GW professor creates Common Core workbook to aid middle school teachers

Media Credit: Samuel Klein | Senior Photo Editor

GW professor Jaehwa Choi said he helped create a new workbook for the Common Core math tests because there is a lack of textbooks on the market that prepare students for the curriculum's standards

A GW professor has created a workbook to help teachers prepare students for Common Core standardized math tests, after finding that most textbooks on the market don’t fully prepare students to meet the national benchmarks.

Graduate School of Education and Human Development professor Jaewha Choi has led a research project that he said would fill the gap many teachers encounter when trying to find books that are made for their students’ grade and cover Common Core requirements.

“Teachers are struggling and are frustrated because a lot of textbooks claim to be organized to comply with Common Core standards, but only 30 to 50 percent meet the full standards,” he said. “Publishers are not starting from scratch to be fully aligned to Common Core, so there are some missing holes in the textbooks.”

The SmartWorkbook, a 40-page prototype for sixth-grade math, is part of an effort to publish more materials that are fully aligned with the standards that students are supposed to meet in 41 states and D.C. Choi and his team will release the workbook for free.

The materials combine smartphone technology with practice problems. When taking a test in the book, students must use a smartphone to scan a code for each question. The code opens up a mobile web page where the student can input his or her answer and receive immediate feedback, including other practice problems.

Choi said 12 million students are expected to take Common Core assessments by the end of the year, and his team wanted to create ready-to-use materials that could help teachers guide their students in the right direction as quickly as possible.

“We wanted to help the teacher to teach, make it easy to give their students assignments and make it easy for them to grade,” Choi said. “We also wanted to give students easy access to resources they needed.”

The researchers, including Sunhee Kim with Howard Community College and Kyongil Yoon with Notre Dame of Maryland University, hope to earn support for their workbook from the federal government and teachers associations, including the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Media Credit: Samuel Klein | Senior Photo Editor
Professor Jaehwa Choi’s workbook requires students to scan codes with a smartphone to enter their answers and receive feedback. Choi and and his fellow researchers said they will release the workbook for free.

Francis Fennell, an education professor at McDaniel College, said researchers like Choi are helping teachers who are having trouble finding materials that work effectively in their classes.

“School districts have to say, ‘What is this going to look like in our class?’” he said. “We’ll either have to create our own material or see what the market is doing that will assist children in learning.”

And even though the Common Core was first detailed in 2010, experts say publishers haven’t been quick enough to provide updated textbooks, and they also have not been honest about whether materials follow the standards.

“There’s a movement afoot,” Fennell said. “Somebody is there actually looking at printed materials to see the extent to which it is being faithful.”

Choi and his team plan to expand the SmartWorkbook project to cover third- through eighth-grade math by next year, and hope to produce versions that cover developmental math and other languages.

“Common Core is not easy and not concise. It’s a full spectrum of standards, and it’s very challenging to teach and learn them all effectively,” Choi said. “The SmartWorkbook is a small project, but I think we came together to try to find a solution for students and teachers.”

Jacqueline Thomsen contributed reporting.

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