Common Core in Action: Math in the Middle School Classroom

Aligning instruction to meet the Common Core State Standards is the new norm for educators across most of the United States. In the middle school math classroom, technology can be used to help students reach mastery of these Common Core skills. Let’s take a look at a sixth grade geometry standard and how, using technology, teachers can promote engagement through student-centered exploration of this skill.


Draw polygons in the coordinate plane given coordinates for the vertices; use coordinates to find the length of a side joining points with the same first coordinate or the same second coordinate. Apply these techniques in the context of solving real-world and mathematical problems.

Using Technology to Instruct

When it comes to hooking students and grabbing their attention at the beginning of a lesson, video tutorials can be powerful. Instead of giving a lecture to teach new material, the instructor can field questions and facilitate a discussion after students watch a concise tutorial on a particular topic.

Khan Academy is one fantastic resource to find free, high-quality video tutorials on a variety of subject areas. To reach this particular standard, Khan Academy has a section devoted to Perimeter, Area and Volume that can support students at different entry points.

Using an interactive whiteboard is another way teachers can integrate technology into their lesson. This type of tool is perfect for modeling how to plot points on a coordinate grid to create a shape. In Notebook on the SMARTBoard for example, teachers can change their background to graph paper to create coordinate planes with a quick search in the gallery section.

Using Technology to Explore

If you’re using an interactive whiteboard to model drawing polygons on a coordinate grid to determine the length of each side, try having individual students come to the front of the room to draw out problems for the class. When students are working at tables or with partners to solve problems, have a small group work on the interactive whiteboard as opposed to their desks. There are apps available from the iTunes Store that help students draw on a coordinate grid. This is great for teachers who have access to iPads in a one-to-one environment, who want to create stations with just a few iPads, or who can assign a group of four or five students to a single iPad. Geometry Pad is a fantastic, free iPad app that students can use to draw polygons on a coordinate plane. They can even explain their work in writing by adding text to screen.

Using Technology to Assess

Solving real-world problems is an important aspect of Common Core math. What better way for students to demonstrate their understanding than through the creation of the same type of tutorials you showed your class to kick off the lesson? Here are some ideas:

  • Students can create screencasts using a free iPad app like Educreations,ScreenChomp or Doceri, or they can record their explanation in groups using a digital camera or computer webcam.
  • Have students record their work going through the steps of a problem you’ve designed for them.
  • Have students design their own real-world problems related to polygons and coordinate planes to demonstrate their understanding of this skill.

If you’re working with English-Language Learners or special education students, these tools can give them an opportunity to shine and gain confidence through an alternative to traditional assessments.

What activities do you use to integrate technology into your Common Core instruction?