Learning about unpacking standards and backwards mapping

As a teacher of the International School of Stuttgart I use the IB standards of the Primary Years Program. The standards are used by the teachers for students of all grade levels in our school. It is very important to unpack these standards as they need to be used in relation to students’ age, development and background. Mapping them backwards is important as students develop their learning individually, and related to their age, and it aids us as teachers to plan for our units. For instance, mapping backwards by thinking about what our summative assessments will be, informs how we introduce and pre-assess the students.

If there is a student that gets some tasks related to one of our Mathematics standard, such as

“Making use of previously acquired knowledge in practical or new ways”

we discuss this in our weekly PYP team meetings. Together we look where this standard can be implemented into our unit, lesson plans and which concrete examples of learning can be given to the students.

In this case I would use this standard as follows:

If my students have gained some awareness of inquiring into common shapes (such as triangle, square, circle), I will teach other lessons while implementing their acquired knowledge. For example, I will go on an outdoor walk. Looking for objects that remind my students of these common shapes makes the understanding of their learning visible and shows whether they have understood the concept of shapes. It could be that my youngest learners (3 to 5 years old) find things that they relate to their former experiences. I then will take a photo, hang it up and let them explain where they found it, what it is made of, where else it could be found, etc. Creating a mind map is also a good tool to reflect on former knowledge, and deepen the students learning to make them sensitive for new experiences. The assessment of their learning (for example, an audio of the child explaining the shapes found) will be taken into the Evernote database, to which each parent has access to learn about their child’s understanding and growth related to the given standard.


Unpacking the standard


This video is a good tool to make clear what a standard is about, how it can be unpacked and how it is taught- related to components taught by the teacher in one or even more lessons. The video has been helpful to me, as it has deepened my understanding of how to unpack standards at my own school.

I would like to give a statement related to our Mathematics Standards, written down in the Common Core State Standards Initiative as:

Understanding Mathematics

These standards define what students should understand and be able to do in their study of mathematics. But asking a student to understand something also means asking a teacher to assess whether the student has understood it. But what does mathematical understanding look like? One way for teachers to do that is to ask the student to justify, in a way that is appropriate to the student’s mathematical maturity, why a particular mathematical statement is true or where a mathematical rule comes from. Mathematical understanding and procedural skill are equally important, and both are assessable using mathematical tasks of sufficient richness.[1]

I believe that this statement –mathematical understanding and procedural skill are equally important – is absolutely true. I also like to make the standards work for my young students, and bring enthusiasm and engagement to class in order to unpack them.

Carola Deinet-Knittel


© 2017 Common Core State Standards Initiative


Mathematics Standards