The purpose for the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM, 2010) and the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (PSSM) can be found in both of their prefaces in their first paragraphs. The PSSM states it “is intended to be a resource and guide for all who make decisions that affect the mathematics education of students in prekindergarten through grade 12. (NCTM, p. ix, 2000)” The CCSSM “provides framework for the grades K-12 mathematics program in Alabama public schools. The content in this document are minimum and required (ALSDE, p. vii, 2010).” Without an in depth reading of these two documents, the titles may be misleading. These two documents have similarities for what define good mathematics education, but they are fundamentally different.
The design of the PSSM is to be a resource for teachers to use during planning of mathematical education programs. When new curriculum is introduced, advanced educational programs, or methods for delivery of information, the PSSM stands as a backdrop what is defined as good practice. It stands in students’ best interest to judge a program on the principles of school mathematics: equity, curriculum, teaching, learning, assessment, and technology. If the design of a program lacks equity for all students, it should be revised. If assessment does not flow through instruction and help inform both teachers and students, it lacks full potential. If adequate time is not given to teachers to encourage reflection, planning, and development of pedagogical strategies administration should take steps to help teaching. The list of check lists for good mathematical education can go on, but the PSSM defines a clear process for a program to be judged and contrasted to others.
The later portion of the PSSM, which could be more easily confused with the CCSSM offers “a comprehensive foundation recommended for all students, rather than a menu from which to make curricular choices.” There are five content and five process standards within the PSSM that describe what students should learn within particular grade bands and “highlight ways of acquiring and using content knowledge” through process standards (p. 29). The five content standards for each grade band relate well to the CCSSM and could easily be correlated; however, the PSSM offers additional process standards that are not seen in the CCSSM. The process standards help teachers understand what should be expected of particular students within a grade band.
The CCSSM offers a set of mathematical items at each grade level that is required to be covered by Alabama state law (Code of Alabama, 1975, §16-35-4). It also requires practice standards that promote good mathematical teaching practice. These mathematical practice standards are written explicitly the same at the beginning of each grade level to make clear their importance. The CCSSM holds a “position” within its document that echoes the PSSM’s principles, but withholds particular discussion found within the PSSM. It is clear when reading the CCSSM and the PSSM, they are written for completely different purposes.
The CCSSM and PSSM have similarities within content standards, but differences on development of these standards and their relationship to one another. The PSSM offers process standards for teachers to use as resources that should help guide instruction of students, while the CCSM does not. The CCSSM outlines clear guidelines of what should be taught, but not how they should be taught. Both documents make clear the principles or positions of mathematics education, while one leaves the vision for accomplishing this goal for the reader and the other helps picture a mathematically rich classroom. Though the two documents are very similar, the projected purpose for both documents is different making them both still useful.
Alabama State Department of Education. (2010). Alabama course of study mathematics: Building
mathematical foundations of college and career readiness. Montgomery, AL: Author.
National Council of Teacher of Mathematics (2000). Principles and standards for school mathematics.
Reston, VA: Author.