Resources and Tools for Elementary Math Specialists and Teachers
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CCSS Practice Standard 5

The importance of strategic choice

Practice Standard 5 requires students to “use appropriate tools strategically.” In the K-5 classroom these might include calculators, paper and pencil, rulers and other measuring tools, manipulatives such as connecting cubes and base ten blocks, spreadsheets and other dynamic software, online applets, and mobile apps. When students make appropriate choices of tools when solving problems, they demonstrate their understanding of the mathematics involved. Some tools, such as number lines and arrays, help children create models that they can apply flexibly to many kinds of problems. These increase the opportunity for students to develop competence with them. More importantly, they lead children to make connections among various topics and develop an understanding of the structure of math.

What are the implications?

Learning to make strategic choices involves having access to a variety of tools, receiving instruction in their proper use, and having adequate opportunity practicing with them to develop proficiency. By becoming sufficiently familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of different tools, children learn to choose those that are most useful for the problem at hand and that add to their understanding of it. Teachers can promote this practice by assigning tasks that favor specific tools and asking students to reflect on how their choices affected what they learned.

How will these resources help?

The articles, blog entries, and videos in this collection provide examples of ways to promote effective use of mathematical tools within the classroom. The Math Toolkit blog entries contain suggestions for creating student toolkits that make mathematical tools more accessible throughout math lessons. The videos present situations in which teachers encourage students to choose appropriate tools to solve problems and to discover their relative strengths and weaknesses. The articles provide more examples of students making thoughtful choices and information about how this practice strengthens mathematical understanding.

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Created:04-25-2014 by bethb
Last Post:04-25-2014 by bethb

Resource Title/Description

This 14-minute Flash presentation explains CCSS Mathematical Practice 5 and illustrates how it applies in the K-5 classroom. It addresses implications such as helping students to become familiar with tools, to have access to a variety of tools, and to be familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of the tools available. Sample problems are included. A transcript of the audio is available for download (pdf).
In this article Jenni Back details the use of manipulatives in the mathematics classroom. She describes the results of research studies and her own observations. She draws the conclusion that students need to have various tools available to them and to use them to make sense of the mathematics, not just to follow a rote procedure. Suggestions for ways to implement manipulative use are included in the article.
In this 15 minute video, Mary Holden and her 4th/5th grade class reason about the appropriateness of different computational methods (base-ten blocks, calculators, mental math, or paper and pencil) to specific problems. The video includes a description of how the teacher manages her multi-level class and encourages hands on exploration and discussion in small group learning sessions. At the conclusion of the video are reflection questions for professional development.
This blog post details 5 steps to implement CCSS Mathematical Practice Standard 5: Use Appropriate Tools Strategically. This post is linked to "Classroom Sneak Peek: Mathematical Practice #5" which is cataloged separately.
This professional development video clip of students engaged in Common Core Practice Standard #5—Use appropriate tools strategically, shows students making estimates of the amount of stain needed for 26 pencil boxes. Mr. Levy presents the class with the problem and a set of tools with which to choose how to solve the problem, the video clips shows the students engaged in problem solving through their interactions with one another and their teacher. Additional resources include a video transcript, teaching tips, and a link to a professional development reflection activity based upon the video.
This professional development video clip of students engaged in Common Core Practice Standard #5- Use appropriate tools strategically. In this video clip first-graders solve a real-world measurement problem by finding the distance from their third floor classroom window to the playground below using standard and non-standard measuring tools. Additional resources include a video transcript, teaching tips, and a link to a professional development reflection activity based upon the video.
This series of nine articles interprets and illustrates each of the eight Mathematical Practices of the Common Core State Standards as they might be exemplified in grades K-5. The final article sheds light on how curriculum needs to connect the Practices with the Content Standards.
On this page of her blog, "Focus on Math: Helping children become mathematicians!," Carollee Norris describes how she begins and develops math toolkits in order to provide her students with materials that help foster power and independence. In followup posts (cataloged separately) she details the contents of the toolkits.
On this page of her blog, "Focus on Math: Helping children become mathematicians!," Carollee Norris details the contents of math toolkits common to grades 1-7. A previous post provides background on the kits, and a followup post describes additional tools for the kits specific to grade bands; both of these posts are cataloged separately.
On this page of her blog, "Focus on Math: Helping children become mathematicians!," Carollee Norris lists additional contents of math toolkits specific to two grade bands: Primary (gr 1-3) and Intermediate (gr 4-7). Previous posts provide background on the kits and a list of tools common to grades 1-7; both posts are cataloged separately.