On Tuesday, GothamSchools will be bringing educators from across the city together to discuss opportunities, challenges, and unanswered questions about the new Common Core math standards. RSVP now for the event.

To prepare for the discussion, we asked teachers who will participate to answer one question: What is the biggest issue teachers and students in your school are facing as the Common Core math exams approach? Here’s what Bushra Makiya, an eighth-grade math teacher at C.I.S. 303 in the Bronx and a Math for America Master Teacher, had to say.

The greatest challenge we have faced at 303 regarding the Common Core has been wrapping our heads around the depth of each standard. The Common Core has required us to completely readjust from the New York state standards, which were extremely scripted. Each standard  has multiple dimensions; they are not just single skills where every problem looks exactly like the next. This has meant that it takes a lot more time for teachers to unpack the meaning of each standard than it did in previous years.

Also, transitioning all grades in a single year means that most of my students do not have the background knowledge or skills required to be successful with the new standards. This means that we are trying to play catch-up at the same time we are trying to implement a new and very rigorous curriculum. This has caused a lot of stress for both teachers and students at my school.

Related to this, teachers and students feel very worried that they do not know what the tests will look like this year. My students read in the news that scores will drop this year and that the test will be harder, but when they ask for reassurance, we don’t have answers to give them.

On the other hand, I am very optimistic about the renewed focus on problem solving that the common core is pushing. I am grateful for the strong push away from procedural teaching and towards enabling students to make sense of mathematics for themselves. The CCLS process standards exemplify what math teaching should be and I am happy to see the Common Core pushing us in the right direction.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.