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Elementary Mathematics

Seattle Public Schools believes in the brilliance of every child. Providing a diversity of learning experiences, sharing a diversity of ideas, and learning from a diversity of solutions allows all of us to uncover that brilliance and let each student shine.

  1. Learning is a social experience that requires discourse and the use of language to organize thinking.
  2. The development of problem-solving and communication skills is of primary importance in math and in the 21st century.
  3. Mathematical learning results from a struggle to make sense of how we arrive at answers , not from answers themselves. This is often referred to as Productive Struggle.
  4. A variety of strategies and representations in math makes problem-solving more authentic and meaningful to individuals.

We recognize that mathematics is the fundamental legacy of human development and that math education is a fundamental human right.

We also recognize that the racial stereotypes around math education are persistent.

We in Seattle Public Schools work to provide culturally responsive teaching that recognizes the brilliance of our students of color, makes math relevant to their lives, and strives to create a welcoming classroom that honors the strengths that each student brings to the class.  Practicing two-way communication with families, sharing instructional power with students, developing a growth mindset, and creating welcoming environments for students and families are steps we are taking to undo the historical status of whiteness in the classroom. 

We will no longer allow some of the brightest minds in our schools to be marginalized in mathematics. The contributions of People of Color to mathematics are enormous and we recognize that our students will carry on that tradition.

The key components of the Seattle Public Schools math block are:

  1. Whole Group Math Discussions – an opportunity for all students to participate in an open-ended exploration of ideas.
  2. Whole Group Math Instruction – time for teachers to guide learning in a new or specific direction.
  3. Partner and Independent work – Students learn more when they have an opportunity to try out ideas, explain themselves to peers, and revise their thinking.
  4. Small Group Instruction – An opportunity for teachers to offer more personalized instruction.
  5. Sharing and Reflection – A time to review the learning of the day and for students to reflect on how they feel about their success.

More about differentiating the math block can be found in the Comprehensive Math Framework (opens in a new window)

Rigor in math includes a balance of fluency and procedural skills; conceptual understanding; and application. All three aspects should be pursued with “equal intensity.” Students should 

  • know why – have conceptual understanding of properties and operations not just memorization.
  • know how – using procedural skill and fluency to access more complex concepts.
  • know when – to apply correct concepts and procedures and use math flexibly to solve problems.

A strong elementary math education rests on all three pillars:

Rigor in Math

Students will work to form habits that make a mathematical mindset.

These are often called the Standards for Math Practice and they include: using math to model authentic situations, persevere in solving problems, constructing viable arguments, and critiquing the reasoning of others.

Learning Standards are for all of us: students, principals, community partners, teachers, families, and the public.  They define what is important for students to know and be able to do as they progress through school. Standards ensure an equitable education for all students and promote consistency in what is taught to students across our district.

Our Washington State Math Standards are based on the Common Core of math standards – and are held in common with most of the country (40 out of 50 states, plus Washington DC). 

The Common Core Standards are a set of goals for students at each grade level.  The Common Core is not a curriculum or a set of math problems or a style of teaching.

CCSS Adoption

The Seattle Public Schools adopted math instructional material for grades K – 5 is Math in Focus.

Math in Focus is based on the Singapore method of teaching mathematics. In this approach students systematically move from concrete understanding to pictorial representations, to abstract understanding and representations.

Access to the online Math in Focus family content is through this page. (opens in a new tab)

Check with your school librarian for the password or email Elissa Farmer (