Georgia educator Demetrius Nelson shares his insights on Georgia’s K-12 Mathematics Standards.
By now, it’s an undisputed fact that the educational landscape across the country has shifted. If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that change is inevitable as we consider new ways of thinking about teaching and learning.
The great state of Georgia is no exception. Since 2008 I’ve taught several versions of our math content standards, from the Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) to the Common Core Standards to the Georgia Standards of Excellence (GSE).
I’ve also been privileged to conduct school- and district-wide training on mathematical practices and interventions to provide instructional insight to cushion the weight of these ever-changing teaching demands.
From these experiences, the common denominator of educator struggle seems to be this: It’s a challenge to let go of old methodologies and embrace new ones. Change is hard, and once again, Georgia educators are tasked with adopting a new set of learning standards.
But not to worry, my fellow Georgia teachers! The new K-12 Mathematics Standards are more aligned with the needs of our students than ever before, with the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) ensuring a citizen-led, student-focused effort with their development. Georgia’s K-12 Mathematics Standards are on schedule for full implementation with updated assessments for back-to-school 2023.
Why Were the Georgia Math Standards Updated?
The new Georgia K-12 Mathematics Standards aim to ensure that children are better prepared for post-high school education and employment—that’s a familiar idea, right? Saying we will make our students “college and career ready” has been a consistent theme for years.
In Georgia, areas such as Content Mastery, Closing Gaps, and Graduation Rate are measured with the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI). We can also, however, consider the importance of 21st-century skills in launching Georgia students to successful post-secondary outcomes.
I would summarize the goals for the new standards thusly: In order for students to become qualified for the future workforce, they must become critical thinkers and problem-solvers. A deep understanding of how saturated mathematics is in everyday life will progress them toward that goal. The new Georgia K-12 Mathematics Standards have been developed to progressively apply critical thinking and problem-solving to all grade levels and math subject areas.
What’s New in the Georgia Math Standards?
Before Georgia educators fully implement the new math standards for the 2023-24 school year, everyone involved—educators, students, caregivers, and community members—must understand what has changed in the transition from the GSE to Georgia’s K-12 Mathematics Standards. Although there are many changes, here are three that stand out to me.
What is slightly new in the Georgia K-12 Mathematics Standards is the emphasis on Mathematical Modeling and Statistical Reasoning throughout all grade levels. Educators can find these frameworks on pages 4-6 of the Transition Resources support guide.
Mathematical Modeling has been incorporated throughout the new standards to show math at work in real-world situations. Now that students are intentionally exposed to these mathematical modeling scenarios, they’ll have the opportunity to become experts at connecting math to everyday life.
For example, I love to see my former 5th-grade students light up when they realize how the order of operations is evident in restaurants. Or when my current 7th graders see how unit rates are utilized when grocery shopping with their parents.
The purpose of incorporating Statistical Reasoning throughout the new standards is to develop students’ sense-making skills through an inquiry-based lens. The term “reasoning” is purposely placed in the actual names of eight out of ten Mathematics Big Ideas:
Data & Statistical Reasoning
Patterning & Algebraic Reasoning
Geometric & Spatial Reasoning
Measurement & Data Reasoning
Functional & Graphical Reasoning
But, my fellow Georgia educators, don’t let these additions intimidate you! The methods, practices, and standards you must integrate at your respective grade level are not new to the Georgia K-12 curriculum. There is some shifting between grade levels which may require some slight adjustments, but this practice is no different from when a teacher moves from one grade level to another. It’s the “same script but with a different cast.”
A refreshing and empowering aspect of these new Georgia math standards is the paradigm shift in how they are presented and practiced, especially the emphasis on the importance of caregiver involvement in their children’s education.
It’s essential that we are culturally sensitive to the learning curve of our students’ caregivers. Since mathematics is a constructive discipline, to build the bridge of knowledge, we must understand the schools of thought in which their caregivers were placed. They, too, are products of their learning environment—the schools they were raised in. The best start in fostering this relationship is respectfully acknowledging the parents’ education.
The GaDOE has considered this with the Transition Resource support guide, which encourages teachers to let students solve problems the best way they know how. Students can use multiple strategies, including those that caregivers and families might be more familiar with.
Now, educators can tell families they can help their children with basic numeracy using the traditional methods they grew up learning while still upholding the rightful standard of true mathematic comprehension.
For example, many caregivers grew up with the idea of “borrowing” when solving multi-digit subtraction problems. Although practices have changed over the years, they can still help their children with this familiar method under the umbrella of understanding these number relationships not as borrowing but as regrouping because you aren’t giving the “borrowed” quantity back.
The new standards and support guides also acknowledge that older students may have learned more traditional problem-solving methods from parents or veteran teachers. For example, students can complete long division problems using multiple strategies: the conventional route of multiply, subtract, and bring down; or the newer partial quotients problem-solving approach.
As a teacher who was taught long division as a child, I wish I had been exposed to the partial quotients strategy! I would have become a whiz with powers of ten and mentally adding large digit numbers. Using traditional, procedural methods encourages family and caregiver involvement, but the partial quotients strategy imparts conceptual knowledge that can truly be a game changer between a child going through the motions of the mathematics to one who is a true math maverick.
And finally, to support teachers with the interpretation and implementation of the new Georgia K-12 Mathematics Standards, the GaDOE provides a great structure for each standard with a section called “Evidence of Student Learning.”
Embedded within each standard’s “Evidence of Student Learning” are descriptions of the fundamentals for each standard, strategies, and methods for instruction, relevance and application to past and future learning, and associated age-appropriate content limits.
I particularly love the age-appropriate content limits because they reduce my stress and anxiety by outlining precisely what students need to know at each grade level. It gives me the freedom to move on to teach other things once these age-appropriate content limits have been reached.
Additionally, if the standards structure layout doesn’t suffice, there is an Explanations of Changes and Improvements that displays a T-chart of the new standards on the left and compares them to the old GSE standards on the right.
This document briefly, but soundly, explains what content aspects were retained. I can appreciate this effort because it gives me some assurance that not all my schema of the mathematics standards I have been so accustomed to teaching will go to waste.
What Are Some Impacts of the New Georgia Math Standards?
One concern of many educators when major academic standards transitions take place is the gap that will inevitably happen for certain grade levels or courses. The transition from the GSE to the Georgia K-12 Mathematics Standards will indeed impact instruction by causing an academic gap when certain content is moved from one grade level to another.
Now, notice that I said academic gap, not achievement gap!
I say this because I believe an academic gap is based on what curriculum writers and policymakers decide is appropriate for students to learn at their respective ages and grade levels.
From there, we place children in often unrealistic and inequitable confines to see if they reach the policymakers’ (but not the students’ or parents’) desired outcomes without providing well-funded instructional supports. If and/or when the students don’t achieve what policymakers expect, they say there’s an achievement gap.
But to me, this isn’t an achievement gap—it’s an academic gap because we haven’t given students and teachers the time or resources to overcome the inevitable holes that will occur with rearranged content standards.
The new Georgia K-12 Mathematics Standards lay a solid foundation for student achievement, and have been designed to enhance critical thinking and problem-solving while adhering to a reasonable amount of content each school year. Let’s make sure we give our educators and students time to adjust and work their magic!
A Bright Future for Georgia Mathematics
Although change is difficult—especially when we’re transforming something as monumental as the Georiga math standards—the students and educators of our great state are up to the challenge.
The new Georgia K-12 Mathematics Standards are repositioned more reasonably so our children can become our ancestors’ wildest dreams: respected, valuable, reflective, and engaging people who not only can count, but do count.
Mr. Demetrius Nelson has been a certified educator for 14 years, primarily in Title One schools, and currently teaches 7th-grade math in the Atlanta, Georgia metro area. He has a bachelor’s degree in Public Speaking and a minor in Music Vocal Performance from Georgia College & State University, a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Concordia University, and an Education Specialist degree in Curriculum & Instruction from Piedmont College. He is also currently attending the University of Georgia to complete his Tier 1 Certification for Educational Leadership, as well as obtaining 3 certifications in Personal and Workplace Wellness, Cross-Cultural Leadership, and Resilient Leadership from the University of South Florida.
Demetrius trains teachers and administrators at state & national education conferences through his LLC, called In-CouragED. One of his passions is to provide support to teachers and school systems in the areas of teacher efficacy, classroom management, and mathematics instruction for K-8.
Demetrius is an advocate for equity for all students and treats his students as if they were his own children. He is the proud father of one son, Evan. In his free time, Demetrius enjoys singing, karaoke, and reading literature about building wealth, black history, entrepreneurship, and inspirational living.Explore more related to this author
The new K-12 Mathematics Standards are more aligned with the needs of our students than ever before, with the Georgia Department of Education ensuring a citizen-led, student-focused effort with their development.
Demetrius Nelson, Georgia Math Educator