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Common Core Basics

The Common Core: Mathematics

The Common Core State Standards for Mathematics have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. (Learn more about Common Core implementation in your state.) The Standards are not a curriculum. Instead, they provide guidelines for schools to design curricula so that students can develop complex problem-solving skills and achieve college and career readiness. 

Master key concepts

The Standards for Mathematics ask students to spend more time on fewer concepts. Through intensive practice, they will learn to carry out mathematical procedures quickly and accurately. At the same time, they will be challenged to develop a deep understanding of underlying mathematical concepts. Students should not just get the right answer. They should also know why an answer is right.

Be aware of what your child may have struggled with in previous years and how that could affect learning this year. Make sure he gets extra support to develop skills he may be lacking, and keep track of his progress and ability to complete homework assignments. This is important because the Standards ask students to build on their knowledge year after year.

How and why

Since students must spend time practicing lots of problems in the same area to develop speed and accuracy, parents can help by providing the time and encouragement needed to master Math facts and operations. 

You can help your child develop a deeper understanding of key topics by talking Math. When he solves problems, have him explain how he did so. Make sure he always checks his work. Your child should get into the habit of asking, “Does this answer make sense? Why or why not?”

Real-world problem solving

Students must be able to apply Math in real-world situations. This means knowing what mathematical concept to use to solve a particular problem. To give your child extra practice, have him compare the value of products in a store, estimate the tax on a purchase, or calculate the tip at a restaurant. 

The Standards aim to help students see the usefulness of Math in navigating a range of real-world situations, know the value of perseverance in solving a problem, and develop confidence in their ability to arrive at the right solution. 

New assessments

Two consortia, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced, are creating computer-adaptive assessments that will be administered for the first time in the 2014-15 school year. The new assessments will require young people to understand mathematical concepts and solve problems according to their grade level. Students will also be asked to explain their reasoning.

To learn more about the assessments, visit PARCC or Smarter Balanced.  

The Common Core: English Language Arts

The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts (ELA) have been adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia. (Learn more about Common Core implementation in your state.) The Standards are not a curriculum. Instead, they establish a shared set of expectations to raise achievement for all students and prepare them for college and careers. 

The ELA Standards are divided into three main areas:

  • reading (informational and literary texts)
  • writing (narrative, informative/explanatory, and argument/opinion)
  • speaking and listening. 

Students will be expected to display increasing proficiency in their reading, writing, speaking and listening skills as they progress from grade to grade. Here are ways you can support your child’s learning at home.

Cultivate a love of reading

The Standards call for students to read increasingly complex texts. Reading for pleasure is the best way to help your child see the value of exploring new worlds and new words, and to progress to more challenging books. Here are ways to foster a love of reading at home:

  • Provide access to lots of reading material, including books, newspapers and magazines. 
  • Make frequent visits to the library. Let your child choose books that are of interest to her. Books that reinforce the content she is learning in school will be particularly beneficial, allowing her to build knowledge and vocabulary systematically.
  • Read aloud together each evening, in whatever language you feel comfortable. Ask questions about what you read, calling attention to new vocabulary. If your child doesn't know an answer, have her delve into the text again for clues.
  • Encourage your child to imagine what might happen to the characters in the stories you read together. (For more ideas, see 10 Tips for Parents.)

Focus on informational texts

The ELA Standards emphasize the reading of informational texts in a variety of subject areas. This includes magazine articles, diaries, speeches, essays, scientific articles and legal documents. The shift doesn’t make literature less important, but it does mean that students will read a variety of texts arranged according to topics so as to accelerate knowledge and vocabulary acquisition. 

Text complexity and the power of reading aloud

The Common Core calls for students to read texts of increasing complexity as they progress from grade to grade. Some of the texts may feel daunting at first. One way to help your child handle challenging books is to read aloud, since listening skills develop more quickly than reading comprehension skills. Reading aloud can also help reluctant readers enjoy books and gain confidence. Remember that although complexity is important, your child should still have time to read for fun.  

Talk about books 

Speaking and writing about texts of all kinds—books, articles and documents—is a focal point of the Common Core. You can help your child by asking questions about the books he is reading in school. Tell him about interesting books and articles that you may be reading. And try to incorporate literacy into everyday activities by calling attention to traffic signs, following recipes together and asking questions about what you see at the supermarket or the store.

Three types of writing 

The Standards call for students to develop skills in three main types of writing: narrative, informational/explanatory, and argument. The more kids read and write, the stronger their writing will become. Present writing to your child as something creative and fun. Write stories, plays or songs together. You can even create how-to guides for something you both enjoy doing. 

New standardized tests

Two groups, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced, are creating computer-adaptive assessments that will be administered for the first time in the 2014-15 school year. The assessments will focus on a student's ability to read and analyze a variety of grade-appropriate texts.

For information about your state's assessments and to view sample items, visit the PARCC or Smarter Balanced website. 

10 Tips for Parents

Here are 10 ways to support learning at home.

  1. Make reading a fun adventure by reading aloud to your child each evening.
  2. Ask and answer questions about the books you read together. Take turns asking and answering such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how. Help your child find evidence in the text that supports the answers.
  3. Choice is a powerful motivator. Let your child choose a book that inspires him or her. Suggest topics or books that you think will be of special interest.
  4. Nonfiction books, in particular, feed young, curious minds. They also help kids develop knowledge and vocabulary.
  5. Make connections between words, ideas and events. Look for the rich connections in nonfiction and literary texts—big ideas and details, causes and effects, and steps in a process. For example, ask your child to explain the different stages an animal goes through as it grows up.
  6. Help your child learn the “smart words” to know. Use clues on the page or look in a book’s glossary to reinforce key vocabulary.
  7. Pictures can say as much as words. Spend extra time looking at photos, illustrations, diagrams and maps. Often, the picture helps explain the words, or it gives extra information that enriches the text.
  8. Read about it. Write about it. Ask your child to describe in words what he or she sees in a picture.
  9. Talk about books with your child—and make the conversations count.
  10. Nonfiction doesn’t just live between the covers of a book. Take your child to a zoo, gaze at the stars at night, or study a bug. Have fun!

For more on how to bring nonfiction into your child’s daily live, visit scholastic.com/discovermore.

The Common Core in Your State

Learn about Common Core implementation in your state.