Your state's Department of Education or other educational governing body sets the mathematics standards that all students must achieve throughout their years in elementary, middle and high school. Those curricular standards are then implemented by school districts. While standards may be worded differently from state to state, the idea is to teach every student to reason, communicate, problem-solve and make connections mathematically. For example, as stated in the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards for Mathematics, the vision of the math standards is "to enable all of New Jersey's children to acquire the mathematical skills, understandings and attitudes that they will need to be successful in their careers and daily lives."
Standards typically fall into these general categories:
In 2010, Achieve, an independent, nonprofit education organization, coordinated a state-led effort to develop the Common Core State Standards for English and math. As examples, here are high-level summaries of what second- and fourth-grade students should be able to do:
Get detailed standards for all grades at www.corestandards.org.
While you likely feel unqualified to assess whether your child's math abilities meet grade-level standards, you'll certainly be able to tell when he or she is struggling. If your child did not gain basic skills in first grade, he or she inevitably will have difficulty with second-grade math. If you notice a slide in grades, a worsening attitude about math or see your child regularly struggling to complete homework in a reasonable amount of time (or at all), it may be time to request a conference with your child's teacher. Succeeding in math takes practice and persistence, and requires gradual building on concepts. Prevent your child from falling behind by getting him or her the individualized help he or she needs as soon as difficulties arise.