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Teaching Math Under Common Core: Fact and Fiction, Part V

As part of a continuing discussion on the myths and truths surrounding Common Core, this piece studies the standards’ math guidelines, and addresses pertinent questions and concerns regarding the material.

Question: Is the Common Core Dumbing Math Down?

Answer: No. Most of the backlash against some of the new approaches to arithmetic are due to their novelty, not their merit.

When a sample addition problem began circulating on the internet, some parents worried that new Common Core standards were selling mathematics short. In the picture below, a student can do a subtraction problem by counting up, using easy numbers, to span the gap between the smaller number and the larger number:

math problem [1]

The method in the bottom half of the page has been ridiculed [2], but math teacher Hemant Mehta thinks it makes a fair amount of sense. He explains [3] that the rule on the top is familiar to all of us adults, but it’s not particularly intuitive to a child:

The problem with that method is that if I ask students to explain why it works, they’d have a really hard time explaining it to me. They might be able to do the computation, but they don’t get the math behind it. For some people, that’s fine. For math teachers, that’s a problem because it means a lot of students won’t be able to grasp other math concepts in the future because they never really developed “number sense.” …

If students can get a handle on thinking this way instead of just plugging numbers into a formula, the thinking goes, it’ll make other math skills much easier to understand.

Mehta’s perspective echoes the reasoning given in the Common Core downloadable math standards [4], which state:

There is a world of difference between a student who can summon a mnemonic device to expand a product such as (a + b)(x + y) and a student who can explain where the mnemonic comes from. The student who can explain the rule understands the mathematics, and may have a better chance to succeed at a less familiar task such as expanding (a + b + c)(x + y). Mathematical understanding and procedural skill are equally important, and both are assessable using mathematical tasks of sufficient richness.

Question: These rules might be more intuitive, but are they slower or more cumbersome than the old way?

Answer: In the short term, perhaps, but these skills exist to cultivate number sense more than to speed up calculations.

On the “Utahns Against Common Core” website, M.J. McDermott has a video [5] that defends standard double-digit multiplication against the “cluster problems” or “partial products method” that break problems down in the same style as the addition example. “Students who learn math via [this curriculum] rarely become efficient, confident, and fluent math users,” she says on the video. It’s true that new methods may be slower, but, at the lower grade levels, teachers shouldn’t just be optimized for the speed at which students will solve problems.

When I learned my times tables, the kinds in my class used the fingers trick for remembering the nine times table. Just hold up all ten fingers, palms in, and then, counting from the left, put down the nth finger (where n is the number you’re multiplying by nine). So, for nine times four, I’d put down the ring finger on my left hand. Then, I can count the numbers on either side of the gap, and read off my hands that the product is 36.

The trick is fast, but relatively useless. (I haven’t used it since the third grade). Adults wind up memorizing multiplication because of frequent use, so, especially in an age of calculators, any computational method should end up teaching us something besides just the correct answer. The aim of these new methods is to help students get an intuitive sense for how numbers combine, not just for the answer.

Question: Are teachers and students required to use the new approaches?

Answer: No.

Common Core doesn’t mandate the old “carry the one” method, the newer “subtract by adding” method, or the Montessori “use physical objects” method. The Common Core standards just list skills and competencies that students at different grade levels are required to reach, and provides some suggested strategies for teaching them. It’s up to the school and the teacher to choose the method they think is best.

Question: Are any old techniques or subjects being discarded completely? What about Euclidean geometry?

In National Review, Michelle Malkin claimed that, under Common Core [6], “Traditional Euclidean geometry is replaced with an experimental approach that had not been previously pilot-tested in the U.S.” She didn’t specify what it would be replaced with (perhaps hyperbolic geometry [7]), but the Common Core materials do not indicate that this is the case. The Common Core Introduction to Geometry [8] reads, in part:

Although there are many types of geometry, school mathematics is devoted primarily to plane Euclidean geometry, studied both synthetically (without coordinates) and analytically (with coordinates). … During high school, students begin to formalize their geometry experiences from elementary and middle school, using more precise definitions and developing careful proofs. Later in college some students develop Euclidean and other geometries carefully from a small set of axioms.

Euclidean geometry is simply all geometry that takes place on a flat surface (e.g. shapes that are drawn on a normal sheet of paper, not the surface of a sphere). For Common Core to cut Euclidean geometry would mean, in essence, cutting geometry wholesale, and that’s not under discussion.

It’s not clear how Malkin got the impression that geometry was on the chopping block, but it’s possible she encountered the same old geometry being taught in slightly different ways, just like arithmetic, and didn’t recognize it. Ultimately, the math hasn’t changed, and it isn’t being cut.

Question: If number sense is what we’re trying to teach, will it be what the exams test?

Answer: Probably not, or at least, it won’t be the main thing they measure. Common Core determines what topics test should cover at what age, but there isn’t a set of Common Core tests that exists in the manner of AP exams. However, if the tests written for the Common Core curriculum resemble those of standardized math tests past, most of the exam will focus on what is easiest to test: whether a student came up with the right answer. The how will have to be assessed by the teacher and parents.

Stay tuned for later articles on Common Core fact and fiction, including:

– Is the Common Core initiative truly state-led?
– Could the implementation of Common Core lead to the adoption of a nationwide curriculum?

Previous posts on Common Core: Fact and Fiction—

– Fact and Fiction at CPAC Common Core Panel
– Common Core and Data Mining: Fact and Fiction, Part II
Common Core and Informational Texts: Fact and Fiction, Part III
Common Core and Teachers: Fact and Fiction, Part IV [9]

Follow @leahlibresco [10]

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Comments Disabled To "Teaching Math Under Common Core: Fact and Fiction, Part V"

#1 Comment By Michael On March 13, 2014 @ 8:22 am

Hey all, elementary school math teacher Michael here. Some thoughts:

1. Nice article. No strong disagreements.
2. A lot of non-teachers think that teaching is about giving kids procedures for doing math. So, they’re reasonably confused that we would give kids an inefficient procedure. But we only give kids procedures some of the time. Instead, we often give kids good problems and have them use whatever technique makes sense to them. If a kid can’t do it? We try to help them find a technique that makes sense to them. This seems totally misunderstood by the non-teachery public. Teachers think that kids are best off if they first have a foundation in something that makes sense, even if it’s inefficient, to them before we offer them an efficient

3. It’s worth remembering: you might say to yourself, “Hey, I went to school, I remember what it was like, I know math, and I think that this new Common Core Math stuff is ridiculous.”

Reminder: you know absolutely nothing about teaching. It’s great that you have an opinion, but actually no your opinion isn’t really informed in any sort of meaningful way.

(Not you, Leah. Again, nice piece. Just releasing some tension at the internet.)

#2 Comment By ScottinMD On March 13, 2014 @ 8:28 am

FWIW – I have always done math the “new” way – it’s easier to work in chunks like that. Question: How do you eat an elephant? Answer: One bite at a time. This is the same thing. I am sure there are many valid reasons to be unhappy with Common Core – there are too many folks incensed for it to just be fear of change – but I don’t think this is one of them.

#3 Comment By Jonathan On March 13, 2014 @ 9:36 am

Whenever my wife and I encounter the new math methods – also called, I think, “reform math” – we are often at a loss as to how to help our children through the problems. When children are on a limited time already (ours have approximately 2 hours from dinner to bed), the CC-implementations (go find an advertisement, circle prices and costs; add these numbers in 2-3 different ways) are confusing, time-consuming, and frustration.

We often theorize that the people who wrote the books complying with CC math standards are no-children individuals or those with stay-at-home parents who are ready to begin math homework at 3 o’clock and have time to devote.

Wonderful, if you have the time. For those of us who have two parents working, must obtain child care, and wish to spend some time with their family over dinner, completely separating the children from any traditional math methods turns evenings into exercises in rushing, lack of learning, frustration, etc.

#4 Comment By Leslie Fain On March 13, 2014 @ 9:40 am

What I am finding irritating about both the pro- and con- Common Core articles is that no one is actually talking to the parents and teachers in the trenches, who are actually using Common Core-aligned curricula. Anyone can go to the website and learn about Common Core in theory. I did exactly that back when I defended it. However, now that I am doing homework with my kindergartner and second-grader from the Common Core-aligned curriculum my Catholic elementary is using, it is a different story. Small children are only developmentally capable of mastering certain skill sets when they are ready. This is why math facts are taught to kindergarters and not deductive reasoning, for example. What I have found is that the curriculum requires them to understand skills they are not developmentally ready to understand. The directions are often confusing, too, even for adults. Now, I realize this is a criticism of the curriculum, and not Common Core itself, however, CC does require (and I will go back and check this — I could be wrong) that children in certain grades know certain skill sets. My husband and my mother — who have also helped the boys with their math homework — have had the same complaints. As it turns out, one of the criticisms that 500 early childhood educators have leveled at Common Core is exactly what I mentioned. One evening, my second-grader, who is actually pretty good at math, could not understand how to complete one of his math homework problems. It took me 20 minutes to figure it out (the way they wanted it done), and I was so frustrated, I wrote his teacher a note, telling her I did not think the work was something a second-grader should be expected to understand. She wrote me back, saying she agreed, but her hands were tied. This is from a teacher who has over 20 years experience teaching second graders. I talked to a third-grade teacher at a public school and she said many of the parents in her class are struggling with the math homework. She even said that in working with her own child with math one night, that she had a great deal of difficulty helping her child solve one of the math problems. An adult even with average intelligence should not have this much trouble helping a K-3 child with math!

Having said that, I talked with another teacher at another school who likes the program. Another parent told me she absolutely hated our math curriculum until she went to a dyslexia conference, and then it all made sense (?)

I have been bothered by a lot of the hysteria and misinformation I have read about Common Core. At the same time, I am not seeing many articles on the way this is all playing out in the real world with the children, teachers, and parents. Sometimes things that sound great in theory aren’t all that impressive in practice.

#5 Comment By Jonathan On March 13, 2014 @ 9:40 am

I would also like to note that problems in our situation may arise from the use of “Everyday Mathematics” – [11] – which is “Common Core compatible”, but which seems to have implications beyond the Core.

#6 Comment By Leslie Fain On March 13, 2014 @ 9:44 am

“But we only give kids procedures some of the time. Instead, we often give kids good problems and have them use whatever technique makes sense to them. If a kid can’t do it? We try to help them find a technique that makes sense to them.”

Michael, I think that is great way to do things. However, what I have found is that the kids are being required to do it the new way, not the way they are most comfortable with. That may not be the case when you get into high school math, but at the lower levels, that is the way I am seeing it done.

#7 Comment By SteveM On March 13, 2014 @ 10:02 am

Leah, first of all, Big Education Inc. has been moving the food around the pedagogical sandbox for decades. Because there’s money in it, and the university schools of education mediocrity need something to do and mindless journals to fill with contrived jargon.

Rather than teach a cumbersome algorithm to simply subtract 2 numbers, present a computer visualization of a subtraction or multiplication process that shows how objects are regrouped by arithmetic operations. And link those illustrations to the conventional method. Once the kids get the underlying concept, (taught in 15 minutes) the new algorithm becomes overkill.

Teaching a 9 year old should not be rocket science. And you’d think that after 60 years, the educators would have figured it out by now. BTW, the people that put men on the moon were not exactly hamstrung by their elementary schooling in the 50’s and 60’s.

But here’s the thing, there’s big bucks in modifying teaching materials year in and year out. And toss in all of the educational “consultants” also feeding at the public trough.

Parenthetically, Big Education Inc., follows the perverse model of Big Consulting. I.e., take an existing business service, slap a new acronym on it, (TQM, QFD, BPR, BPM, Lean Six Sigma, etc.) and pitch the same spiel.

Welcome to the white collar rackets…

#8 Comment By Mike On March 13, 2014 @ 10:04 am

BTW it took me something like 2 minutes to figure out what was happening in the new method. :). But then i got it. It’s teaching you that to get to 32 from 12 you have to go or move or add 20. I see the value in this but if it has to be taught and isn’t just basic common math sense, it’s a problem. I also think that it may confuse the kids who just get that if you take 12 away from 32 you are left with 20.

PS like all federal “guidelines” once in place they become mandatory.

#9 Comment By arrScott On March 13, 2014 @ 10:29 am

How does this relate to the much-ridiculed “New Math” of the mid 20th century? (Which I think is basically just what we children of the 1970s called “math” by that point.) [12]

Also, what the heck is going on with the addition bit on the bottom? I cannot see a principle at work there, but there must be something to it. (“So simple only a child can do it.”) Is there an explanation available online to show where the +5 and all the subsequent numbers come from?

But back to elementary arithmetic. I think I was first taught complex subtraction in first grade, but it wasn’t until third grade that a teacher finally recognized my systematic misunderstanding of borrowing. When forced to carry across places, I was just putting a 1 in front of each digit, rather than adding 9 when carrying the 1 further to the right. I had no idea what the basic number theory at work was (base ten and all that jazz). So my subtraction answers were always correct in the ones place, and often systematically wrong by 10, 100, 110, 1000, 1010, 1100, 1110, etc.

Fortunately, my third-grade math teacher, Mr. Richter, realized what I was doing wrong and what it said about what I didn’t understand. Took him about ten minutes to get me to understand the basic concept of numerical base and how ones, tens, hundreds, etc related to each other, and why you leave nine and carry one more, which becomes ten of the next thing over.

#10 Comment By TooManyJens On March 13, 2014 @ 10:48 am

Reminder: you know absolutely nothing about teaching. It’s great that you have an opinion, but actually no your opinion isn’t really informed in any sort of meaningful way.

The problem is that anti-public-education advocates have spent decades trashing teachers. That the average person on the street thinks they know more about how to teach kids than educators do isn’t a bug, it’s a feature.

Our public policy doesn’t treat teachers as professionals. It treats them as glorified babysitters who have to have the curriculum dictated to them by school boards and “reformers” (well-paid grifters, by and large) because they can’t be trusted to know how to educate kids.

#11 Comment By Rachel On March 13, 2014 @ 10:51 am

I’m an astrophysicist and when I first saw the “numbers sense” methods of doing arithmetic, I thought it was neat. It’s more intuitive, and it makes it easier to do problems in your head as you build practice. It also makes estimating an answer easier.

I think most adults can set up a long division problem, but they would be at an absolute loss if you asked them to explain why the traditional method actually works. And that’s a shame. Maybe teaching math in more transparent method could change that.

#12 Comment By Alice AN On March 13, 2014 @ 11:02 am

OMG. This is madness.

Learning Math in this way actually handicaps a child for future more advanced level of computation.

It’s far more important that a child understand addition and subtraction on the decimal scale, even if it isn’t intuitive, because the decimal scale itself is just one of many. And when you graduate to binary, how in the world can the child make sense of THAT.

Math isn’t something to learn with gimmicks. You actually have to understand and apply it in different situations throughout life. I think this common core is the result of teachers with an education degree with a very superficial knowledge of the core subject they are teaching. So they produce legions of students educated to pass the test, but without the skill set that’s actually applicable for further stages of learning.

It’s a travesty.

#13 Comment By Alice AN On March 13, 2014 @ 11:07 am

It’s really easy to learn Math the old fashioned way and not be confused about what the carry *over* means. It’s called an ABACUS. It was invented eons ago. /o\

Sorry, I’m hyperventilating, but I don’t think enough people understand how profoundly handicapping it is to learn Math the wrong way and never understand how numbers work.

#14 Comment By ck On March 13, 2014 @ 11:29 am

Our problem with Common Core is that it fails to take sufficient recognition of the old way as well. Further, because more time has been spent trying to explain the underlying concepts, less time has been spent on memorizing math facts. Accordingly, teachers are complaining that the students get the new concepts, but are abysmal on basic math facts.

#15 Comment By Michael On March 13, 2014 @ 12:13 pm

Our public policy doesn’t treat teachers as professionals.

True, and there are at least two explanations for the current state of affairs:

1. Sexism. Teaching is a predominantly female profession, and it has been as long as we’ve had a highly bureaucratic central education system. Back at the start we learned how to put teachers under the control of male administrators, and that largely guides how things get done today.
2. Even before the feminization of the teaching profession in the 19th century, teaching was a low-status profession. It was often a position held by failed academics or those without the ability to do manual work, or else university students aiming to get a bit of cash.

It’s only partly about current public policy, and mostly about our culture’s perception of teachers.

#16 Comment By Kevin in OH On March 13, 2014 @ 1:41 pm

This new or “number sense” method of teaching math has things exactly backwards. You don’t develop an “intuitive sense for baseball” by giving kids a bat & ball and letting them wander out onto the field. You first teach them the basics of throwing, catching, and hitting, and then teach them the rules of the game. After they have practiced these things enough to be proficient at them, they will begin to get some “baseball sense”.

In a similar way, only after kids have a mastery of the basic skills (addition tables) and a knowledge of the “rules” (the formula to add two digit numbers), will they have a foundation upon which to develop “number sense”. Trying to teach the sense without first giving them the foundation is absolutely backwards.

We had a horrible 2nd grade year recently where our son when through this “new” math teaching method – he would end up crying every night over his homework because he couldn’t get it. They kept changing methods and never gave him enough time to practice any of them to become proficient.

I am not a math teacher, only a professional engineer and mathematician, and I can tell you that 99% of math, from division on up to calculus and linear algebra, is very simply learning the rules and how to apply them. Kids would be far better served by rigorous instruction in this, instead of trying to instill some hazy “number sense”.

#17 Comment By educationrealist On March 13, 2014 @ 2:01 pm

As I’ve written, the fuss about what Common Core teaches or how it teaches it is irrelevant. What matters is that the standards are absurdly difficult and won’t work for close to half of high school students. Moreover, middle school math is jam-packed full of content that is normally covered at the high school level. The idiots who constructed these standards optimistically assume that the only reason kids don’t learn things is because their teachers didn’t teach it. They’re wrong.


#18 Comment By SteveM On March 13, 2014 @ 2:02 pm

Re: Michael’s comments “Our public policy doesn’t treat teachers as professionals.”

I dunno. People decry the fact that the “Best and Brightest” don’t get into teaching. Well so what? It does not take a genius to teach young kids. It takes fundamental knowledge and a temperament that is both challenging and supportive.

In that context, I think (good) teachers are generally well regarded and generally treated professionally. (Outside of teacher union shenanigans.) Our culture’s perception of teachers is pretty much like our culture’s perception of plumbers and accountants. I.e., they mostly do a decent job that is utilitarian and useful.

Regarding a bureaucratic central education system, I would guess that the good teachers resent being patronized by Education Inc. and forced to use new techniques every few years. And that’s not a function of gender politics, it’s a function of bureaucratic stupidity.

#19 Comment By Franklin Evans On March 13, 2014 @ 3:41 pm

Michael (the math teacher):

First, with respect, kindly remove the chip from your shoulder. I have the utmost respect for the academic, experiential and professional accomplishments of all of the teachers in my life — including my wife, recently retired from 40 years in public schools — and the basic lesson is clear (if only alluded to in your first post): A majority of children will respond adequately (or better) to a simplified, mechanical approach to arithmetic. All teachers have ever asked for is support for devoting the extra time the remaining children need to master the skills. The time is primarily spent in finding that alternate approach that works for that child where the standard approach falls short.

In short, the “new” approach fails utterly to reflect the longstanding wisdom of that lesson from teachers’ experiences. Indeed, all it does is shift the likely membership and proportion of the two cohorts of response to the teaching method of choice.

Like Kevin, I’m not a math teacher. I am a mathematician as well, if in a different field (software and systems). My experience includes teaching (my title was “tutor” or “assistant”, my function was being the teacher’s clone as much as possible) math (and English) under the supervision of teachers, and in every case they expressed that wisdom: don’t spin the poor student’s wheels by repeating the same things over and over again that they clearly aren’t getting. Find another path. Get my advice on that. Engage the student in finding it.

Many of us, had we been paying attention, have seen what effective teaching looks like. We don’t need to be teachers ourselves to discuss it.

#20 Comment By Matt W On March 13, 2014 @ 6:09 pm

The new way looks like the approach I use in my head (mainly because remembering small numbers is easier), but doesn’t seem terribly useful on paper. If I already understand enough about numbers that I can add 12+3+5+10 and so forth, then I already understand what’s going on with 32-12. The old way is more efficient, especially in this case where no carrying is needed, and pointing out the cases where it isn’t (e.g. 4000-3999) doesn’t change that, because that’s a case where the answer is obvious.

I think the big problem is that the CC method just breaks the problem up into multiple smaller problems. This is fine as a method of solving, but doesn’t tell anyone anything in particular about subtraction as a concept.

#21 Comment By ErikofMpls On March 13, 2014 @ 9:19 pm

I appreciate this series and Ms. Libresco’s dedication to the facts, but some of these comments make me despair, as they seemed not to have read this key passage:

“Common Core doesn’t mandate the old ‘carry the one’ method, the newer ‘subtract by adding’ method, or the Montessori ‘use physical objects’ method. The Common Core standards just list skills and competencies that students at different grade levels are required to reach, and provides some suggested strategies for teaching them. It’s up to the school and the teacher to choose the method they think is best.”

So there is no “Common Core method.” No government agency is trying to force a new way of doing math on anybody. This whole controversy is cooked up by hucksters like Michelle Malkin who know there is a buck to be made feeding some people’s fear of Obama’s Secret Agenda, which apparently now involves turning our children into socialists by teaching them a different way to do math problems which arrives at the exact same answers that they always have.

Teaching methods change. There are educational trends. Some last the test of time, some don’t. It was this way before Common Core and it will be this way after. The only difference now is that there is money and political points to be made by treating any change in this country as part of a menacing effort to destroy America. Calm down, everyone.

#22 Comment By Andrew E. On March 13, 2014 @ 10:08 pm

I would like to point out, lest anyone think Michelle Malkin is attempting anything like an objective critique, that her article begins thusly:

“America’s downfall doesn’t begin with the “low-information voter.” It starts with the no-knowledge student.”

and ends like this:

“Common Core is rotten to the core. The corruption of math education is just the beginning.”

I recommend reading everything in between to get a better sense of her hatred and distrust of anyone who thinks CC might improve education and her conviction that this is all a part of Obama and liberal’s plans to destroy the country.
What concerns me is how- outside of Ms. Libresco, people here, and other serious minds analyzing CC- we as a country are supposed to have adult conversations about these things, when groups with such hysterical and conspiratorial voices seem to continually suck the air out of the room.

#23 Comment By Annek On March 14, 2014 @ 2:23 am

“The aim of these new methods is to help students get an intuitive sense for how numbers combine, not just for the answer.”

What about kids who have a fairly natural sense for how numbers combine? For them, learning the clunky way of doing math seems silly, and maybe needlessly confusing.

#24 Comment By Leslie Fain On March 14, 2014 @ 9:57 am

Erik of Mpls said: “So there is no “Common Core method.” No government agency is trying to force a new way of doing math on anybody. This whole controversy is cooked up by hucksters like Michelle Malkin who know there is a buck to be made feeding some people’s fear of Obama’s Secret Agenda, which apparently now involves turning our children into socialists by teaching them a different way to do math problems which arrives at the exact same answers that they always have.”

I sense from your comments that you either do not have children, or your children have not been using a Common Core-aligned curriculum for math. Maybe I’m wrong; that’s just a guess. I do not know whose comments are causing you to despair, but I have found some of the comments in this thread to be very thoughtful. Have you actually read them? As I mentioned above, my problem is that the skills Common Core is requiring young children– like mine in kindergarten and 2nd grade– to master — are ones they are not developmentally ready for.

You mention that there is no Common Core method, that no one is requiring anyone to learn these skills in a certain way, that it is up to the teachers to decide the best way to teach the skills. Let’s look at this realistically. My kids are sent home math worksheets every evening that are part of a Common Core-aligned curriculum. The directions tell the students to perform math problems in a different way than the way I was taught. No other options are given. When they are tested, part of what they are tested on is “how” they came up with the answer. In class, they are instructed to regroup, not carry the one. When my husband was talking to my 2nd grader about “carrying the one,” he had no idea what he was talking about. So you are telling me, that at school, with the limited amount of time the teacher has, she is supposed to teach two methods of doing math — the new way, and the old way? Are you telling me that there are Common Core-aligned curricula out there that teach math the “old way”? What would the point be of even saying that curricula was Common-Core aligned?

You say that teaching methods change. I studied math from kindergarten through college, and the way my kids are learning math is the biggest change I have seen. Instead of making unhelpful comments like “calm down, everybody,” why don’t you honestly examine the real issues teachers and parents are pointing to here.

#25 Comment By Franklin Evans On March 14, 2014 @ 10:28 am

Anne, you hit a significant nail on the head.

My personal view is that having an “intuitive sense” in any topic or content area is rare. I was one of those students when it came to math. In class after class in every grade, I was the only such student in the class. For me, “clunky” and “silly” are rather more polite than the terms I used (silently, of course). I doubt that confusing would be in the mix, more likely exasperating that the intuitive child is being told he or she is wrong somehow.

I’m not suggesting a reliable 1-of-30 proof here, just using my anecdotal experience to suggest the general assertion.

Following on Erik’s point: teachers don’t need authoritative declarations of The One True Method. What they get is training in the prevailing, for the time, “wisdom” of what works best most often. What they’ve not been getting for a very long time is the trust and simple courtesy to give the “most often” children the benefit of economy-of-scale — the aspect of the original public school model, called by some the “assembly line” model — and devoting the rest of the time to those students who are not served by it.

#26 Comment By Franklin Evans On March 14, 2014 @ 1:06 pm

Leslie, it was Michael in the first comment post who use the “calm down” quip.

My informed* opinion about Common Core is that it is part and parcel of the effort to eviscerate the entire professional education track, and make “teaching” primarily boiler-plate “instruction” test monitoring.

Every accredited teaching degree program requires course work and credits in child development. Leslie is completely correct in criticizing the failure of her children being served at their developmental levels. Teachers I’ve spoken to would gladly walk out en masse over this if they weren’t also sure districts would hire glorified babysitters in their places. Heck, the districts would probably create budget surplusses out of it. Who cares whether the children actually learn anything?

My perspective is more than long enough into the past to point to the egregious — nay, nausea-inducing — irony of that. Once upon a time, parents complained that teachers made no efforts beyond the bare minimum of skills and content. Ever hear of “enrichment”? It’s actually codified in PA special education statute, legally enforceable for any student whose IEP has it listed.

* My information is first hand from my wife (recently retired after 40+ years in classrooms) and her colleagues in a large, urban public school district. Their bitterness is intense and IMO tragic to behold. Mentorship of younger teachers is in severe decline because veteran teachers no longer see any value in their expertise. Early retirements are leaving schools understaffed much more quickly than the district can close and consolidate schools. Charter schools are potential sweatshops for teachers. It is downright ugly around here.

#27 Comment By Sy On March 14, 2014 @ 7:26 pm

Interesting that most top countries in math don’t use any of these “New” ways, but they are better at math than us. The only thing is that education isn’t profiteered as much in those countries. “New” way, new money. Why don’t we think of how others use the “Old” way and be so much better than us first? Why not look into the problem, the benchmark, and examine ourselves first? What’s missing? He used that and got good results, I think I used the same thing, but my result is always crappy. What gives?

#28 Comment By Mir miller On March 16, 2014 @ 5:14 pm

To the teacher who made the first comment, and told me to butt out because I don’t know how to teach,
I would ask you to remove the chip from your shoulder. EVERY parent MUST be a teacher to their children, and their thoughts about how their children learn, as well as feedback about how their children are responding to CC are extremely valid… It’s offensive that you stand there and say that we should stand back and let teachers do their jobs when we consistently hear that the number one factor in academic success is parent involvement.

Second, I want to point out that while it is true that the standards don’t dictate how each outcome should be taught, they don’t HAVE to. The tests will score the kids based on HOW they got their answer and not just WHAT their answer was. You are all overlooking this fact. Kids won’t have the flexibility to do it in a way that is best for them, especially since the tests will drive teacher evaluation and job security withi. A couple of years…

So let’s review:
1. The tests will ask the kids to demonstrate proficiency in demonstrating how they got their answers. It is not just about arriving at the correct answer.
2. This means that there will be no flexibility in teaching kids methods that work best for them
3. Teachers are motivated to teach the NEW way only, as test results will dictate much of their evaluative outcomes going forward.

CC is not about what’s best for our kids. It’s about money. Data mining, testing and technology that add up to many, many fortunes for Bill Gates and his friends.

#29 Comment By Ted Seeber On March 24, 2014 @ 3:55 pm

You can’t “teach” number sense. You either have it or you don’t- it is genetic.

#30 Comment By Deas Plant On March 26, 2014 @ 10:48 pm

TEACHING understanding of the process ought to be a fundamental part of teaching the process. Back when I went to school 50-plus years ago, we were taught to UNDERSTAND the process as well as how to use it.

I am approaching 70 years old and still working full time ‘cos I enjoy it. BUT, IF I was a worrying man, I would be worried about the future of humanity when I see many of the products of ‘modern’ education who can’t spell, can’t put sentences together properly and CAN’T DO BASIC MATHS – some of them even WITH a ‘plastic brain’.

IMHO, education needs to get back to teaching young people to USE THEIR GOD-GIVEN BRAINS for solving problems BEFORE it starts teaching them to use computers and calculators. This includes teaching them to use their powers of observation, analysis and deduction and to take notice of the world around them and the beauty in it.

What hope for the world if all the kids of today continue to get around with their walkmans or I-pods blowing their brains to smithereens with loud music or walking down the street so absorbed in their games or texting on their cell phones that they walk right into lamp posts and other obstacles? Ain’t it a good thing that sabre-toothed tigers no longer exist? Whoa up there! STT’s have been replaced by cars and trucks and they can kill you just as quickly if not more so if you aren’t paying attention.

How about getting back to an education system that turns out EDUCATED people who are capable of USING that education?

Just my 0.02.

You all have a wonderful day.
Best wishes.
Deas Plant

#31 Comment By Dana On March 31, 2014 @ 2:56 pm

I’m a junior in high school who’s currently taking Trigonometry (pre-calculus) and preparing to take AP Statistics in my senior year. These methods of teaching make absolutely no sense and just add time to finding the answer. This way of finding a solution isn’t practical. As you get into higher math, this stupidity is just going to make everything more confusing.

I understand wanting to teach all kids across the country the same thing and though I don’t agree with it, it has some purpose. But teaching all the kids a stupid method that won’t help them later on, that’s pointless. For years kids have been learning how to subtract and guess what, it works! I’ve looked at many of the common core worksheets, and the instructions are honestly, a waste of time, as is the method of learning it’s trying to reinforce. Instead of simplifying math like they try to, the people in charge of common core have managed to make it so that even the smartest mathematicians would fail the 4th grade math section. Why not focus your time and energy on something that will actually help people instead of confusing young children.

Teachers in high level math classes expect you to use a calculator to check your math. To find an average the old way is so simple on the calculator , which helps especially when finding the average of large numbers, all you do is add them all up and then divide by the amount of numbers. Tell me how do you use blocks to find the average of 139, 483, 232, and 274, which by the way when using the old method gives you 282. And if you teach them only this way, how in the world are they going to be able to find another way to come up with the average of those numbers. Not only that, but I can tell you that these kids aren’t going to have time to use these ridiculous methods on the SAT or ACT when they’re getting ready to go to college. Stop messing with the curriculum, it was fine the way it was. Ya not all kids do well in school, and sometimes that is the teachers fault, but there are also a lot of kids that simply don’t care. Teaching them ways like this, isn’t going to help at all.

#32 Comment By Jeff Davis On April 16, 2014 @ 10:31 pm

As a degreed Mechanical Engineer that must train engineers just out of college, they barely have the basic tool set to accomplish problem solving skills of fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, dynamic systems, etc. This “new math” is nothing more than someone trying to put a feather in their hat. Students need to understand the mechanics behind the calculations; not some non-sense garbage that does nothing to create building blocks. Shame on the “so called educators” that think they are doing something great; this is damaging. It takes experienced engineers like myself to break them down and build them up to problem solve with the right tools. A hammer is still a hammer and so on; these”educators” are taking a wrench and calling it a hammer to perform the same purpose. God help all of us when the older experienced engineers are gone and can no longer correct this trash shoved down their throats. I am sure Newtonian Mechanics is the next under attack such that gravity no longer applies.

#33 Comment By Jeff Davis On April 16, 2014 @ 10:41 pm

I think one more comment is worth stating. As a member of the ASME society, they should be notified of this poor approach to math and find the root cause to the problem and remove it from the process. I have the upmost confidence that ASME and other affiliations will get to the bottom of this disaster and have it corrected. Society can not afford this type of stupidity to propagate.

#34 Comment By Hal On April 18, 2014 @ 11:24 pm

I *am* a math teacher, as well as a parent of an elementary school student.

I advise all parents to do what I have done: teach your children the column-based “carry” / “borrow” and traditional long division algorithms to your children on your own. Here’s why:
1. Your child will be faster on tests and still get the correct answer. This fluency will pay dividends forever. Since your child’s public school competitors will not have this advantage, you are giving your child a leg up. If the child is required to use the new way on a test, he or she still can – he or she will have had the misfortune of learning it in school,

2. The older method does a *better* job in teaching place value than the new version. This is an opinion, but it is one based on experience, albeit limited.