Putting Education Reform To The Test

Common Core Math Lessons Designed To Create A “Puzzler’s Disposition”

Training specialist Ilea Faircloth is teaching the teachers how to implement Common Core in their math classes.

Ilea Faircloth/StateImpact Florida

Training specialist Ilea Faircloth is teaching the teachers how to implement Common Core in their math classes.


“Wah wah wah.”



That’s how math teachers training in Common Core standards this week near Pensacola described their own childhood math lessons.

These teachers are learning how to make math an interactive, engaging experience for students under the new Common Core State Standards.

They were led by Ilea Faircloth, a staff training specialist for Bay County schools.

“With Common Core, if we are implementing the math practices with fidelity and to the intent of the mathematical Common Core writers, we are instilling in them the love of mathematics,” Faircloth said. “We are challenging them and pushing them. We’re not giving them answers – we’re making them think.”

And “It’s fun and it’s engaging, and it’s not boring,” Faircloth said.

Teachers in this training session are learning techniques that Faircloth says will work for students of all ages.

Common Core will have kids thinking out loud, discussing solutions with each other, and explaining their answers.   Florida is among 45 states that have fully adopted Common Core State Standards, a new way of teaching that goes in depth on fewer subjects. The goal is to get American students on a more level playing field with their international peers.

The standards are designed to reach every “type” of learner – some are visual learners, while others just need to listen. The learning process will involve moving, doing, listening, and seeing.

Here are some examples of how math classes will change under the new standards:

Make sense of the meaning of the task: “If a child is proficient in making sense of problems and persevering and solving them, you’re not going to give them a word problem or any kind of mathematical task and they’re not going to look at you and say I can’t do this,” Faircloth said. “That’s what we typically have now.”

Develop a foundation for problem solving strategy: “Instead of giving kids a worksheet of ten problems saying – here, do these problems – what would be a more effective way of doing it for Common Core,” Faircloth asked. “Give them tools.” Simple questions will make way for more complicated ones that will have to be talked out.

Reexamine the task when they’re stuck. Train students to ask whether their answer makes sense. “They should have a puzzler’s disposition,” Faircloth said. “Just like they do at home with a puzzle, transfer that to mathematics. They should keep going and never give up. That’s your persevere and problem solving.”

Faircloth says there will be no more “spoon-feeding” kids the answers.

“We have to develop kids to be global. That is the whole purpose of Common Core – college and career ready,” Faircloth said. “We have to stop doing a disservice to them and giving them simple problems.”

Florida has one more year to get ready, with full implementation of Common Core scheduled to begin in the 2014-15 school year.

“When you look at Common Core and what we know about best practices with teaching,” Faircloth said, “students learning and being able to self-reflect and self-analyze and being in the driver’s seat so to speak – that, we know, is best practice. Kids learn more that way.”


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