Thanks, Common Core.
January 15, 2015 4:28 PM   Subscribe

Thanks, Common Core. Physics blogger Chad Orzel writes about the way kids do math now. (Spoiler: he likes it.)

Other math Common Core links:

Interview with mathematician Bill McCallum, leader of the working group that prepared the math Common Core standards.

Conversations with Euclid: an alternate pedagogical approach to the Common Core geometry standards.

The Common Core standards increase the emphasis on statistical and probabilistic ideas, even in the earliest grades. Statistics Teacher Network walks you through the content.
posted by escabeche (62 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
 
Whenever one of those outraged posts about a Common Core math problem goes up on facebook, I always look at it and think, "... seems pretty reasonable to me."

I don't get the hate. Didn't we go through this exact same thing in the 60's with New Math?
posted by kyrademon at 4:34 PM on January 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


Common Core is apparently teaching kids how to do math quickly in their heads in exactly the way I figured out how to do math quickly in my head when I was a kid and was not taught Common Core.

I used to get points off for not showing work, even when I got the right answer on a test. Sometimes I even got points off for showing work that worked but wasn't the work the teacher taught me to work.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 4:36 PM on January 15, 2015 [24 favorites]


Nearly everything I've read about Common Core (embarrassingly, since I have two school-age children) comes from ranty Facebook posts. Based on those posts and the previous records of their posters, I can only assume it's a good thing.
posted by glhaynes at 4:41 PM on January 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch, teachers want you to show work so they can figure out who's cheating or at least make it harder to cheat, and because you actually do need to keep your notation neat for very difficult problems.

But taking points off for using a different method that works is just wrong.
posted by subdee at 4:41 PM on January 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


kyrademon: "I don't get the hate. Didn't we go through this exact same thing in the 60's with New Math?"

Yup.
posted by octothorpe at 4:45 PM on January 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


When I was growing up, the big thing was New Math.

The single biggest mistake we made in education was dropping New Math.

Seriously.
posted by eriko at 4:49 PM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


We try to encourage her interest in math by making up problems on request, and pointing out cool math things when the opportunity arises, but haven’t been doing any formal instruction at home.
That's all you really need to do to teach young kids math... if they're interested.

The interview with McCallum is a masterpiece of sophistry... right, standards have nothing to do with testing. nationwide standards definitely make it easier for the little guy in educational publishing, yup. What "mathbabe" should have asked is why McCallum and his "think tank" of business and education leaders think "standards" are going to improve education in the US? I mean, it's not like American business doesn't love pushing standards and metrics whenever they want to loot some under-performing company? It's not like Bill Gates wouldn't like to find a "stack ranking" for everything in society.

If you encourage teachers who like mathematics to teach mathematics, give them authority and autonomy within the system, resources to organize and develop materials, mathematics teaching would magically improve without any standards at all. The problem with math ed in the US has nothing to do with pedagogy or curriculum but the fact that math is the class you stick the football coach because all he has to do is tell everyone the routes to follow. It's that elementary school teachers tend to be both mathematically ignorant and biased against the subject.

it's the same as everything else in the US, a failure to invest in people.
posted by ennui.bz at 4:52 PM on January 15, 2015 [9 favorites]


I learned the new math way and figured out what apparently is the "common core" way on my own as others have done. However, can someone explain the old method to me -- the one used in the video octothorpe mentioned, where they're "carrying" ones even though it's subtraction?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 4:54 PM on January 15, 2015


I mean, McCallum holds up his Gates Foundation funded non-profit as a "little guy" helped out by Common Core. That's just totally cynical and indicative of the kind of scum that rises to the top in American education
posted by ennui.bz at 4:56 PM on January 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


If only, this is how I was taught. Instead of "carrying" we were taught to "borrow" from the tens column. Here's an example:
24 - 8 = ?


 2  4
-   8
-----
Looking at the ones column, you can't subtract 8 from 4, so you borrow 10 from the tens column:
 21 14
-    8
------
  1  6
So now you've got 14 - 8 ones (6) and 1 - 0 tens (1), so 16.
posted by robcorr at 5:26 PM on January 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


Funny, in the schools I attended growing up the coaches got health and social studies classes. Math was generally taught by people who didn't hate it. Didn't help me not hate it, though. My hatred for it was more than anything because it required actual effort, though, rather than learning through osmosis.

Looking back it's really too bad I gave up after Algebra I and geometry. I suspect higher math would help me be a better programmer.
posted by wierdo at 5:30 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


What I've seen of Language Arts Common Core stuff is odd, off-putting, and often seems unsuited to kids' grade levels. (Is it reasonable to expect that a 4th-grader would be able to articulate why "A cheetah is the fastest land animal" is a fact and "The Simpsons isn't as funny as it used to be" is an opinion? I'm not sure...)*

What I've seen of math Common Core is pretty reasonable once you get past freaking out that everything is different.

Freaking out that everything is different doesn't have a cost of zero. It means it's that much harder for parents to help their kids out with math homework unless they relearn all the terminology.

But for the most part, we just don't need a different curriculum or different learning methods. The kids whose parents have money keep on doing pretty well; the kids whose parents don't have money keep on doing poorly. There will be bright kids who want extra math problems under any reasonable curriculum, and probably kids who find math boring and hard under any reasonable curriculum. It's just a lot easier to sell people on a new curriculum than to sell people on increasing school funding, increasing teacher pay, and reducing income inequality.

*"'The Simpsons isn't as funny as it used to be' is a fact. I read it on the internet."
"Okay, well, they're right. But that's an opinion. I mean, it's the correct opinion. But it's an opinion."
posted by Jeanne at 5:34 PM on January 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


I think that the concept that speed is objective and funnyness subjective is within the grasp of your average eight year old. (Or however old a kid is in fourth grade.) It may involve impressive sounding words, but the concepts involved are fairly simple.
posted by bracems at 5:44 PM on January 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Robcorr, yes, that's what I was taught to. I was trying to understand the first method in the video (the one the parents supposedly knew before the new math) where you carry when you subtract.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:44 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


What I think I'm seeing here is this (I don't have kids so im a little outside of all this):

For years I have seen articles and links passed around along the lines of "Method taught in Korean/Indian/Danish schools allow children to do large problems in their head without pencil or calculator!" followed by choruses of "If only our schools taught that here!"

So now that they are actually teaching that an entire generation is going to collapse, right?
posted by sourwookie at 5:46 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Your Homework: Read the Standards for Mathematical Practice. Seriously! These are the parts of CCSS-math that apply to all grade levels, and are really great things we're asking kids to do.

Extra Credit: pick a grade or topic from the link above, and compare it to what you learned in that class/grade.

(I have lots of problems with the implementation of CCSS, and lack of instructional support for teachers at all grade levels, but the standards themselves really are wonderful.)
posted by Wulfhere at 5:46 PM on January 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


*"'The Simpsons isn't as funny as it used to be' is a fact. I read it on the internet."
"Okay, well, they're right. But that's an opinion. I mean, it's the correct opinion. But it's an opinion."


Correct opinions state facts.
posted by kenko at 5:55 PM on January 15, 2015


The US lags internationally in math because
1. Child poverty predicts 87-95% of performance on standardized tests and
2. The US has the highest percentage of child poverty in the developed world.

New academic standards and (largely untested) tricks for teaching math won't change that at all.

The problem is not the teachers, the principals, the unions, the standards, the amount of time in classroom, the number of hours spent doing homework, the qualifications of teachers, or whether or not (in the case of vouchers and charters) somebody is making money off of them. They each have minuscule (we're talking 1-3%, at best) impacts.

It's the damned child poverty.

For years, we've said: "To reduce poverty, we need to improve standardized test scores".

That is backwards, instead think: "To improve standardized test scores, we need to reduce poverty".
posted by The Giant Squid at 5:56 PM on January 15, 2015 [134 favorites]


I think if only I had a penguin... was asking for an explanation of the subtraction algorithm that starts at 0:43, which doesn't involve any "borrowing" from place values to the left.

Borrowing from the left is exactly what he does there -- to bring 2 minus 3 back into the 0-9 range, he needs to add ten to the result, which he gets from the next column, either by subtracting one from the upper number or by adding one the lower number.

compare it to what you learned in that class/grade

I'm pretty impressed that people on the Internet always seem to remember exactly what they learned in grades 1-8. Is everyone but me 16 years old or something?
posted by effbot at 6:01 PM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ok, I think a lot of people are trying to teach me math who haven't watched the video. We all learned to borrow. I understand how that works. I know all about the ones and the tens and the hundreds spot. However, there is another method shown there. The context of the video is that this borrowing method that we all learned has just been introduced and the parents don't know it and yet have to help their kids.

So before the borrowing method is taught (to the parents so they can help their kids), the video shows the old method, with two variations The old method is not really explained because it's assumed that everyone in the audience knows it. The older method involves "carrying" not "borrowing". Yes, this is subtraction, but somehow they're carrying anyway. Can anyone explain that method?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:06 PM on January 15, 2015


Huh...thanks 23skidoo. What I find interesting about that is that it's odd that the new math was brought in because the point is to understand what you're doing. It sounds like the old method also requires understandings ones and tens and hundreds.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:09 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the parents of my students are complaining about the common core as well, and the rollout and implementation has been spotty at best, but when our math book had an error in one of the problems, not only did my students spot the error, they figured out 5 distinct ways of solving the problem anyway... And it's because of common core's emphasis on thinking around the problem.
posted by Huck500 at 6:13 PM on January 15, 2015 [13 favorites]


"You can't take 3 from 2, 2 is less than 3, so you look at the 4 in the ten's place. Now that's really 4 tens so you make it three tens, regroup, and you change the ten to ten ones and you add it to the two and get twelve and you take away three and get nine..."
posted by Windopaene at 6:13 PM on January 15, 2015 [12 favorites]


My experience with Common Core is limited to seeing my kindergartener come home and have to draw counters for his homework. How many dots makes six? they ask. He despises it for being boring and easy and it's making him hate school.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:23 PM on January 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


I did watch the video. The "carry" is just the notation he uses to borrow the ten he needs to turn 2-3 into 12-3 so the result stays positive. He then removes it from the next column, either by subtracting it from the upper number or adding it to the lower number, depending on age and education form.
posted by effbot at 6:25 PM on January 15, 2015


Here's some of what CCSS says about Kindergarten and counting:

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.CC.B.5
Count to answer "how many?" questions about as many as 20 things arranged in a line, a rectangular array, or a circle, or as many as 10 things in a scattered configuration; given a number from 1-20, count out that many objects.

They're trying to get you thinking about counting methods so that introducing multiplication as arrays and area models will go fluidly in later grades.

I think that there's definitely some teachers (esp. in elementary school) who aren't really looking at the big picture when assigning things based on these standards. A good math teacher would know WHY you're practicing so much counting, and be able to extend those problems for kids that are ready.
posted by Wulfhere at 6:29 PM on January 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


At my high school trig was taught by the basketball teacher, and he called you a nerd if you were too interested in it.
posted by empath at 6:41 PM on January 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


I've had it up to here (hovers hand around forehead) with all the knee-jerking about Common Core. We're talking about hundreds and hundreds of educational standards. Some are new, some are tried-and-true and probably haven't changed much. Some suck, some don't. Some were written by actual educators and some were politically motivated hacks paid by private education firms. Assessment and testing is the real problem, IMHO, but those problems pre-dates Common Core anyway.

It's an incredibly complex subject, and no one in education who's looked at common core would likely give it a flat thumbs up/thumbs down. It's a beast, and the only way to truly assess its worth is to judge it one bit at a time. And time is the other factor--we won't know how well CC really works unless you give it time. Then the data will speak for itself. But please don't be shocked if there is something about CC that turns out to be a positive, good thing.
posted by zardoz at 7:13 PM on January 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


I remember learning to borrow! It was a revelation in subtraction.

Prior to that, someone had explained it to me incompletely, simply stating, "you need to borrow from the 2 because 4 is smaller than 8 (as in 24 minus 8)." I spent *hours* staring at such problems trying to discern which numbers were bigger and smaller *based on their type font* on the page. But guess what? They were all the same font, so I got NOWHERE!!!

Some time later, someone else fully explained the 'smaller' vs. 'larger' concept well enough to get around my literal assumption, and omg the revelation!

p.s. - none of these people explaining were teachers; I liked to just do math problems ahead in the book in my free time when i was 6. probably cousins or similar telling me these things.... I don't have much contact with young kids these days, so I don't have much skin in the game and I am neutral about whether the borrowing is better than the new way. Whichever way, kids need someone to care enough to see they're understanding the instruction....
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:19 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Can someone please point me to where Common Core defines how you teach kids to achieve the goals? I've looked through the standards. I've transposed them into a spreadsheet so they are more easily digestible at a quick glance. I haven't seen anything in Common Core that requires you to use reverse Polish notation, or any of the other grar Facebook stuff I've seen.
posted by ryoshu at 7:26 PM on January 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


I love math and my 3rd grader hates it. I've been the math helper in his classroom. When people say that the theory of Common Core math is good, but the implementation is spotty, do not gloss over the second half of that statement. The implementation of Common Core math sucks dead weasels through a lint-clogged vacuum hose.

For example: in a lesson on place values, the kids were given worksheets with blanks allowing them to fill in digits to make a big number, which their partner would then read aloud ("sixty-three million, four hundred thousand." etc). The blanks looked like this:

_ _ _ , _ _ _, _ _

Yes. The ones place was missing. After some WTFing I realized what had happened on that particular worksheet. Some graphic designer had flipped over this: _ _, _ _ _ , _ _ _ but hadn't bothered to rearrange where the commas go.

You know that feeling when your kid suddenly "remembers" at 9pm that he has math homework? When you are googling "what the hell is a fraction strip?" at 9:15pm, then you understand why people hate Common Core math.

There is also the dreaded "write to explain." The more obvious the answer, the more painful it is. Why is 7+4 equal to 11? Ummmmm..... it is a zen koan.

If you have a kid who already loves math, the Common Core approach could be great. But for a kid who's not a math fan, homework becomes an epic battle of wills. (My son's core competency is getting other people to do stuff for him, which will no doubt serve him well in his future career as a manager. But you can't delegate your math homework to the staff. No matter how much you try. I actually kind of admire his persistence and creativity in trying to wear me down. But when I ask, "How would you set up the problem?" please do not respond with "I am a magical pony." This will not cause me to do your math homework for you.)

This is a great article about the theory behind this kind of math. But it fails in the US for the same reason a lot of Japanese innovations fail in the US -- we are too hierarchical. In Japan, the lowliest assembly line worker can pull the cord and stop the assembly line if he spots a defect, and that's why the Toyota Production System works. In the US, it just becomes TPS reports, because the lowliest line worker correctly assumes that he'd get in trouble for pointing out problems.

This math method works in Japan because the classrooms are noisy. The kids are hashing out various ways to solve a problem. In the US there is just too much emphasis on classroom control, so the kids -- again, correctly -- are focused on just getting the right answer so they can be done with their homework.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:27 PM on January 15, 2015 [11 favorites]


--we won't know how well CC really works unless you give it time. Then the data will speak for itself.

The data will not speak for itself. The data is not objective and true.

The data will speak for someone. My money's on the monied. It will speak for the monied.
posted by vitabellosi at 7:29 PM on January 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm a teacher who does not and never will teach Common Core. I can't imagine being a parent subjected to this nonsense. I've yet to meet a parent who has found it to be positive change and certainly not an educator who has embraced it. What a mess.
posted by blaneyphoto at 7:40 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I played rugby in college with Oil Can. Great guy, terrific writer and thinker.

selfmedicating - I believe the same method works here in Korea, where classrooms are decidedly not generally noisy.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:40 PM on January 15, 2015


The math in the OP is very, very confusing to me, because I learned differently. I mean, good for the kids who are learning it if it works for them. But if I ever have kids, I'm not going to be a lot of help doing homework.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:42 PM on January 15, 2015


But if I ever have kids, I'm not going to be a lot of help doing homework.

Don't sell yourself short. At the minimum, you'll know how to check if their answers are correct. And it could be a fruitful exercise to learn the new methods together; try to figure out how what they're doing works.
posted by Jpfed at 7:54 PM on January 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Ryoshu -- you're right, this actually isn't Common Core specifically. I think the new new math and Common Core are mixed up in people's minds because schools have been buying new textbooks that align with Common Core. And when you get new textbooks, you get new math.

I'm in Virginia which is actually is one of the few states that didn't adopt Common Core, so yes, it is unfair to blame the Core for what I'm complaining about.
posted by selfmedicating at 8:16 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Achieve is not a testing company...nominally that's true. Nominally.
posted by borges at 8:18 PM on January 15, 2015


You know that feeling when your kid suddenly "remembers" at 9pm that he has math homework?

What, now Common Core is to blame for parents not seeing their kids before 9pm on a schoolnight?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 8:22 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


About old math and new math and whatever the hell.

- as a kid I hated math until algebra - once things started to get more abstract they started to get more interesting. So I do support the idea of teaching kids underlying principles as well as algorithms and answers.

- on the other hand the way they tried to teach those principles when I was a kid (in the 90s) involved (forced) use of "manipulables," counting blocks, visual and tactile stuff that was simultaneously beneath my intellectual understanding of the concept and something that made it all even less fun for a rather poorly coordinated and disorganized kid.

So I like the basic ideas of some of the "new maths," but I don't trust the people responsible for conveying these ideas to kids to do it well, and I think the wisdom of changing standards what seems like twice a decade is questionable.
posted by atoxyl at 8:26 PM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


There is no Common Core where I am (Canada) so I'm not totally familiar with it. But here the emphasis in math is having the kids develop their own personal algorithms. In the early years, when she was 4, 5 and 6 I was super impressed with the way they were teaching. She'd describe something they did at school, or show me homework that wasn't called math but which was clearly teaching them some basic concepts. When she got a little farther along, though, she started to get frustrated.

There is also the dreaded "write to explain." The more obvious the answer, the more painful it is. Why is 7+4 equal to 11? Ummmmm..... it is a zen koan.

This is the thing she has hated the most. "Mom how do I explain when it's just that it is?" Beats me, kid. She also really hated always having to find 2 algorithms. I do understand that there are a lot of reasons to have them do this work--it makes them observe what they're doing so they can apply it to other problems in the future, it helps the teacher see what exactly they are struggling with if there are errors, etc. But for a kid who grasps it easily, it just slows them down and makes something that is simple to them become foolishly complicated.

Anyhow, she's in 6th grade now, still LOVES math. But she told me tonight that they'd had a substitute today because her teacher, who is the head of math in her elementary school, has been called up by the math teachers at the high school because the grade 7 kids aren't able to solve problems well, and more specifically, aren't familiar enough with the (standard?) algorithms to work effectively. And that's my main problem with how the math is being taught; it's great to get them thinking about how their thinking works. And it's great that they are empowered to figure out problems in the way that works best for them. But if in 6th grade they are STILL using any old variety of personal algorithms, at a certain point that's just going to break down. Doing math in your head is great for simple problems but when you start getting into more complex work, you need to have a clear path to solving problems. They are still being encouraged to think about which of their own personal methods they would like to use, so it's like every single problem exists independently and they re-invent the wheel every time they have to solve it.

But if I ever have kids, I'm not going to be a lot of help doing homework.

Early on in my kid's schooling the teachers said, with regards to math and grammar, that if the kid is struggling, you have to just send them back to the teacher. We've definitely had some tearful evenings where I tried to help (long division, this is how you do it) and instead made things worse.
posted by looli at 8:30 PM on January 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


something that made it all even less fun for a rather poorly coordinated and disorganized kid.

This reminds me of the complaint a friend had when our kids were in Grade 1, which was that math consisted entirely of word problems. So her son--who rocked numbers but sucked at reading--ended up sucking at math, too.
posted by looli at 8:34 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


They are still being encouraged to think about which of their own personal methods they would like to use, so it's like every single problem exists independently and they re-invent the wheel every time they have to solve it.

Yes. This. (Ontario) There was a great episode of The Current on this exact issue. The key word is mastery. The kids may learn to describe math or think about math slightly better, but due to not mastering any kind of standard algorithm many of them end up deciding it's just too fuzzy, especially at the 9-11 yr old stage.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:38 PM on January 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


- let's not confuse math with arithmetic.
- CC implementation does suck badly
- my kid now knows lots of arithmetic tricks, but has no idea how-the-numbers-work. some magic wizard may as well have dropped the nines-times-table-count-yer-fingers trick from the sky.

I haven't seen anything in Common Core that requires you to use reverse Polish notation

if only
posted by j_curiouser at 8:42 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was hopelessly staring sideways at my 7 yr old's math homework last night, trying to figure out what the hell they wanted him to achieve. He watched me struggling, sighed and said, "they need to give us homework that hundred year old mom's can do too,"

Thanks CC.
posted by pearlybob at 9:16 PM on January 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


From what I've seen, it seems like you could determine 90% of people's opinions on new educational approaches using the following questionnaire:
1) If you have a child, answer question 1a. If you do not have a child, answer question 1b.
    1a) Does the new approach make the subject harder or easier for your child?
    1b) Does the new approach make the subject harder or easier for you?
2) Does it make the subject harder or easier for the majority of children?
If you answered "Harder" to question 1a or 1b, then the correct position is "This education approach is terrible!" If you answered "Easier" to question 1a or 1b, then the correct position is "This education approach is great!"

Disregard the answer to question 2. Whether or not an educational approach helps other kids does not in any way factor into whether it is a good or a bad approach.
posted by Bugbread at 9:29 PM on January 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


Correct opinions state facts.

Is that your opinion, or is it a fact?

That's a joke, of course, but it's a joke with a point. I believe as a statement it is both counterfactual and an incorrect opinion. So where does that leave us?

The words 'correct' and 'opinion' and 'fact' all need definitions before you can even begin to untangle the mess.

I tend to think that the idea that 'correct opinions state facts' lies at the heart of the hollowing-out of modern public discourse, the bizarre success of Fox News and its legion of followers, and the rise and spread of stuff like this in the past decade:
The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''
But, you know, that's just my opinion, man.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:32 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is more in response to the comments than to the original post.

Common Core is the shit. New Zealand schools have been using it (titled The Numeracy Project there, and it's been a heavily researched project now for a few years). Schools have gone through a draft process for two years, then the teachers' resource books were updated based on what needed to change, and now it's been successfully implemented for four, maybe five years. The ministry provided schools with support from the creators of the project, who came in to observe, model, share ideas. I started teacher training in its second year of trialling and it took some time to realise that we weren't going to teach kids maths the same way we'd been taught as kids. My kids learned Numeracy Project maths and can calculate things in their head way faster than I can, and I'm pretty OK at maths.

The problems I see with Common Core (aside from parents not really understanding; that's a communication problem as much as parents being resistant) are in the implementation in classrooms. And I'm only thinking about it from my perspective as a reasonably "fresh" teacher in NZ, where teaching methods are often non-traditional.

First, there shouldn't be textbooks for young learners. Common Core math starts out very heavily hands-on. Kids should be sitting in groups and manipulating materials to support their learning: we use counters and tens frames, long laminated number lines, multicoloured plastic shapes (teddy bears, dinosaurs) that can be sorted by type/size/colour, film canisters with plastic jellybeans, stuffed toys, whatever is on hand.

Second, kids are either bored or struggling. It doesn't sound like teachers split their classes into groups by what level/stage/competency/task they're learning, so some are finding the work too difficult while others are complaining that it's too easy. It's not popular in many circles to segregrate kids by "smart" versus "less smart" but that's not what it is, it's being realistic about what they need and not making a big deal about it. As long as the kids' focus is on what they need to be able to do, they don't notice or care what group they're in. In NZ classrooms, kids are grouped by things like, "I can show what five looks like (on fingers or using maths equipment)" or "I can skip-count in 2s/3s/5s". When you can do that thing, you move to a new group.

Teaching small groups means kids get more time to use equipment, more time to learn off each other, and there are more chances for the teacher to notice what someone might be doing wrong.

Even in NZ there are teachers who still struggle with it -- especially those who have taught the traditional methods for a long time. It can be really hard to grasp as a teacher, let alone as a parent! The resources for teachers in NZ are very good, down to explicit lesson plans in order, but you still need to be able to notice when a child is successful or not, and know when and how to move them on.
posted by tracicle at 10:40 PM on January 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


And what The Giant Squid said. Times a billion.
posted by zardoz at 10:45 PM on January 15, 2015


But for the most part, we just don't need a different curriculum or different learning methods. The kids whose parents have money keep on doing pretty well; the kids whose parents don't have money keep on doing poorly. There will be bright kids who want extra math problems under any reasonable curriculum, and probably kids who find math boring and hard under any reasonable curriculum. It's just a lot easier to sell people on a new curriculum than to sell people on increasing school funding, increasing teacher pay, and reducing income inequality.

Yep. Politician's love to tinker with education systems tat they don't really understand, making their new radical systems. Some of those changes are good, some of them are bad, but the inevitable focus on them ignores the actual answer to improving education, which is spending much more money on it. Double teachers salaries. Half classroom sizes. My mysterious crystal ball says that this might well improve standards.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:45 AM on January 16, 2015


I loved math, and I still have my certificate of first place ranking in our eighth grade's math contest, something I won without even trying.

But I suspect I'd dislike Common Core. I never used the slow methods the teachers used. I'd do it in my head and lose points on the test.

I was a guinea pig in Mike Harris's new curriculum here in Ontario. It sucked. My math grades went from 100% to 60%. They were telling me all the wrong ways to think about trigonometry problems. I could kind of understand their logic, but it was foreign to me. As is this new curriculum.

I hope it works for the students.

FWIW, when I left university to take high school courses by correspondence, I eventually earned a 95% in calculus. It was not easy. I had earned every percentage point through sweat and tears. But my point is that the distance ed school let me do it my own way. Other people's mental shortcuts often seem backwards to me. And again, I love math and I'm fairly competent at it up into undergraduate university levels.

Common Core makes my eye twitch. If the kids understand it, then great, that's all that matters. But I do hope there is room for individual learning styles. Math should be fun. Math should be about celebrating how you arrived at the correct conclusion, regardless of what method you used. Math should be enjoyable for its own sake, and not this monstrous burden placed upon our children. The earlier on that math feels like a fun puzzle, not some monstrous and arcane task, the better.

Remember the show Numb3rs? As silly as it sounds, it did help inspire me to get through high school math. Television could be a great way to inspire younger people to become interested in math. Just pondering.
posted by quiet earth at 1:57 AM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Didn't we go through this exact same thing in the 60's with New Math?

I was a kid in the 60's, and was subjected to New Math. It's the reason I so utterly suck at anything beyond addition, subtraction, and some very basic multiplication and division. I was one of those kids crying their eyes out every night over homework they simply didn't understand. The New Math experience (which, by necessity, included my parents trying to help me) literally traumatized me to where, even today, I run away from anything dealing with math. I become paralyzed with fear over math. Luckily, I managed to have never had to take a math course in college. Needless to say, I was completely useless to my own kids when it came to math homework.

How my daughter became a CPA is a mystery to me. Must have been her mother's influence.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:47 AM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm actually a big fan of CC math (Don't tell my wife). At least on our small human's homework, analysis is required along with calculaton. As a kid I hated math up until algebra because there was no rhyme or reason to it. I could perform the operations but I never got why I was supposed to.
posted by Octaviuz at 6:43 AM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Nearly everything I've read about Common Core (embarrassingly, since I have two school-age children) comes from ranty Facebook posts. Based on those posts and the previous records of their posters, I can only assume it's a good thing.

It doesn't help that the most common example used in those posts is actually solved incorrectly. It would be akin to putting up a post stating "I turtles like" and using it to complain about the current English curriculum.
posted by dances with hamsters at 6:47 AM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Can someone just post a problem and show how it's solved under the "old way" and Common Core? I'm just not following the difference.

After arithmetic, the only math I was good at was geometry, imaginary numbers and matrices. I got basic algebra, and I understood how it related to graphing, but we quickly descended into being taught order or operations without any discussion of how and why we were manipulating the numbers. I recall being very good at math until binomials and polynomials and having no help from "FOIL". Without any idea of what we were hoping to achieve, I had no idea if what I was doing made any sense, and it became hopelessly fuzzy to me.
posted by spaltavian at 7:55 AM on January 16, 2015


Can someone just post a problem and show how it's solved under the "old way" and Common Core? I'm just not following the difference.

Since you mention FOIL...

The way we learned to multiply 12 x 13 in the 80's was like so:

   12
 x 13
    ---
    36
+120
  -----
  156

My kids also learned this method, where the '0' in 120 is a placeholder (named Fred, it seems.) On top of that however, they learned several other equivalent methods. One of the methods goes something like this: break 12 apart into 10 + 2, and 13 apart into 10 +3. Then each part of 10 + 2 must be multiplied by each part of 10 + 3. We get:

10x10 =100
10x3 = 30
2x10 = 20
2x3 = 6

Adding the results gives 156.

The second method is exactly FOIL.
The four multiplications come from FOIL on (10+2)(10+3). However, my kids weren't just told to follow steps: they were shown that these steps make perfect sense when considering a 12-by-13 grid of little squares, or array of dots. Its easy to see the width and height as 10+2 and 10+3, and then the big array is made of four smaller arrays: 10-by-10, 10-by-3, 10-by-2 and 2-by-3.

Finally, we see that the "old" method is really the same: we kept the 12 intact and so we are just adding 3x12 and 10x12.
posted by TreeRooster at 8:21 AM on January 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Thank you. I was definitely taught the first way. My initial reaction is that the second way would have been more confusing as a kid, it seems like it's an elaborate way to reduce the problem to counting, (i.e., the attempt to make it easier makes it harder) when the first way makes place value more obvious. Of course, I am naturally biased to a way I understand and I am not an educator.
posted by spaltavian at 8:37 AM on January 16, 2015


more confusing as a kid

Right, and maybe even worse for that kid's parent. However, if the kid gets it, she'll have a huge advantage when it comes to learning about multiplying binomials! (Not to mention the second way is nice for when you don't have paper and pen handy.)
posted by TreeRooster at 8:52 AM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I recall being very good at math until binomials and polynomials and having no help from "FOIL". Without any idea of what we were hoping to achieve, I had no idea if what I was doing made any sense, and it became hopelessly fuzzy to me.

I mostly think this is because group theory isn't taught until way later in college, even though its both beautiful and useful.
posted by empath at 9:32 AM on January 16, 2015


on the other hand the way they tried to teach those principles when I was a kid (in the 90s) involved (forced) use of "manipulables," counting blocks, visual and tactile stuff that was simultaneously beneath my intellectual understanding of the concept and something that made it all even less fun for a rather poorly coordinated and disorganized kid.

I'm also a '90s kid, and I loved this. Mainly because the most common manipulable (after dried beans) were M&Ms. We'd count the M&Ms, divide them by color, count how many of each color there were, practice adding and subtracting M&Ms, and then when math was done, we could eat them! I started hating math around the same time we stopped using M&Ms. Come to think of it, maybe I just loved M&Ms.

I guess my point is, every child is different and there is no One Right Curriculum that will be ideal for every single one of them, and also M&Ms are delicious.
posted by Anyamatopoeia at 10:46 AM on January 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I second what Thorzdad said. I, too, was a child in the 1960s, and got mugged by the New Math. I did fine with conventionally taught arithmetic in grade school, but then I hit junior high where New Math was being taught, and came to a crashing halt. The textbook was unreadable. The teacher couldn't teach it. My parents had no idea what was going on. Base 7? What the hell was that?

I was left to struggle on my own with the textbook. Base 2 made sense to me, and that helped me with Base 4, but Base 7? The hell? I never did learn how to do long division in Base 7.

I don't think I was emotionally traumatized as Thorzdad was, but I subsequently avoided math until college, where I did fine with Trig and Calculus which were taught conventionally, and wound up in a STEM career. But I think that I could have liked high school math much more than I did, that I missed a chance to discover something beautiful and daedal at an impressionable time of life that would never come again.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 4:02 PM on January 16, 2015


Interesting, thanks for posting this.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:18 PM on January 16, 2015


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