You are here

2020 CAS - Mathematics Standards Introduction

Colorado Academic Standards: All Students, All Standards

Standards Online

Interact with the 2020 Standards Online


Purpose of Mathematics

“Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas.”
~Albert Einstein, Obituary for Emmy Noether (1935)

“Systematization is a great virtue of mathematics, and if possible, the student has to learn this virtue, too. But then I mean the activity of systematizing, not its result. Its result is a system, a beautiful closed system, closed with no entrance and no exit. In its highest perfection it can even be handled by a machine. But for what can be performed by machines, we need no humans. What humans have to learn is not mathematics as a closed system, but rather as an activity, the process of mathematizing reality and if possible even that of mathematizing mathematics.”
~Hans Freudenthal, Why to Teach Mathematics So as to Be Useful (1968)

Mathematics is the human activity of reasoning with number and shape, in concert with the logical and symbolic artifacts that people develop and apply in their mathematical activity. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (2018) outlines three primary purposes for learning mathematics:

  1. To Expand Professional Opportunity. Just as the ability to read and write was critical for workers when the early 20th-century economy shifted from agriculture to manufacturing, the ability to do mathematics is critical for workers in the 21st century as the economy has shifted from manufacturing to information technology. Workers with a robust understanding of mathematics are in demand by employers, and job growth in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields is forecast to accelerate over the next decade.
  2. Understand and Critique the World. A consequence of living in a technological society is the need to interpret and understand the mathematics behind our social, scientific, commercial, and political systems. Much of this mathematics appears in the way of statistics, tables, and graphs, but this need to understand and critique the world extends to the application of mathematical models, attention given to precision, bias in data collection, and the soundness of mathematical claims and arguments. Learners of mathematics should feel empowered to make sense of the world around them and to better participate as an informed member of a democratic society.
  3. Experience Wonder, Joy, and Beauty. Just as human forms and movement can be beautiful in dance, or sounds can make beautiful music, the patterns, shapes, and reasoning of mathematics can also be beautiful. On a personal level, mathematical problem solving can be an authentic act of individual creativity, while on a societal level, mathematics both informs and is informed by the culture of those who use and develop it, just as art or language is used and developed.

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (2018). Catalyzing change in high school mathematics: Initiating critical conversations. Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Prepared Graduates in Mathematics

Prepared graduates in mathematics are described by the eight Standards for Mathematical Practice described in the Common Core State Standards (CCSSI, 2010). Across the curriculum at every grade, students are expected to consistently have opportunities to engage in each of the eight practices. The practices aligned with each Grade Level Expectation in the Colorado Academic Standards represent the strongest potential alignments between content and the practices, and are not meant to exclude students from engaging in the rest of the practices.

The Standards for Mathematical Practice describe varieties of expertise that mathematics educators at all levels should seek to develop in their students. These practices rest on important “processes and proficiencies” with longstanding importance in mathematics education. The first of these are the NCTM process standards of problem solving, reasoning and proof, communication, representation, and connections. The second are the strands of mathematical proficiency specified in the National Research Council’s report Adding It Up: adaptive reasoning, strategic competence, conceptual understanding (comprehension of mathematical concepts, operations and relations), procedural fluency (skill in carrying out procedures flexibly, accurately, efficiently and appropriately), and productive disposition (habitual inclination to see mathematics as sensible, useful, and worthwhile, coupled with a belief in diligence and one’s own efficacy).

Math Practice MP1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.

Mathematically proficient students start by explaining to themselves the meaning of a problem and looking for entry points to its solution. They analyze givens, constraints, relationships, and goals. They make conjectures about the form and meaning of the solution and plan a solution pathway rather than simply jumping into a solution attempt. They consider analogous problems, and try special cases and simpler forms of the original problem in order to gain insight into its solution. They monitor and evaluate their progress and change course if necessary. Older students might, depending on the context of the problem, transform algebraic expressions or change the viewing window on their graphing calculator to get the information they need. Mathematically proficient students can explain correspondences between equations, verbal descriptions, tables, and graphs or draw diagrams of important features and relationships, graph data, and search for regularity or trends. Younger students might rely on using concrete objects or pictures to help conceptualize and solve a problem. Mathematically proficient students check their answers to problems using a different method, and they continually ask themselves, “Does this make sense?” They can understand the approaches of others to solving complex problems and identify correspondences between different approaches.

Math Practice MP2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.

Mathematically proficient students make sense of quantities and their relationships in problem situations. They bring two complementary abilities to bear on problems involving quantitative relationships: the ability to decontextualize—to abstract a given situation and represent it symbolically and manipulate the representing symbols as if they have a life of their own, without necessarily attending to their referents—and the ability to contextualize, to pause as needed during the manipulation process in order to probe into the referents for the symbols involved. Quantitative reasoning entails habits of creating a coherent representation of the problem at hand; considering the units involved; attending to the meaning of quantities, not just how to compute them; and knowing and flexibly using different properties of operations and objects.

Math Practice MP3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.

Mathematically proficient students understand and use stated assumptions, definitions, and previously established results in constructing arguments. They make conjectures and build a logical progression of statements to explore the truth of their conjectures. They are able to analyze situations by breaking them into cases, and can recognize and use counterexamples. They justify their conclusions, communicate them to others, and respond to the arguments of others. They reason inductively about data, making plausible arguments that take into account the context from which the data arose. Mathematically proficient students are also able to compare the effectiveness of two plausible arguments, distinguish correct logic or reasoning from that which is flawed, and—if there is a flaw in an argument—explain what it is. Elementary students can construct arguments using concrete referents such as objects, drawings, diagrams, and actions. Such arguments can make sense and be correct, even though they are not generalized or made formal until later grades. Later, students learn to determine domains to which an argument applies. Students at all grades can listen or read the arguments of others, decide whether they make sense, and ask useful questions to clarify or improve the arguments.

Math Practice MP4. Model with mathematics.

Mathematically proficient students can apply the mathematics they know to solve problems arising in everyday life, society, and the workplace. In early grades, this might be as simple as writing an addition equation to describe a situation. In middle grades, a student might apply proportional reasoning to plan a school event or analyze a problem in the community. By high school, a student might use geometry to solve a design problem or use a function to describe how one quantity of interest depends on another. Mathematically proficient students who can apply what they know are comfortable making assumptions and approximations to simplify a complicated situation, realizing that these may need revision later. They are able to identify important quantities in a practical situation and map their relationships using such tools as diagrams, two-way tables, graphs, flowcharts and formulas. They can analyze those relationships mathematically to draw conclusions. They routinely interpret their mathematical results in the context of the situation and reflect on whether the results make sense, possibly improving the model if it has not served its purpose.

Math Practice MP5. Use appropriate tools strategically.

Mathematically proficient students consider the available tools when solving a mathematical problem. These tools might include pencil and paper, concrete models, a ruler, a protractor, a calculator, a spreadsheet, a computer algebra system, a statistical package, or dynamic geometry software. Proficient students are sufficiently familiar with tools appropriate for their grade or course to make sound decisions about when each of these tools might be helpful, recognizing both the insight to be gained and their limitations. For example, mathematically proficient high school students analyze graphs of functions and solutions generated using a graphing calculator. They detect possible errors by strategically using estimation and other mathematical knowledge. When making mathematical models, they know that technology can enable them to visualize the results of varying assumptions, explore consequences, and compare predictions with data. Mathematically proficient students at various grade levels are able to identify relevant external mathematical resources, such as digital content located on a website, and use them to pose or solve problems. They are able to use technological tools to explore and deepen their understanding of concepts.

Math Practice MP6. Attend to precision.

Mathematically proficient students try to communicate precisely to others. They try to use clear definitions in discussion with others and in their own reasoning. They state the meaning of the symbols they choose, including using the equal sign consistently and appropriately. They are careful about specifying units of measure, and labeling axes to clarify the correspondence with quantities in a problem. They calculate accurately and efficiently, express numerical answers with a degree of precision appropriate for the problem context. In the elementary grades, students give carefully formulated explanations to each other. By the time they reach high school they have learned to examine claims and make explicit use of definitions.

Math Practice MP7. Look for and make use of structure.

Mathematically proficient students look closely to discern a pattern or structure. Young students, for example, might notice that three and seven more is the same amount as seven and three more, or they may sort a collection of shapes according to how many sides the shapes have. Later, students will see 7 x 8 equals the well remembered 7 x 5 + 7 x 3, in preparation for learning about the distributive property. In the expression x^2 + 9x + 14, older students can see the 14 as 2 x 7 and the 9 as 2 + 7. They recognize the significance of an existing line in a geometric figure and can use the strategy of drawing an auxiliary line for solving problems. They also can step back for an overview and shift perspective. They can see complicated things, such as some algebraic expressions, as single objects or as being composed of several objects. For example, they can see 5 - 3(x - y)^2 as 5 minus a positive number times a square and use that to realize that its value cannot be more than 5 for any real numbers x and y.

Math Practice MP8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

Mathematically proficient students notice if calculations are repeated, and look both for general methods and for shortcuts. Upper elementary students might notice when dividing 25 by 11 that they are repeating the same calculations over and over again, and conclude they have a repeating decimal. By paying attention to the calculation of slope as they repeatedly check whether points are on the line through (1,2) with slope 3, middle school students might abstract the equation (y - 2)/(x - 1) = 3. Noticing the regularity in the way terms cancel when expanding (x - 1)(x + 1), (x - 1)(x^2 + x + 1), and (x - 1)(x^3 + x^2 + x + 1) might lead them to the general formula for the sum of a geometric series. As they work to solve a problem, mathematically proficient students maintain oversight of the process, while attending to the details. They continually evaluate the reasonableness of their intermediate results.

Connecting the Standards for Mathematical Practice to the Standards for Mathematical Content

The Standards for Mathematical Practice describe ways in which developing student practitioners of the discipline of mathematics increasingly ought to engage with the subject matter as they grow in mathematical maturity and expertise throughout the elementary, middle and high school years. Designers of curricula, assessments, and professional development should all attend to the need to connect the mathematical practices to mathematical content in mathematics instruction.

The Standards for Mathematical Content are a balanced combination of procedure and understanding. Expectations that begin with the word “understand” are often especially good opportunities to connect the practices to the content. Students who lack understanding of a topic may rely on procedures too heavily. Without a flexible base from which to work, they may be less likely to consider analogous problems, represent problems coherently, justify conclusions, apply the mathematics to practical situations, use technology mindfully to work with the mathematics, explain the mathematics accurately to other students, step back for an overview, or deviate from a known procedure to find a shortcut. In short, a lack of understanding effectively prevents a student from engaging in the mathematical practices.

In this respect, those content standards which set an expectation of understanding are potential “points of intersection” between the Standards for Mathematical Content and the Standards for Mathematical Practice. These points of intersection are intended to be weighted toward central and generative concepts in the school mathematics curriculum that most merit the time, resources, innovative energies, and focus necessary to qualitatively improve the curriculum, instruction, assessment, professional development, and student achievement in mathematics.

Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2010). Standards for mathematical practice.

Standards in Mathematics

The Colorado Academic Standards in mathematics are the topical organization of the concepts and skills every Colorado student should know and be able to do throughout their preschool through twelfth grade experience. The standards of mathematics are:

1. Number and Quantity

From preschool through high school, students are continually extending their concept of numbers as they build understanding of whole numbers, rational numbers, real numbers, and complex numbers. As they engage in real-world mathematical problems, they conceive of quantities, numbers with associated units. Students learn that numbers are governed by properties and understand these properties lead to fluency with operations.

2. Algebra and Functions

Algebraic thinking is about understanding and using numbers, and students’ work in this area helps them extend the arithmetic of early grades to expressions, equations, and functions in later grades. This mathematics is applied to real-world problems as students use numbers, expressions, and equations to model the world. The mathematics of this standard is closely related to that of Number and Quantity.

3. Data Analysis, Statistics, and Probability

From the early grades, students gather, display, summarize, examine, and interpret data to discover patterns and deviations from patterns. Measurement is used to generate, represent and analyze data. Working with data and an understanding of the principles of probability lead to a formal study of statistics in middle in high school. Statistics provides tools for describing variability in data and for making informed decisions that take variability into account.

4. Geometry

Students’ study of geometry allows them to comprehend space and shape. Students analyze the characteristics and relationships of shapes and structures, and engage in logical reasoning. Students learn that geometry is useful in representing, modeling, and solving problems in the real world as well as in mathematics.

Modeling Across the High School Standards

A star symbol (★) in the high school standards represents grade level expectations and evidence outcomes that make up a mathematical modeling standards category.

Modeling links classroom mathematics and statistics to everyday life, work, and decision making. Modeling is the process of choosing and using appropriate mathematics and statistics to analyze empirical situations, to understand them better, and to improve decisions. When making mathematical models, technology is valuable for varying assumptions, exploring consequences, and comparing predictions with data. Modeling is best interpreted not as a collection of isolated topics but rather in relation to other standards. (For more on modeling, see Appendix: Modeling Cycle in the PDF download of the standards document.)