in math is recognized by educators as being key to later success in life. The
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) has set ten content standards
for the teaching and learning of mathematics from prekindergarten through
The standards in this series refer to the entire range of grades.
Examples, however, are for prekindergarten to second grade, which includes the
grade I teach.
The NCTM publication Principles and Standards for School Mathematics
has complete explanations of these. For more information, you may visit NCTM at
Bullet points are quotations from the publication. Underneath them are my
suggestions for parents.
principles and standards, part 9
The instructional programs should enable all students to:
and use connections among mathematical ideas;
how mathematical ideas interconnect and build on one another to produce a
and apply mathematics in contexts outside of mathematics.
It is through this standard that children will form a relationship
between mathematical ideas that they have learned on their own and those that
are formally taught in school. It is particularly important because it is
through this standard that they build an understanding that math is useful in
When I meet readers of my columns, I frequently get comments from
families about the one I wrote just before Halloween a few years ago. It was
about estimating pumpkin seeds the pumpkin that the family was carving. In this
activity, I suggest that family members contribute their own guesses as to the
number of pumpkin seeds from the pumpkin.
After all the guesses are made, they begin counting the seeds. After a
while, though, the counting stops and everyone has an opportunity to change her
or his guess. Contributing a new guess several times is an example of the use of
this standard, as the family members are able to refer to the number that they
have counted and use that information to refine their estimate.
Parents can help by making themselves aware of the countless
opportunities available to use math vocabulary and see things mathematically in
family activities: by comparing objects and quantities, by seeing the shapes and
patterns in their environments, and, above all, by showing how math is useful in
their daily lives.