Elevating Student Engagement

Before 2020, the elementary mathematics classroom focused on student learning through whole and small group instruction. We encouraged communication as students solved real-world, rich-mathematical problems through a variety of questioning techniques. During this time, teachers embedded the processes of doing mathematics alongside the content students were learning. The elementary mathematics world was abuzz with the efforts of the standards, processes, and classroom structures. For many classrooms, gone were the days of learning in isolation. Mathematics classrooms became vibrant, loud, and curious places.

Fast forward to → 2024.

Elementary mathematics classrooms still include teachers and students solving real-world, rich-mathematical problems. Teachers and students still explore mathematics through questioning and discourse. Content is still being taught through whole and small group instruction. But, recently, while working in classrooms with students and teachers, it was obvious that students were doing much of their learning on their devices… isolation as the technology was driving the learning. This grade 3 classroom was quiet of student voice, yet the pitter-patter of the keyboards was deafening.

What were the students so intently working on? In 2023, is this the student engagement we envision? What happened to the student voice as they explored new ideas and connections to mathematics? How might students represent their thinking? While these questions may swirl in our heads, deeper observation in other classrooms became strikingly obvious. What was missing…

The Standards for Mathematical Practice (SMP)!

Since the onset of the CCSS, the Practices have been embedded within the Content Standards. Many states have adapted a version of the Standards for Mathematical Practice to include in their content standards. (For example: Process Standards in Texas) Regardless of the adaptations that states make with the Content and Process Standards, the processes for doing mathematics are alive and well going into 2024.

How might teachers embed the SMP’s and Process Standards into their current realities of students learning mathematics through devices?

Begin with intent.

What is the intent of the learning experience? If the intent is for students to play a game that reinforces ‘math facts,’ then how might we encourage students to ‘Attend to Precision’ or ‘Model with Mathematics,’ or better yet ‘Look for and Make Use of Structure?’ Let’s look at some examples!

A doubling strategy can be used to multiply 7 x 8 =. Anytime a number is multiplied by 2, 4, 8 (even 16 and 32…) double the number being multiplied.

It may sound like this, “double 7 is 14, 14 doubled is 28, and 28 doubled is 56, 7 multiplied by 8 is 56.”

Students can use this strategy for any number being multiplied by 2, 4, 8 and beyond.

How might we embed the SMP’s into a game the students are playing?

Ask questions that prompt the SMP’s.

  • How might you model what happens to a number when it is doubled?
  • What do you notice about numbers as they are doubled, and doubled, and doubled?
  • What might you wonder about any number being multiplied by 2, 4, 8?
  • When listening to your friend ‘double,’ what numbers are you listening for?

Download an example from ORIGO Stepping Stones


Post the SMP’s (Process Standards).

Make the SMP’s come alive in your classroom by posting and referring to them during whole and small group instruction. The SMP’s use the same language from Kindergarten through grade 12, how they look in each grade level differs. A kindergartener ‘Attending to Precision’ while counting to 5 or 10 is a bit different than the grade 3 students doubling by 2, 4, 8. However, they are still having to ‘Attend to Precision.’ The same can be said about the ways in which students ‘Model with Mathematics.’

Elevate Engagement.

Technology attracts students. How might technology empower the teaching and learning of mathematics?

Encourage students to interact with one another while playing a math game on their device. Ask questions that support the processes of doing mathematics. Teach students to reflect and show us their thinking.

An elementary mathematics classroom can be a vibrant, discussion filled, enthusiastic and meaningful place. The Standards for Mathematical Practice (Process Standards) serve as a catalyst for teachers to elevate student engagement!

Rob Nickerson

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Rob Nickerson | Learning Services Educator

ORIGO Education

ORIGO Education has partnered with educators for over 25 years to make math learning meaningful, enjoyable and accessible to all.

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