Practice Standard 1: Makes sense of problems and perseveres in
solving them
The first math practice standard pertains to a student’s understanding of what a
problem is asking him or her to do (the concept) and the idea that a child must be resilient
when facing a new problem. The Report Card breaks down practice standard number 1 into
these discrete skill sets:
Explains meaning of problem
Looks for entry points
Plans solution path
Monitors and evaluates progress
Checks answer with a different method
Evaluates reasonableness of answer
In child friendly terms, this standard means, “I can try, and I can keep trying until my answer
makes sense;” and “When I meet a problem, I think about how I can solve it and choose a
The importance of Practice Standard 1
Dr. E. Paul Goldenberg (pg. 1)1 explains the standard with the following example. In
the real world, we are faced with new problems that must be solved everyday. We may lock
our keys in the car or we may need to figure out how to manage our time so that we can
accomplish all of our work. Rarely are we given a handbook or clue as to where to start
solving these problems. Instead, we must think carefully about what the major problem is
(the goal we are trying to achieve), possible entry points to work through the problem
(where to begin), and possess the wherewithal to know that we can brainstorm or look for
other resources should our first solution not work (persistence and fortitude). And above all,
we keep working through the problem to reach our goal because we value the end result (it
has a purpose for us). This same concept is applied to practice standard 1- in order for
children to succeed through the mathematical curriculum, they must have been taught
problem-solving formulas with multiple entry points that will guide them to a logical solution.
E. Paul Goldenberg (2011). The Common Core State Standards Mathematical Practices in Elementary School.
Waltham, MA: Education Development Center. Inc.
This takes repetition, many opportunities to try and fail, and explicit teaching of the
Practice Standard 1 in first grade
Although Practice Standard 1 will be practiced throughout your child’s educational
career, below you will find examples of the standard in action in a first grade classroom. Your
child has achieved mastery in reference to the first grade report card standard if and when
your child consistently…
-Is able to tell what the problem is asking
-Is able to tell what operation to use
-Is able to choose a strategy to solve the problem
-Can explain the strategy chosen
-“Tell me how”
-“Tell me more”
-Decides if he/she needs manipulatives
-Shows work
-Realizes the need to change strategy or ask for help
-Can use two strategies (“manipulatives”) to get to the same answer
-Can demonstrate the answer with concrete objects
How you can support the standard at home
When your child is working though a math problem, whether it be a homework set or a
real world problem that you encounter (such as while on a trip to the grocery store) you can
start by using the language above to guide your child to a starting point for the problem.
Asking him or her to keep going or explain his or her thinking while guiding (not telling)
whether or not they are on the right track will help your child be thoughtful and internalize
starting points, strategies, and ending points. Furthermore, reinforcing your child’s actions on
specific tasks tells your child that the outcome and process is valued more than the
behavior. Be specific in your feedback. Instead of saying “good job working through that
problem (behavior based feedback),” try out “I noticed that you worked really hard adding
up those 2 numbers (process-based feedback).” In the end, pointing out examples of when
you need to work through a problem is the best support you can give your child as it
generalizes the practice standard.