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This is Fordham’s review of the state’s standards in place prior to adopting the Common Core. To return to our review of the common core standards (which this state has adopted), click here.
Mississippiâ€™s standards are well organized and concise. In the elementary grades, arithmetic is moderately prioritized, but the development is not quite rigorous enough. The high school material covers much of the essential content, including STEM-ready content.
The standards are organized into five content strands such as Number and Operations and Measurement. Grade-level standards are provided through seventh grade, and then, from eighth grade on, standards are presented by course rather than by grade.
For each grade or course, the strands have broad â€œcompetencyâ€ statements which are subdivided into more specific â€œObjectives.â€ It is the latter that are treated here as standards.
Also provided are five process standards, including â€œproblem solvingâ€ and â€œreasoning and proof.â€ According to the state, these process standards should â€œpermeate all instructional practices.â€
Clarity & Specificity
The standards are well presented and generally easy to read. Statements are often concise and clear, such as:
Read and write time to the hour, half-hour, quarter-hour, and five-minute intervals using digital and analog clocks (grade 2) Add and subtract decimals through hundredths (grade 4)
However, some standards are subject to wide interpretation on the part of the reader, such as:
Use a pattern rule to translate and recognize patterns from one pattern representation to another (grade 1) Identify and analyze the relationships between and among points, lines, line segments, angles, and rays (grade 4)
Predict and calculate the volume of prisms (grade 6)
Explain the meaning of multiplication and division of rational numbers (grade 6)
Develop generalizations to characterize the behaviors of graphs (linear, quadratic, and absolute value) (transition to algebra)
These standards do not clearly outline what students are expected to know or what types of problems they are expected to solve.
The lack of specificity in the following standard makes it unclear if inverse trigonometric functions should be covered:
Provide a convincing argument (or proof) regarding the inverse relationship of two functions (Advanced Algebra)
Mississippiâ€™s standards are well presented and generally easy to read with many clear and specific standards. There are, however, some standards that are too broadly stated to interpret, so that the standards â€œdo not quite provide a complete guide to users.â€ (See Mathematics Content-Specific Grading Criteria.) The Clarity and Specificity score is two points out of three. (See Common Grading Metric.)
Content & Rigor
While the state does not explicitly set priorities, the number of standards devoted to particular content areas communicates implicit priorities. In Mississippi, fewer than 40 percent of the standards in the crucial elementary grades are devoted to arithmetic, which prioritizes this essential content only moderately well.
The structure of arithmetic is emphasized. For example, the inverse nature of addition and subtraction appears in all grades 2-7, and commutativity in all grades 3-7.
The high school content is often strong. Examples include the following important standards for manipulative skills, quadratic equations, and geometry:
Add, subtract, multiply, and divide polynomial expressions (Transition to Algebra)
Determine the solutions to quadratic equations by using graphing, tables, completing the square, the Quadratic formula, and factoring (Algebra I)
Classify triangles and apply postulates and theorems to test for triangle inequality, congruence, and similarity (Geometry)
The development of arithmetic is inadequate, in part because automaticity with basic number facts is not explicitly required.
In addition, although there are some clear expectations for whole-number arithmetic, the development is sometimes weak. Specifically, fluency with the standard algorithms is not specified. The development of multiplication is illustrated in the following standards:
Model multiplication using arrays, equal-sized groups, area models, and equal-sized moves on the number line (grade 3)
Explain two or more methods of multiplying whole numbers (one and two-digits) with justification (grade 4)
Multiply four-digit numbers by two-digit numbers (including whole numbers and decimals) (grade 6)
The grade 6 standard above is desirable but not adequately supported by the preceding standard, which mentions â€œtwo or more methodsâ€ and may undermine student mastery of the standard algorithm.
In addition, there is little development of fractions. When fractions are introduced, they are not explicitly introduced as parts of a set or a whole, but with:
Identify and model representations of fractions (halves, thirds, fourths, fifths, sixths, and eighths) (grade 3)
Although fraction arithmetic is expected, methods and procedures, including common denominators, are not mentioned. Fractions are not put on a number line until sixth grade.
The standards are also weak on explicating place value. It is never mentioned specifically, though it appears implicitly as in:
Compose and decompose five-digit numbers and decimal numbers through hundredths, with representations in words, physical models, and expanded and standard forms (grade 4)
The high school content, though generally well covered, is missing some details. These include point-slope form for linear equations, vertex form for quadratic equations, and constructions in geometry. The STEM-ready content is missing inverse trigonometric functions.
Taken together, these critical shortcomings result in a Content and Rigor score of four points out of seven. (See Common Grading Metric.)
THE BOTTOM LINE
With their grade of C, Mississippiâ€™s mathematics standards are mediocre, while those developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative earn an impressive A-minus. The CCSS math standards are significantly superior to what the Magnolia State has in place today.
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