Math Standards and Competencies: Converting the TEKS into Plain English

Many states and countries have standards or competencies that outline what children at various ages should have. Classroom schoolers and homeschoolers alike can use these (and sometimes must use them).

The state of Texas, where I live, makes its own educational rules. Our public schools follow the competencies and standards outlined in the TEKS – Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills.

Reading through these can cause all kinds of reactions – mostly “what the heck does that mean?”

So I’ve taken a little time to translate a few of them into plain English.

Some TEKS in Plain English

These start out very “legal” sounding and are written from a grownup’s point of view. The Plain English version is a list of “objectives” from a kid’s point of view.

I’ve kept the TEKS words in bold and the Plain English bullets are in, well… plain text.

These are from Chapter 111. TEKS, Subchapter B., Middle School ยง111.22., Math, Grade 6., (b) Knowledge and skills.

(1) Number, operation, and quantitative reasoning. The student represents and uses rational numbers in a variety of equivalent forms. The student is expected to:

(A) compare and order non-negative rational numbers;

  • When I see numbers, I can put them in order.
  • If the numbers are things like fractions or decimals, I can put those in order too.
  • Even if you give me a mix of fractions, decimals and regular numbers, I can put those in order too.

(B) generate equivalent forms of rational numbers including whole numbers, fractions, and decimals;

  • I know that numbers mean a value of something. Like dollars, inches, or years.
  • I know that there are different ways to write numbers – like 1/2 is the same as .5.
  • When I see a number that has a value, I can write it in various ways.
  • I can even write a number that looks normal in a way that looks freaky – just for fun if I want. Like .5 is the same as 100/200.

(C) use integers to represent real-life situations;

  • I know that numbers come in positives and negatives.
  • I know that negative numbers mean something being taken away, owed or somehow located elsewhere.
  • I know that positive numbers mean something being given, borrowed or somehow located here.
  • I can tell you if a value should be positive or negative and explain why I think it is.

(D) write prime factorizations using exponents;

  • I know that numbers can be written as multiplication problems using other numbers.
  • I know that there are crazy numbers (called primes) that can only be written as a multiplication of 1 and itself.
  • I know that all numbers can be written as a multiplication of prime numbers.
  • I can figure out what a number’s multiplication problem in terms of prime numbers is.
  • If there are a bunch of the same number in a multiplication problem, I can stick them together an put an exponent (a flying number) on it.

(E) identify factors of a positive integer, common factors, and the greatest common factor of a set of positive integers; and

  • I can play with numbers and the various multiplication problems that make them.
  • I can figure out all the multiplication problems that make a number.
  • If you give me two numbers, I can figure out all the similarities in the multiplication problems that make each of them.
  • If you give me two numbers, I can figure out the biggest number that their multiplication problems have in common.
  • I can do all of these things with more than two numbers, too!

(F) identify multiples of a positive integer and common multiples and the least common multiple of a set of positive integers.

  • I know that all numbers can be multiplied by other numbers.
  • I know that a number can “go into” other numbers too – sometimes with remainders and sometimes without.
  • I can figure out if a number “goes into” another number without a remainder.
  • If you give me two numbers I can figure out a bigger number that they both go into.
  • If you give me more than two numbers I can figure out a bigger number they all go into, also!
  • I can even find a number that all the numbers go into that’s smaller than any number you can find!

You can make your own Plain English Standards!

Tomorrow I’ll publish guidelines to create these. And on Friday, at the , I’ll be giving a session on it (as well as what to do with them when you’re done).

If you’re there, come!

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2 Responses to Math Standards and Competencies: Converting the TEKS into Plain English

  1. Hi Bon,

    It’s been good getting to know you on Twitter. Here’s how I would re-write 1A and 1B for 6th graders.

    I know that a number that can be written as a fraction of whole numbers (like 7/3 or 2/11) is a rational number. I can write one fraction in many ways, such as 2/3 = 6/9 = 200/300. I know that rational numbers can be written as decimals, percentages, mixed numbers, and integers, and I can convert among these forms. I can also compare and order rational numbers in all forms.

    Here’s my attempt at 1C.

    I know that positive numbers are greater than zero and negative numbers are less than zero. Some examples of negative numbers are debts, temperatures below zero, and elevations below sea level. I can give you several more real-world examples of when negative numbers make sense.

    Finally, 1D:

    I know that sometimes one whole number divides into another with no remainder, and I know that the first is called a divisor or factor of the second. I know that a number with exactly two divisors (1 and itself) is called a prime number, and a number with more than two divisors is called a composite number because it is “composed” by multiplying prime numbers. If you give me a number, I can tell you whether it is prime, and if it is not, I can write the number as a multiplication problem listing just its prime factors. Instead of listing the prime factors the long way, such as 12,000 = 2x2x2x2x2x3x5x5x5, I can use exponents to shorten the list: 2400 = 2^5 x 3 x 5^3.

    I hope this helps; sorry that I was so cranky about the details that I overlooked the essentially great idea!

    All the Best,


    • Brad! You rock! Thanks so much for giving your input. And your reaction via twitter was spot on. Often the things I write here are good starting points for conversations. I have tons of experience, but that doesn’t mean that I’m always right. Or even almost always right. ๐Ÿ™‚

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