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Algebra and the CCSSM in CMP3 Grade 6


One of the striking innovations of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics is the inclusion of a strand of specific objectives in algebra that run throughout the school curriculum K-12. In the elementary grades K-5, the strand objectives are listed under the heading Operations and Algebraic Thinking. In grades 6 through 8 the heading is Expressions and Equations, with a related set of objectives for Functions added in grade 8.

Units in the CMP3 curriculum have been designed and written to address each specific expectation of the CCSSM algebra strand on a grade-by-grade basis. However, it now appears that major national assessment of student learning in each grade will occur during the month of March, at least two months (and in some school systems nearly three months) before the end of the school year. So, not only is it important for middle grades curricula to address all common core standards, they must time coverage of the objectives in a way that prepares students for the particular content foci of either the PARCC or the SBAC assessment programs in each grade.

For schools using CMP3 the challenge of matching curriculum coverage to priorities of the national assessments may be puzzling with respect to grade 6 algebra content.The primary algebra unit in that CMP3 course is Variables and Patterns, and it has been designed to be the sixth of seven units, which is not likely to be taught prior to March. Nonetheless, before you alter the intended sequence of CMP3 units or plan to rush to Variables and Patterns in order to get it in before PARCC or SBAC testing, we hope you will consider the many opportunities to develop ideas and techniques of algebra in in prior grade 6 CMP3 units. Those prior encounters with aspects of the CCSSM algebra standards give students important preparation for the anticipated PARCC and SBAC testing about expressions and equations. They also give students helpful background understanding and skill for the explicit and thorough development of algebra standards contained in Variables and Patterns.


The paper, Development of Algebra in the 6th Grade Curriculum, provides an overview of the development of algebra in grade 6. In this paper, we identify examples from the units Prime Time, Comparing Bits and Pieces, Let’s Be Rational, Covering and Surrounding, and Decimal Ops where you can accomplish significant work on CCSSM algebra standards for Expressions and Equations. Comments about the algebraic standards that are addressed in each problem are provided with examples from each unit.


The purpose of this paper is to outline where algebra is taught throughout grade 6 CMP3 units and demonstrate how teachers might utilize and/or extend problems from Prime Time, Comparing Bits and Pieces, Let’s Be Rational, Covering and Surrounding, and Decimal Ops to address the CCSSM Expressions and Equations algebra standards for grade 6.