The Decimal Institute is winding down. This week, I have a short post outlining the relationship between our discussion these past weeks and the Common Core State Standards (with links). Then next week we will wrap up with a summary of what I have learned and an invitation to participants to share their own learning.
The Common Core State Standards build decimals from the intersection of fraction and place value knowledge. Fractions are studied at third grade and fourth grade before decimals are introduced in fourth:
Use decimal notation for fractions with denominators 10 or 100. For example, rewrite 0.62 as 62/100; describe a length as 0.62 meters; locate 0.62 on a number line diagram.
One of the issues we have been wrestling with in the Institute has been how much decimals are like whole numbers and how much they are like fractions. In light of this conversation, I found the following statements about comparisons interesting.
- CCSS.Math.Content.1.NBT.B.3 Compare two two-digit numbers based on meanings of the tens and ones digits, recording the results of comparisons with the symbols >, =, and <.
- CCSS.Math.Content.2.NBT.A.4 Compare two three-digit numbers based on meanings of the hundreds, tens, and ones digits, using >, =, and < symbols to record the results of comparisons.
- CCSS.Math.Content.4.NBT.A.2 Read and write multi-digit whole numbers using base-ten numerals, number names, and expanded form. Compare two multi-digit numbers based on meanings of the digits in each place, using >, =, and < symbols to record the results of comparisons.
These all refer to comparisons of whole numbers—at grades 1, 2 and 4. Comparisons of decimals appear at grades 4 and 5. For example:
- CCSS.Math.Content.4.NF.C.7 Compare two decimals to hundredths by reasoning about their size. Recognize that comparisons are valid only when the two decimals refer to the same whole. Record the results of comparisons with the symbols >, =, or <, and justify the conclusions, e.g., by using a visual model. [emphasis added]
The phrase, Recognize that comparisons are valid only when the two decimals refer to the same whole, struck me as odd. If I am comparing 0.21 to 0.5, I need to make the whole clear, but if I compare 21 to 5, I do not?
This seems to be an overcommitment to decimals being like fractions rather than like whole numbers. Or not enough of a commitment to the ambiguity of whole numbers.
In any case, the treatment of decimals in the Common Core State Standards is probably one of the major challenges for U.S. elementary teachers, who may be accustomed to curriculum materials that emphasize the place value similarities of decimals to whole numbers rather than the partitioning similarities to fractions.
I will provide some examples of pre-Common Core U.S. curriculum in the Canvas discussion to support this claim. Join us over there, won’t you?
Non-U.S. teachers, please share with us your observations about how these standards relate to curricular progressions you are using. An international perspective will be quite useful to all of us.
And please start thinking about what you can do in the coming weeks to share/demonstrate/document/extend your learning from our time together. Consider it your tuition to the Institute.