficult tasks at this stage of implementation, but also one of the most important. Using materials of poor quality helps spread the misconceptions that lead to Common Core resistance. By building a community of individuals dedicated to mathematics education who together think deeply about tasks and the way they are used in the classroom makes Illustrative Mathematics a reliable resource for expertise and quality.

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