The Core Smore

Getting to the 'Core' of Reading and Math in Region 1

Filling Your Toolbox

Kelly Sigler and Diane Royer are consultants for Heartland Area Education Agency in Region One. This newsletter is a collaborative effort to provide strategies for filling your Core toolbox.

Portrait of a Literate Student

What will it look like when my students are literate?

The Iowa Core document lays out a 'portrait' of sorts for identifying core competencies that students will exhibit with increasing fullness and regularity from grades K-12. This month, I'll be sharing with you that overall portrait - I'll then be highlighting a couple of these competencies each month for the rest of this school year, along with sharing some ideas for implementing best practices in literacy and a few strategies and resources that may be helpful in the classroom setting.

So, what will it look like when my students are literate?

  • They demonstrate independence.

- Students read complex text independently, and question and clarify information. As self-directed learners, they seek appropriate resources (teacher assistance, peers, print and digital media) to increase understanding.

  • They build strong content knowledge.

- As purposeful readers, viewers, and listeners, students use research to increase their general and content-specific knowledge and understanding. They share knowledge through writing and speaking.

  • They respond to the varying demands of audience, task, purpose, and discipline.

- Students shift tone, word choice, and selection of evidence to best fit the writing context.

  • They comprehend as well as critique.

- Students understand material, and they question the veracity and bias of their sources.

  • They value evidence.

- Students evaluate evidence and use it to effectively construct arguments.

  • They use technology and digital media strategically and capably.

- Navigating media to find useful information, integrate online and offline sources, and choosing resources wisely is a strength of literate individuals in the 21st century.

  • They come to understand other perspectives and cultures.

- Students seek to understand other cultures, communicate with others, and evaluate perspectives of themselves and others.

As you can see, these are all competencies that can be achieved in Kindergarten as well as 12th grade, albeit at different rates and depths. Every teacher, regardless of grade level or content area specialty, should be striving to ensure that their students are given opportunities to strengthen their overall literacy proficiency on a daily basis. As mentioned previously, I'll be breaking down each area more specifically in future newsletters, as well as providing you with tools and resources to begin implementing best practices! Until then, if you have questions or needs that I can assist you with in your district, please feel free to contact me at any time!

- Kelly

Standards for Mathematical Practice

What are the Standards for Mathematical Practice?

The Standards for Mathematical Practice (SMPs) describe varieties of expertise that mathematics educators at all levels should seek to develop in their students. These practices rest on important “processes and proficiencies” with longstanding importance in mathematics education.

Each grade level overview in the Iowa Core for Mathematics document lists the Standards for Mathematical Practices. They are:

1) Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.

2) Reason abstractly and quantitatively.

3) Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.

4) Model with mathematics.

5) Use appropriate tools strategically.

6) Attend to precision.

7) Look for and make use of structure.

8) Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

This month, I will break the SMPs down into plain English. In upcoming months, the focus will be on two SMPs per month including descriptions, engagement ideas, and student dispositions. No matter what your objectives, textbook, or grade level, the SMPs are a guide to good math instruction.

What do the SMPs mean? I'm so confused!

So, what are the SMPs? How can you explain them in really easy to understand terms? Here goes:

Let’s say I, Amy, ask Shaun to go get me a sandwich for lunch. Let’s see how he figures out how to do this using the SMPs.

1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them: Shaun has to ask himself, “I wonder what kind of sandwich she wants.” Then he has to figure out where to go get the sandwich.

2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively: Shaun says to himself, “I’m pretty sure Amy will want only a 6-inch sandwich, and only one... not 20 sandwiches.”

3. Construct a viable argument and critique the reasoning of others: Shaun tells Kelly that he’s going to get me a veggie sandwich. Kelly tells him he should really get me some chicken noodle soup and a salad. Shaun replies, “I disagree with you, Kelly. Amy’s a vegetarian and she doesn’t eat chicken. I think I’ll stick with the veggie sandwich, but you are right about the salad. She’s always watching her caloric intake and she likes salad. I will pick one up.”

4. Model with mathematics: Shaun pulls out a piece of paper and creates a table with all the ingredients he knows I want on my sandwich to hand to the clerk at the deli. And then, just for fun, he draws a diagram of how it should be constructed.

5. Use appropriate tools strategically: Realizing that the deli has an app, Shaun pulls out his smartphone, downloads the app, and uses it to place the order ahead of time. Then he uses a map to find the best route to the deli.

6. Attend to precision: Just to make sure the deli gets the order right, Shaun calls and speaks to the clerk. He states, “Be sure to include 3 tomato slices and 6 avocado slices--and yellow mustard, not Dijon.”

7. Look for and make use of structure: This SMP has students use what they already know to solve problems. Shaun says to himself, “I already know that the deli has a meal deal where you can get a sandwich and a side. I’ll order that for Amy.”

8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning: Shaun checks himself. He wants to use a strategy he’s already used and check for reasonableness. He steps back, realizes he’s ordered sandwiches from this deli before and knows a shortcut how to get there, he checks the order to make sure it’s correct before submitting it through the app, and then heads off to get me lunch.

What a good friend!*

I look forward to going more in depth with these standards in future newsletters, as well as providing you with relevant tools and resources for implementation. If you see a need in your district or building in the meantime, please feel free to contact me any time!

- Diane

*Adapted from "Academics / Eight Mathematical Practices." 2013. <>