Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 07 2012

Video Lesson on Common Core Standards Doesn’t Even Address the Standard

I was just browsing through videos of teachers implementing the Common Core standards and found on one proportions that I thought was worth mentioning here. Some of the Calculus students I work with still struggle with proportions.

When I say struggle, I don't mean that they don't know how to cross multiply, but that they struggle to define what it means for two quantities to be proportional or identify a situation where two quantities are proportional.

In the video on proportions a teacher helps students review how to cross multiply by creating a game that they find engaging and fun. If you want, watch it and see what you think before reading on to see how I interpreted it.







…did you watch it?…..










What did you think? I believe this is a prime example of sending the message that math is not fun or interesting, so we need to spice it up by walking around the room. The problems the students were solving were boring, they liked the activity because they could walk around, race their friends and interact with peers.

I’m not saying that games are bad, and getting kids out of their seats is great, but sometimes I feel that teachers have to exploit kids desire to be social to get them to do really boring repetitive problems. Perhaps this teacher had a great conceptual lesson on proportions the day before and the kids are just practicing a procedure, but based on national test scores I'm going to guess that her students will probably end up like the majority of middle school students who can cross multiply but don't demonstrate proportional reasoning.

This video could have been useful to demonstrate games and activities, but it doesn’t seem to me to have a place on the common core website as this teacher is not promoting the standards of mathematical practice as I interpreted them.

In fact, the standard that the video is supposed to be about asks students to determine if two quantities are proportional and involves interpreting proportionality in a real-world or mathematical context. Nowhere do the standards tell the teacher to teach students the procedure for cross-multiplication without connections.

The students are following a procedure without thinking about its meaning, interpreting it, applying it, etc. I don’t see the math in the lesson. I see kids running around moving numbers around.

PS. For great, research based, free resources on fractions that exemplify what I’d rather see in schools go to the Rational Number Project. Mathinaz sent me an amazing email about how well they worked for her students and I know how brilliant the authors are.

5 Responses

  1. Hi Cameron,

    I work at Teaching Channel and I came across your blog post. You make a very valid and thoughtful point in this post. It is so important for educators to engage in dialogue and discussion, especially regarding the new Common Core Standards. How would you feel about bringing this directly to our site and posting it as a comment under the video?

    • Ms. Math

      Hi Julia,
      Thanks so much for your comment! I really appreciate your belief in having dialogue around the new standards, even though I was critical of the video on your website. I think that as we start to implement the Common Core it will be so critical to gently push back on teachers who are doing the same thing they have always done without making substantial changes to their practice.

      I would love it if you post it and I’m going to add a PS to the original post with a place teachers can go to find better materials on proportional reasoning.

      I am going to continue to watch videos this year and analyze the quality of mathematical instruction. It might be interesting to analyze more secondary math videos on the teaching channel-I’d thought of doing posts on Khan videos as well.


      Feel free to get in touch about Common Core and video resources:
      cameron.byerley “at” gmail

  2. T

    Hmmm. This is very interesting. I’m not a math teacher, but I am a teacher who always enjoyed/was good at math. I think you definitely have a valid point. There NEEDS to be mathematical reasoning, and it is sorely missing from many classrooms today.

    That being said, I also really value this video and disagree that it is gimmicky to a fault. Is there a bit of flashiness here? Sure, but I know successful teachers in ALL subjects who use fun exercises like this. The truth is, not all students are going to like all subjects, so you need to keep things interesting for the kids who don’t like your subject. Plus, teenagers – particularly teenage boys – have a lot of difficulty sitting in class for long periods of time. I find that my boys are much more focused during structured activities in which they can move around

    Provided that exercises like this one are balanced with true mathematical analysis and reasoning and that the gimmicky activities have a real educational purpose, I see no problem with this teacher’s methodology.

    • Hi T,

      I work at Teaching Channel. We welcome and encourage this type of conversation on the Teaching Channel site. It would be great If you could you add a comment on our site under the video!

    • Ms. Math

      I see no issue with it, except that it shouldn’t be used by a prominent website to display what it means to teach a standard the activity doesn’t address. Teachers need help seeing what it means to teach these standards.

Post a comment

About this Blog

Learning more about life than math…

Las Vegas Valley
High School

Subscribe to this blog (feed)