Why is the pitchfork crowd storming the Common Core Castle with their pointy sticks and burny things? Let’s take a look at Common Core Math from a layman’s perspective.
Supporters assert Common Core is a high-quality, voluntarily adopted set of national mathematics and language arts standards.
As these standards roll out, parents are growing increasingly frustrated. Louis C.K. who said on Twitter recently, “My kids used to love math. Now it makes them cry. Thanks standardized testing and common core!”
Standards, Curriculum, Strategies, Confusion
Standards define what students should understand. Curriculum is the road map of how to attain said standard. The more specific the standard, the less freedom there is to create curriculum. For example, one CC standard CCSS.Math.Content.2.OA.B.2 states “By the end of Grade 2, know from memory all sums of two one-digit numbers.” We can all agree to this fine and simple standard. However, CC comes dangerously close to curriculum when it goes on to say “Use strategies such as making ten (e.g., 8 + 6 = 8 + 2 + 4 = 10 + 4 = 14);” to attain the standard.
Common Core Confusion
These “strategies” are driving many parents crazy. Back when we used to walk to school in 100 degree heat up hill both ways, we just memorized math tables and facts like 9 + 6 = 15. A math teacher in Buffalo created a one minute “Homework Helper” video to explain the Comm Core prescribed strategy required to solve our once simple standard.
When you or I were in school we used to just memorize 9 + 6 = 15, but not anymore. With Common Core, students need to understand why that’s the case.
Our young lerners might not be all together comfortable with learning what 9 + 6 is. They are quite comfortable thinking about their friend 10. 10 is emphasized in our young grades as we’re working in a base 10 system.
So, if we can partner 9 to a number and anchor 10, we can help our students see what 9 + 6 is. So, we are going to decompose 6 into 5 + 1. We are now going to anchor our 9 to the 1 allowing our students to anchor to the 10.
Now our students see that this is 10 + 5 which is much more comfortable than 9 + 6.
You can quickly see why people like Louis C.K. and Stephen Colbert have blasted Common Core. Stephen Colbert said on the Colbert Report,
“It is no secret that President Barack Obama wants to indoctrinate our students with his Socialist agenda. I’ve even heard some disturbing rumors that kindergartners are being forced to share. That’s why I’ve long opposed his Common Core curriculum, which sets uniform education standards across all 50 states. No way mister. Different states have different values. I don’t want my kids ending up in Colorado’s drug education course which classifies weed as a condiment.
But folks, as much as I didn’t expect it, I may be coming around to the Common Core because it turns out that Common Core testing prepares our students for what they will face as adults, pointless stress and confusion.”
Download the Common Core Math Standards
I have heard friends whose kids are in private school talk about Base 10 math for years. It is not new, and I always thought it was a smart way of teaching math. Once kids learn how the system works, they can use it to quickly solve basic arithmetic problems using much higher numbers than they would normally memorize. For example, 781 + 209, can be converted mentally to 780 + 210, answer = 990.
We disagree on the value of the CCSS. I do not think they are the miracle which will turn public education around. Nor did I think they are as bad a many of the critics imply.
Common Core’s Five Big Half-Truths was in my weekly Curriculum Matters email from Education Week. I learned a lot by reading it and my support of the CCSS isn’t as strong as yesterday.
That said, I agree with some of the things Mr. Hess criticizes (disagree with the article). Not all high school students need to study calculus. Most high school students don’t go to a four year college or ever need to do calculus in their lives. Dropping calculus from the high school math standard makes sense to me. I knew CCSS advocates were misusing the term “Internationally benchmarked.” However, the standards have been compared between other countries. CCSS copied, (stole) the “best” of what works in other countries. The obvious problem being ideas do not transfer from one country to another easily.