James Burnett

Rigor in Math: A Balanced Approach

Rigor in math is a balancing act!

What ISN’T rigor?

When discussing the idea of rigor in math it’s easy to conclude that educators still seem unsure of how to define rigor and therefore how best to identify classroom resources that offer activities that can be classified as being truly rigorous. Defining rigor can be challenging so let’s start by describing what it isn’t:

  • It isn’t…simply more word problems.
  • It isn’t…pages and pages of skill practice.
  • It isn’t…pushing kids beyond what’s developmentally appropriate.

What IS rigor?

The Common Core State Standards for math (CCSSM) clearly states that rigor in math includes a balance of procedural skills and fluency, conceptual understanding, and application. It also states that all three aspects should be pursued with “equal intensity.” We want students to know how (procedural skill and fluency), know why (conceptual understanding), and know when (application).

rigor in math
The Dimensions of Rigor

Supporting the Balancing Act

Good curriculum materials that honestly address both the content and intent of the CCSSM offer a clearly defined approach to balancing the dimensions of rigor. The challenge for educators is to find resources (both core and targeted) that truly support this balancing act. Teachers need to know what to look for. Unfortunately, big publishers will focus on materials that look FAMILIAR, are EASY, and require little to NO change as described in this video.

I believe that not all districts want SAFE and FAMILIAR. If the approach doesn’t change, then the results won’t change. I advocate for an approach that is not typical of most math programs. Start by looking for evidence of the Standards for Mathematical Practice. Click on the Resource Hub link below to download a checklist that details what we know about how students learn mathematics.

A resource that features these key elements will provide the best opportunities for teachers to provide a better balance of the three aspects of rigor – mathematical understanding, procedural skill and fluency, and application. It’s time to stop preparing our students for yesteryear’s economy and make a change for good.

supporting instructional change 3

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About ORIGO Education

ORIGO Education is dedicated to making learning meaningful, enjoyable and accessible for all students with Pre-K and Elementary print and digital instructional materials, as well as professional learning for mathematics.

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