# Learning common core math with a check written by an upset fatherSeptember 23, 2015 7:24 PM   Subscribe

When the father of a second grader got annoyed by common core math tools (namely, ten frame cards), his annoyance went viral when he wrote a check to his student's school using common core numbers. Then the Friendly Athiest on Patheos used that check to teach how common core math works at the second grade level.
posted by filthy light thief (208 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

The most amusing part is that they can't cash the check, as the figures don't match - it's either \$8.43 or \$10.43, depending on if you assume he's using the ten frame, or intended to use a non-standard eight frame, as noted in the final link in the OP.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:33 PM on September 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

From the Friendly Atheist article: If Herrmann doesn’t understand what his son is doing, then they should sit down together and work through it. Read the textbook. Go to Google. Ask the teacher for help. Any of those things would have helped and none of them would have taken very long.

Heaven forfend adults learn something alongside their children. Hey, he's teaching his kid that you don't have to understand the system to mock it!
posted by carsonb at 7:37 PM on September 23, 2015 [66 favorites]

Didn't this guy ever play with those number blocks when he was in grade school? Little cubes for 1s, sticks of ten of them for 10s, and whole squares for 100s. It's the same principle as these "number frames," but you can also feel larger numbers as being heavier, plus you can literally "manipulate and rearrange numbers" by moving the blocks around like Legos to observe properties like divisibility.
posted by Rangi at 7:37 PM on September 23, 2015 [13 favorites]

> depending on if you assume he's using the ten frame, or intended to use a non-standard eight frame

But don't panic: base eight is just like base ten, really... if you're missing two fingers.
posted by Westringia F. at 7:41 PM on September 23, 2015 [26 favorites]

Didn't this guy ever play with those number blocks when he was in grade school? Little cubes for 1s, sticks of ten of them for 10s, and whole squares for 100s

And big cubes for 1000.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:42 PM on September 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

Now I'm not a teacher, nor a parent, so I have literally no skin in this game. But I am someone who basically does math for a living, and every time I see people send around Common Core math stuff with "LOOK AT HOW TERRIBLE THIS IS IT MAKES NO SENSE" rants attached and I check it out, I see attempts to teach mathematical insight in a way that actually represents how I deal with math every day.

Honestly, if Common Core math had been around when I was a kid I probably wouldn't have spent as much of my life as I did convinced that I was terrible at math. It seems to me like a great way to teach mathematical intuition to kids.
posted by Itaxpica at 7:45 PM on September 23, 2015 [147 favorites]

That guy was a jerk. Nobody gives him checks written as calculus problems.
posted by varion at 7:46 PM on September 23, 2015 [11 favorites]

I'm not really sure why kids can't learn both ten frames and multiplication tables. They're both very useful tools for working with numbers. whycan'twehaveboth.gif
posted by longdaysjourney at 7:47 PM on September 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

It seems to me like a great way to teach mathematical intuition to kids.

Right, and it's the intuition part that's emphasized in the curriculum, rather than the specific tools like the ten-boxes. The rub is that several generations of people weren't taught to think intuitively about mathematics, they learned it by rote and by algorithm. And when your memory runs out or the algorithm breaks down, math can get scary.
posted by carsonb at 7:49 PM on September 23, 2015 [25 favorites]

I'm not going to be surprised when this guys turns out to be a conservative / tea party type that believes Common Core is a liberal plot. I've heard it more times that I can count, in either base 8 or base 10.
posted by COD at 7:49 PM on September 23, 2015 [9 favorites]

I think the thing common core math curriculum misses is that it actually breaks the relationship between kid and parent. Your kid gets stuck on homework, you want to help, but you're not doing it the 'right' way and they worry. Not because your answer is wrong, but because your method is wrong.

So we teach kids a more intuitive way to grok numbers, but we still require them to adhere to a method, and further, this method breaks the link between kid and parent, which leads to frustration all around.
posted by zippy at 7:49 PM on September 23, 2015 [72 favorites]

the man of twists and turns: "Didn't this guy ever play with those number blocks when he was in grade school? Little cubes for 1s, sticks of ten of them for 10s, and whole squares for 100s

And big cubes for 1000.
"

And then you get into tens and hundreds of thousands, and things start going very weird.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:51 PM on September 23, 2015 [19 favorites]

That guy was a jerk. Nobody gives him checks written as calculus problems.

"I'd cash this check for you, but it's like I can't ever actually get to the cash drawer. I just get a little bit closer each time..."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:52 PM on September 23, 2015 [134 favorites]

The real problem with "new math" in schools currently is less about Common Core standards and more about bad textbooks & poor teacher prep. CC doesn't mandate any specific textbooks. It sets standards that teachers are expected/encouraged to follow. The problem is that the textbooks aren't doing a good job of presenting this, and teachers aren't always doing a good job of going outside the textbooks.

It also depends largely on what levels we're talking about, too. At the middle/high school levels, math will be taught by a math specialist. Elementary? That teacher might be a math specialist, but s/he might not, and then we're playing catch-up.

As a teacher, I'm generally finding CC to be a giant eyeroll, but I'm 1) a high school teacher, and 2) I don't teach math. CC doesn't actually ask me to change my methods much at all in my subject fields. Mileage varies dramatically over grades, subjects and real-world geography.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 7:53 PM on September 23, 2015 [18 favorites]

As an aside: I generally don't do a lot of substitute teaching in math. Last time I did middle school math was a year or two ago. The textbook was awful. It would present a new concept--say, factoring--and then take you through a couple of simple problems by way of demonstration. Then the student would go to work on a set of exercises, just like any math textbook.

The first actual factoring problems, though, went straight into factoring with fractions with non-common denominators and maybe one denominator would be a negative, because fuck you, kid. And the whole book was like that. I have no idea why anyone would put together a book that way.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 7:56 PM on September 23, 2015 [9 favorites]

Right, and it's the intuition part that's emphasized in the curriculum, rather than the specific tools like the ten-boxes. The rub is that several generations of people weren't taught to think intuitively about mathematics, they learned it by rote and by algorithm. And when your memory runs out or the algorithm breaks down, math can get scary.

That and when the homework is a sheet of paper of pure diagrams and symbols, it's difficult to provide assistance without having been in that room, or having seen the video provided by the OP, for every learning aid deployed.
posted by pwnguin at 7:56 PM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

People like this dad, who are so easily mocked, do a disservice to people who have legitimate problems with Common Core, the way the standards were created, the way things are being implemented, etc. Here's a good primer.
posted by goatdog at 7:58 PM on September 23, 2015 [9 favorites]

COD, apparently he's gotten his 15min of fame on Fox, so....
posted by Westringia F. at 7:58 PM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh god, this is AWESOME. I literally, at the age of 39, just started to actually understand math AS IT IS. All of it is manipulating symbols. Apparently Common Core is the kind of math I ALREADY did in my head anyway. What always got me in trouble in school was that I instinctively saw it as relative values, and could not be bothered wih rote memorization of algorythms. You make up the algorythms as you go. I would constantly get marked wrong for using the "wrong" algorythm for solving problems.

Now, studying math again as a dilletant adult, I GET math again. I am also learning low level coding (thnk writing in assembly), and it is so easy when you ignore the formal "right" way to do it and go with what just IS. That is the fundamental function of math. Even if it isn't exactly how it looks in the textbook, if it achieves the right result with the same consistency, it is right. 39 years of hinking I sucked at math. Fuck.

Also, it proves that I was right that I actually DO understand higher level math. It was the crap I was told by rote memorization teaching that was wrong. I CAN do differential equations in my head. I can see the plot from reading the variable coefficient and plotting the arch in my head. Now, it is probably not as accurate as a computer(aka, a glorified calculator). But it is still more than my damn teacher could do. ARGH.
posted by daq at 7:58 PM on September 23, 2015 [29 favorites]

The real problem with Common Core isn't so much the curricula, it seems, but with the giveaway to education privatizers crystallized in the testing regime. It's a way to exert undemocratic, profit-driven control over the lives of children, teachers, and the whole public education system so as to funnel hundreds of billions of dollars to big businesses and hedge fund types. What's more, it's applied in an incredibly racist way necessarily, because the schools that "fail" are the poorest ones, so the kids who get funneled into shitty, for-profit, no-accountability charter schools are disproportionately Black and Latino.
posted by clockzero at 7:59 PM on September 23, 2015 [19 favorites]

I think the thing common core math curriculum misses is that it actually breaks the relationship between kid and parent. Your kid gets stuck on homework, you want to help, but you're not doing it the 'right' way and they worry. Not because your answer is wrong, but because your method is wrong.

I agree. There is a role for rote learning and using a the algorithm that we learned in school 30-35 years ago. This year my son in Grade 8 actually has a textbook he can bring home. This is the first time this has ever happened in Canada (we live part of the year in Japan, which has a more traditional approach to teaching math and higher numeracy outcomes than the US). Hooray!
posted by Nevin at 7:59 PM on September 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

Heaven forfend adults learn something alongside their children.

Having recently started helping my child with homework, I can tell you that the worst part is deciphering the instructions that come on the worksheets.

It's an exercise in frustration when something like this shows up at home, something you've got no idea how to complete and, a lot of the time, something that seems overly fussy for simple concepts.

So, you're juggling cooking dinner, cleaning the house, attempting to interpret garbled instructions from a elementary-schooler, and having to google how to add 13 + 2.
Meanwhile, you're trying to do this while keeping positive, so your child doesn't up thinking of homework as something to dread.

I've never gotten as worked up as some folks seem to about it, but the first time you can't actually complete a math worksheet, ya do feel kinda dumb.
posted by madajb at 8:01 PM on September 23, 2015 [34 favorites]

Huh, I've listened to that Tom Lehrer song dozens of times and never paid enough attention to realize that the New Math system mocked in the first minute of the track (before you get into base 8) is actually how I was taught, and the older method is strange and unfamiliar to me. The more things change...
posted by Wretch729 at 8:02 PM on September 23, 2015 [9 favorites]

I'm not going to be surprised when this guys turns out to be a conservative / tea party type that believes Common Core is a liberal plot. I've heard it more times that I can count, in either base 8 or base 10.

yes, I'm with you 100%. these "look what this one frustrated dad did!!!" type stories are almost always some form of astroturf bullshit activism or stem from a kind of Balloon Boy crazy family dynamic. I can think of at least one other recent viral incident that set off similar "this isn't what it seems" bullshit detector.
posted by jayder at 8:02 PM on September 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

There is a role for rote learning and using a the algorithm that we learned in school 30-35 years ago.

I think everyone agrees on this; that's why learning those algorithms is a Common Core standard.
posted by escabeche at 8:02 PM on September 23, 2015 [8 favorites]

The reactions I see people having to Common Core math is why I don't think I'll see a conversion to metric in America in my lifetime.
posted by Karaage at 8:03 PM on September 23, 2015 [21 favorites]

madajb - Very much agree, in my experience the instructions on worksheets are almost always terrible or potentially misleading. Homework also often assumes the child was actually paying attention when it was explained in class, to which I say HA!
posted by Wretch729 at 8:05 PM on September 23, 2015

Westringia F.: But don't panic: base eight is just like base ten, really... if you're missing two fingers.

Oh wow, I hadn't thought he might be pulling a two-level troll here, though sadly I doubt he's referencing Tom Lehrer.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:06 PM on September 23, 2015

Someone could really turn this into a teachable moment by offering to donate a dollar to Melridge Elementary School for every YouTube video posted by a kid explaining this simple concept and how this dad screwed up the check. (Voiceover or text with visuals only, of course, because kids and the internet and all.)

But if that were to become the standard operating procedure with stuff like this, people might think twice about using "I can't understand it, so it must be jibberish" as a critique, at least of the common core standards for math.
posted by alphanerd at 8:11 PM on September 23, 2015 [8 favorites]

flt, yeah, I agree that he almost surely wasn't. But the irony was just too exquisite not to point out!
posted by Westringia F. at 8:12 PM on September 23, 2015

I think everyone agrees on this; that's why learning those algorithms is a Common Core standard.

So this is the algorithm that's still being used in Common Core then?

1258
-235
-----
1023

Seems pretty easy to me. What's everyone complaining about?
posted by Nevin at 8:12 PM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

The real problem with Common Core isn't so much the curricula, it seems, but with the giveaway to education privatizers crystallized in the testing regime.

One of the major wins we got out of going on strike in Seattle was to eliminate the "student growth rating" (read: test scores) from performance evaluations. That's the awful thing where I could get downgraded because my student got 100% on last year's test & didn't get more than 100% on this year's. And yeah, it's all tied in.

My objections to Common Core aren't about its content. They're about money. That military-industrial complex Eisenhower warned us about? We have the same thing in our schools. CC opened the door for countless "how to implement common core" seminars and workbooks and instructional videos. It gave test-makers a chance to come up with an all-new, all-different batch of bullshit testing, for which they could charge tons of money to write, print, distribute, collect, grade and endlessly analyze.

And before long, we'll have a new thing to replace it, which will cost ever more money. But for God's sake, let's not take all that money and put it directly into schools for the sake of smaller class sizes or anything like that. We might see results, and that would ruin the whole party.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:13 PM on September 23, 2015 [63 favorites]

Homework also often assumes the child was actually paying attention when it was explained in class, to which I say HA!

Wretch729, I feel your pain....

Kid: Dad, what do I do here?!
Me: Let me see, not sure. Did you do these in class?
Kid: I don't know.
Me: Does it look familiar? Are we supposed to \$X?
Kid: I can't remember.
Me: Looks similar to the worksheet last week,
Kid: ...
{Repeat as needed, while dying a little inside}
posted by madajb at 8:13 PM on September 23, 2015 [9 favorites]

The companies designing Common Common math programs for elementary schools need to come out with corresponding books for parents. Everything my son brings home is so unfamiliar. I'd be happy to learn it, with just a few pointers. Clearly a lot of work has been put into the Think Math curriculum he's using. There are books for kids, there are books for teachers. There should be books for parents, too.

(Okay Mefites -- market opportunity here. Get on it.)
posted by alms at 8:14 PM on September 23, 2015 [27 favorites]

My objections to Common Core aren't about its content. They're about money. That military-industrial complex Eisenhower warned us about? We have the same thing in our schools. CC opened the door for countless "how to implement common core" seminars and workbooks and instructional videos.

Jeb Bush helped build this industry up, didn't he?
posted by Nevin at 8:14 PM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Seems pretty easy to me. What's everyone complaining about?

Lots of stuff! People are complaining that there's too much standardized testing and it starts too early (but this would be true with or without Common Core.) And people are complaining that the algorithm you depicted isn't the only thing taught about subtraction. And people are complaining that their math textbooks are of low quality (which would also be true with or without Common Core.) Just for starters.
posted by escabeche at 8:17 PM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Similar noises were made by parents back in the 1960s, when the "New Math" taught in grade schools included such incomprehensible things as set theory and Venn diagrams. To me this seems a lot like what people learned to do math "in their heads" in the days before calculators.
posted by ackptui at 8:18 PM on September 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

> I think the thing common core math curriculum misses is that it actually breaks the relationship between kid and parent. Your kid gets stuck on homework...

But I encountered this as a kid in the 70s, long before Common Core. I guess it was called New Math back then? My mom was not so great at being able to help.

I wish I'd encountered a teacher who was invested in finding a way to make me understand basic math stuff before I got to high school. It would have opened a lot more possibilities for me.
posted by rtha at 8:18 PM on September 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

One of the major wins we got out of going on strike in Seattle was to eliminate the "student growth rating" (read: test scores) from performance evaluations. That's the awful thing where I could get downgraded because my student got 100% on last year's test & didn't get more than 100% on this year's. And yeah, it's all tied in.

I just want to thank you and your coworkers for doing what you did. Solidarity, brother.
posted by clockzero at 8:19 PM on September 23, 2015 [64 favorites]

"How to teach math" seems to be such an endless controversy. I think the new school curriculum was called "Mathland" when I was a kid? And Tom Lehrer was making fun of "new math" how many decades ago?

Looking back as an adult I have mixed feelings about it all. On one hand I went from hating math when it was rote memorization to liking it's a lot once I got into deeper stuff like algebra and calculus so I understand the idea of wanting to engage kids with the "why" as well as the algorithm. On the other hand as an uncoordinated, disorganized, but otherwise quick learning kid I had a *terrible* time when forced to use manipulables, just awful. Symbols are okay but please no number blocks. And do we really need to change the whole curriculum every fifteen years?
posted by atoxyl at 8:22 PM on September 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Good Thing: taking time to confirm the quality of your child's education
Bad Thing: not taking time to confirm the quality of your child's education
More Bad Thing: saying you are doing the good thing while actually doing the bad thing

Embarrassing Thing: not even realizing you are doing the More Bad Thing
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:22 PM on September 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

clockzero: Thank you! It means a lot to hear.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:22 PM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

My teacher in 1st or 2nd grade took me aside and showed me how to do the "jumping 10s" subtraction trick, maybe because I was doing OK with the regular borrowing method. Ironically this was about the time I was reading old Peanuts cartoons lampooning the "New Math" without realizing what it was.

I can see parents having problems adjusting, especially since I routinely come across adults who can't do simple two-digit addition and subtraction in their heads.

I also learned plenty of math programming in BASIC, although those were the times before computers could let you argue with strangers over the internet, so we tended to do more math on them.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:23 PM on September 23, 2015 [12 favorites]

One of the major wins we got out of going on strike in Seattle was to eliminate the "student growth rating" (read: test scores) from performance evaluations

At a local school, a kid I know who was in 1st grade, and reading at a 4th grade level, got an 'at grade level' standardized reading test result from the first half of the semester.

Why? Because the school didn't test any higher than grade level in the first half, but did test higher than grade level in the second half. I'll leave it to everyone to figure out why.

spoler: voila! improvement!
posted by zippy at 8:24 PM on September 23, 2015 [20 favorites]

Huh, I've listened to that Tom Lehrer song dozens of times and never paid enough attention to realize that the New Math system mocked in the first minute of the track (before you get into base 8) is actually how I was taught, and the older method is strange and unfamiliar to me.

Yea, uh, the new math arithmetic 'borrowing' was how I learned in the late 80s. Reviewing the wikipedia article, the huge push was for set theory, and that seems to have vanished, but the arithmetic borrowing seems to have persisted.
posted by pwnguin at 8:26 PM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Having read the links its weird to me that it has to be explained that when you multiply numbers in your head you simplify the problem to make it easier. Multiplying something like 22x13 by instead doing 22x10 + 66 = 286 seems instinctual. I guess according to the links the point of the weird squares and stuff is to try to teach kids these instinctual ways to do the math. I'm not sure it can be said to be instinctual if you have to teach it but okay I see the point. It would be good if more kids can become adults who don't have their eyes glaze over when having to multiply anything larger than 10x10 in their heads.

Still unclear why those square things are better than simply telling the kids that it is easier to break problems down into tens-parts and such but obviously they must have research saying it is so.
posted by Justinian at 8:33 PM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

The common core math examples that make it into FPPs here don't make much sense to me, though I can usually see where they are trying to go. But the math classes I got were terrible and certainly not any model of good math instruction. At least this seems to be trying something different.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:35 PM on September 23, 2015

The reactions I see people having to Common Core math is why I don't think I'll see a conversion to metric in America in my lifetime.

Ha, they were trying when I was in elementary school, when we still had math books with that base 8 crap in them. They did get as far as converting participants in fun runs and soda bottlers, I guess.
posted by thelonius at 8:37 PM on September 23, 2015

Jeb Bush helped build this industry up, didn't he?

Yes he did and ironically Florida is now ground zero for anti-common core nut jobs and high stakes testing backlash.
posted by photoslob at 8:43 PM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

What's more, it's applied in an incredibly racist way necessarily, because the schools that "fail" are the poorest ones, so the kids who get funneled into shitty, for-profit, no-accountability charter schools are disproportionately Black and Latino.

Just a reminder: Common Core /= standardized testing /=NCLB. There may be problems with Common Core but the assessment system by which school funding is tied to test scores is not one of them.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:44 PM on September 23, 2015 [21 favorites]

Math professor Tom Lehrer can explain.
posted by miyabo at 8:47 PM on September 23, 2015

The common core is not the problem, the implementation of it is.
posted by AugustWest at 8:47 PM on September 23, 2015 [9 favorites]

hey were trying when I was in elementary school, when we still had math books with that base 8 crap in them.

It almost happened again. Pretty much every US highway project designed from the mid 90s through the mid-2000s was metric. And it was glorious. So much easier to calc pipe cover from decimal digits when you know the pipe is 530mm diameter, rather than 21".
posted by hwyengr at 8:50 PM on September 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oh, and if you'd happened to be going for the Simpsons reference, the textbook crap was base 6.
posted by hwyengr at 8:52 PM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

These new-fangled learnin's. In maths class in my day we used our calculators to write BOOBS and by god we liked it.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:54 PM on September 23, 2015 [20 favorites]

80085
posted by Justinian at 8:55 PM on September 23, 2015 [8 favorites]

The reactions I see people having to Common Core math is why I don't think I'll see a conversion to metric in America in my lifetime.

Even if we did, it would be dishonest for America to claim it was no longer an imperial system...
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:56 PM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

80085
posted by Justinian at 8:55 PM on September 23 [+] [!]

I know how to spell!
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:59 PM on September 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

I'm not saying causation, but I'm definitely sayin' that the correlation between high school classmates of mine who bitch about Common Core math on Facebook and high school classmates of mine who sucked at math is definitely positive.
posted by jonp72 at 9:00 PM on September 23, 2015 [20 favorites]

The problem with mathematics education is that we do our best to teach kids "how to get through math class" not how to think about mathematics. Algorithmic thinking, while not all bad, suffers from the problem of memorizing a set of steps. Once a certain number of algorithms are memorized, the student starts to forget some of them. Algorithms can be good if students are taught to develop them not memorize them.
posted by circleofconfusion at 9:08 PM on September 23, 2015 [7 favorites]

I just got through figuring out and explaining to a friend on fb how this method of subtraction works because she asked. All the people who responded continue to badmouth math and complain about how it's the fault of Common Core (this is Canada), when it actually makes quite a bit of sense - it's just different.

The comments in the fb linked NBC story support jonp72's correlation.
posted by sneebler at 9:14 PM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

A lot of these ideas seem sourced from Feynman's essay back in the '60s. Although he had some specific things to say about clear language in textbooks that may have not been taken to heart, according to some of these comments.

What is clear though that the children are overstimulated. Willie, remove all the colored chalk from the classrooms. (Sorry, if we're doing Simpsons references...)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:20 PM on September 23, 2015

My did made things for Shell. Their agents sometimes gave him calculators as ... I don't know, executive presents. They liked to show me how you could type 71077345, and turn it upside down to spell SHELLOIL.

I figured 58008 out by myself, though.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:20 PM on September 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

I'm not a parent, and I'm not an education professional. So happily I don't need to figure out what is "correct" here. And the Patheos post is mostly awesome.

On the other hand, over the summer one of the guys at the West Coast Stats blog was taking shots at Common Core math curricula and also entertaining me from the other side. Adding to my confusion, the Patheos post seems to exhibit a couple of the traits he complained about among defenders--one being that that the pitch appeals to mathemeticians who are enamored of the theory of kids learning "good concepts" from the start without necessarily figuring out if that's best way to teach.

The most entertaining posts make a good counterpoint to the OP and involve similarity of shapes:

http://youdothemathkthrucalculus.blogspot.com/2015/06/eureka-math-tips-for-parents-well-that.html
http://youdothemathkthrucalculus.blogspot.com/2015/06/eureka-math-tips-for-parents-worst-sat.html

He includes the tip for parents if their kids don't understand similarity:
Dilation: A transformation of the plane with center O and scale factor r(r > 0). If
D(O) = O and if P ≠ O, then the point D(P), to be denoted by Q, is the point on the ray OP so that |OQ| = r|OP|. If the scale factor r ≠ 1, then a dilation in the coordinate plane is a transformation that shrinks or magnifies a figure by multiplying each coordinate of the figure by the scale factor.

Similarity Transformation: A similarity transformation, or similarity, is a composition of a finite number of basic rigid motions or dilations. The scale factor of a similarity transformation is the product of the scale factors of the dilations in the composition; if there are no dilations in the composition, the scale factor is defined to be 1.
I'm sure that doesn't cause any frustration whatsoever . . .
posted by mark k at 9:23 PM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

just got through figuring out and explaining to a friend on fb how this method of subtraction works because she asked. All the people who responded continue to badmouth math and complain about how it's the fault of Common Core (this is Canada), when it actually makes quite a bit of sense - it's just different.

What's wrong with the "old-fashioned way", though?
posted by Nevin at 9:23 PM on September 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

I just got through figuring out and explaining to a friend on fb how this method of subtraction works because she asked.

I dunno, I get how it works, but I don't get how it's easier. (I concede if the intent is to make more complex things later on easier then it may not be part of its design to necessarily make simple subtraction easier)
posted by juv3nal at 9:25 PM on September 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

80085

How 3781637...what about 531607017818 ? But turn it upside down.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 9:26 PM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Common Core : New Coke :: Math Education : Soft Drinks

The Common Core rollout is the classic example of "we don't truly understand our audience." Just like New Coke, which really did win all the taste tests. It worked great! Right up until the point you asked people to buy a whole bottle and actually drink it, that is.

Common Core is the kind of marketing that only an American school teacher could love. I can almost smell the pencil shavings on this. Hey, everyone! This is better! This is what we're all doing now! Hooray! We solved everything! Let's all be very proud of ourselves, OK?

And then you find people hoarding old textbooks because that's what they're used to, just like my dipshit dad tried to buy up all the Old Coke.

And yes, it's about marketing, not math. If things were always just about math, Starbucks couldn't charge three bucks for 20 cents worth of coffee.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:27 PM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

what about 531607017818 ? But turn it upside down.

Old Math never used more than eight digits.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:29 PM on September 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

I am "getting" math more now, going through curriculum keyed to CC standards with my third grader (who has been doing CC curriculum since kindergarten), than I did my entire academic life. We were working on rounding today, and the methods he was practicing made SO MUCH SENSE to me, because that's how I work it in my head. I actually look forward to his math homework because it feels like I'm relearning along with him.

He is also expected to have "math facts" - basic addition and subtraction, and adding multiplication this year - down cold. They do drills and memorization on these things as the fundamental building blocks of working all the different methods. Our school (parochial school) seems to have found the sweet spot on this, as far as I'm concerned.

Now, my 7th grader, her math completely flummoxes me - because she's doing stuff I barely grasped in high school. I'm hoping that if I keep doing the math with my 3rd grader, by the time he's in 7th grade, I'll be caught up. OMG, learning in my 40s - who would have thought?

Learning is fun, yo. Especially when it's learning because of something that pisses Tea Party conservatives off, and also convinces me that every teacher who said I was "just bad at math" was a giant flaming idiot.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 9:33 PM on September 23, 2015 [18 favorites]

Especially when it's learning because of something that pisses Tea Party conservatives off

I mentioned this upthread, but I'm pretty sure Jeb Bush is a huge CC booster.
posted by Nevin at 9:37 PM on September 23, 2015

Didn't this guy ever play with those number blocks when he was in grade school?

Are those common? I only ever saw them at a Montessori school, but never in public schools.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 9:37 PM on September 23, 2015

Isn't the point of the common core stuff to present these basic concepts and operations in a bunch of different ways, so kids have more chances to see a way that clicks for them? So like the spatial learner is going to love the physical cube stacking, the written grid of tens-boxes is going to work for the visual learner, etc? It's just encouraging flexible thinking about this stuff rather than insisting that you need to get faster and faster at doing the one approved algorithm.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:38 PM on September 23, 2015 [11 favorites]

Square Root of Kids’ Math Anxiety: Their Parents’ Help - "Parental math anxiety is exacerbated whenever schools introduce new methods of learning math, said Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, who has studied the effects of homework."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:39 PM on September 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

And yes, it's about marketing, not math.

It is, and more. What I learned from working in LA's schools (2002-07) was establishing curriculum was a way to lessen what consultants called "divergent activity", contrasted to what a professional educator might term as creatively applying years of study. Consultants had complained evaluations of the system were hampered because what any one class was doing was too different from another. Mandating a curriculum was the solution.

CC is more than that, but an ojective of any set of standards is about evaluation, administration, and commodifying.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 9:42 PM on September 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

As an elementary school teacher, I can tell you that the *biggest* problem I see in math with kids is that they don't understand place value. They don't get that "borrowing" is just changing 10s for ones, it is a totally foreign concept. 10 frames are brilliant for this, they ground kids in base 10 and give them a great foundation to work from. I regularly teach binary to kids for this reason. They need to understand place value!
posted by cfraenkel at 9:45 PM on September 23, 2015 [30 favorites]

also, I don't send homework for just this reason. The minute you send anything home you end up opening yourself up to jerks like this.
posted by cfraenkel at 10:00 PM on September 23, 2015 [20 favorites]

I can see parents having problems adjusting, especially since I routinely come across adults who can't do simple two-digit addition and subtraction in their heads.

Hey now. I'm an actual mathematician, and I'm super excited about all the interesting approaches and algorithms I see coming home in my kids' homework (seriously, partial product multiplication and lattice multiplication are Awesome), and I can't reliably do two digit arithmetic in my head. Or any arithmetic, really.

(But arithmetic does not equal mathematics, which is part of the point of the common core.)
posted by leahwrenn at 10:11 PM on September 23, 2015 [22 favorites]

I'm not really sure why kids can't learn both ten frames and multiplication tables. They're both very useful tools for working with numbers.

Both do still get used, just in different ways. Identifying and understanding patterns in the multiplication tables is actually my favorite part of the curriculum. So much fun to see the light bulb moments.

I dunno, I get how it works, but I don't get how it's easier. (I concede if the intent is to make more complex things later on easier then it may not be part of its design to necessarily make simple subtraction easier)

It makes the later concepts a lot easier. Borrowing works, but if you don't understand place value, then it doesn't make any sense it is just a weird set of rules to follow. Once students have place value and composing and decomposing numbers down, working with large numbers and decimals falls into place, not to mention multi-digit multiplication/division. The CC standards start Algebraic Thinking in kinder by teaching students to compose and decompose tens and find out "for any number from 1 to 9, find the number that makes 10 when added to the given number". It really sets them up for success early.
posted by Garm at 10:15 PM on September 23, 2015 [9 favorites]

the Friendly Athiest on Patheos used that check to teach how common core math works

I'm so glad someone took the time to write this out and explain it, because it was exactly my reaction to the idiot writing the check, and all the "Yeah! Dur Dur Dur!!!!" followers-on that piled on afterwards, that I didn't have time to coherently explain.

But, having 3 kids in the school system right now, I WILL spend a minute putting down exactly where the the system is failing both the kids and the parents:

Doofus Check-Writer Dad should have been able to figure out the point of his kid's homework by spending 3 minutes looking over the kid's textbook, the instructions on the worksheet, maybe some class notes the teacher sent home, whatever. It's really not that hard.

However, in a real public school classroom, here is how it works:

- They don't have enough textbooks for each student, so the student arrives home with homework, but no textbook to go with it

- The homework worksheet is shitty with half-assed explanations that don't quite agree with the textbook or quite make sense on their own or after trying to reconcile with whatever the textbook says

- They have (probably? who knows?) worked out several examples in class but the kid arrives home with no notes whatsoever or any conscious knowledge of anything related to the topic

- They don't have enough funding for new textbooks now that they are on Common Core so they are just using the old one but 'changing around' a lot of things

- 'Changing around a lot of things' includes randomly skipping around in the textbook from chapter to chapter (ie, half of Ch. 4, then the last part of Ch. 2 then the middle of Ch. 7 then part of Ch. 13, etc etc etc) in a way that makes a perfectly sensible textbook into a useless pile of drivel

- And then they are using a bunch of supplementary handouts, Youtube videos, etc etc etc that all cover the same general basic topic but differ in so many important detail ways--most of which are not written down in any form or fashion. And which the parent has no way of knowing about.

- So basically they are making up their own Franken-textbook out of random parts, but there is no master guide anywhere to what those parts are or how they fit together

So basically, it has nothing to do with Common Core and everything to do with basic shit teaching. Common Core has something to do with in the sense that it is pushing them to make a lot of changes in course content in a fast time frame, pushing teachers who might have already been stretched a bit right over the edge as they scramble to accommodate and cobble a whole bunch of new materials together in random order.

In addition, I don't think it ever occurs to them that when they send a student home to complete a homework assignment, they also need to send home WITH THE STUDENT ***ALL*** the resources they and the parents need to understand and complete the assignment.

They can't just send home a couple of scraps of paper and a list of problems. That is a recipe for disaster no matter how smart/informed parents and students are.

I, too, have multiple years of math study, advanced math degrees, years of teaching math at different levels, and a willingness to try to understand the approach they are taking. Along with a pretty strong philosophical level of support for the general approach they seem to be moving towards.

But it's not about understanding math per se, it's about understanding a specific, new pedagogical approach they are taking. And you can't figure that out unless somehow, some way, in some sensible, methodical form it is laid out for you to see and understand.
posted by flug at 10:58 PM on September 23, 2015 [29 favorites]

Is there a ten-frame method for calculating time? Just curious.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:01 PM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

My second grader now calculates how many hours are left until the weekend and how many seconds are left on the road trip in his head instead of repeatedly asking me. Unfortunately, this particular hell didn't end for my father until I got a calculator watch because multiplication tables only went to twelve. Thank you common core for shortening the math hell my dad had to live through for me. Sorry dad, but at least the grandkids won't drive you as crazy as I did.

And can someone tell me why twelve was so important? No one I know buys that many eggs.
posted by wobumingbai at 11:02 PM on September 23, 2015 [7 favorites]

And can someone tell me why twelve was so important? No one I know buys that many eggs.

12, 60, 360 and that ilk--still used to measure time, compass degrees, dozens, gross, etc etc etc--basically go back to ancient Babylonian numerals and math. It's one of the earliest such systems and dates back to about 2000 BC.
posted by flug at 11:09 PM on September 23, 2015 [13 favorites]

After my first week of geometry in high school, I told my mom that I thought it was really fun. She told me that she always hated geometry and asked to see what was so fun about it. I showed her my workbook, and she went still for a moment. She then said, "Wow, they wouldn't let us draw pictures when I took geometry!".
The more methods there are of visualizing attract concepts, the more likely you can match one to a particular student's learning needs. This seems like a pretty cool system to me.
posted by TheCoug at 11:17 PM on September 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

12, 60, and 360 are very composite numbers. They each have more divisors than any smaller number. So they are inherently useful for describing things you might want to subdivide.
posted by Phssthpok at 11:24 PM on September 23, 2015 [15 favorites]

When I read one of these anti Common Core things I tend to cringe a little bit and wonder why people hate the way I do math so much. These techniques took me years of pain to acquire on my own. Something very much akin to 10 frames came to me one day in the locker room before gym class... in high school. I really wish someone had taught me this stuff earlier.

One common (cough) theme that I've noticed with a lot of these techniques is that they involve translating from a purely symbolic representation of numbers into a richer representation which trivializes some operations by allowing different cognitive operations to solve them. The patheos article shows a great example with 10 frames where shading 6 cells of a frame makes subtracting 6 from 10 trivial, because one can simply count the unshaded cells.

This re-representation also facilitates checking for errors. As Feynman said, having multiple techniques to reach the same answer and the freedom to explore their interrelation is really the best case. I'm a little bit sad that this is all lost in virulent anti-intellectualism on the right and selective anti-positivism on the left.

Also, +1 for geometry. This makes me so happy.
posted by ethansr at 11:28 PM on September 23, 2015 [8 favorites]

Hours are the first example of modular arithmetic and non decimal base that you meet as a kid. We computer people use modular arithmetic and count in bases that are powers of two like 8 or 16 all the time.
posted by sukeban at 11:31 PM on September 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

The things that frustrated me most last year about the common core math curriculum, as it was transmitted to my first-grader last year (we're living abroad this year, so I don't know how things are in second grade), were (1) the teachers literally got the materials maybe a month before the school year started, which isn't enough time to really understand a brand new curriculum; (2) it seemed like they started out doing much more trivial math than first graders had been doing under the previous curriculum (Everyday Math, which my other daughter had done with the same first grade teacher three years earlier), and most damningly, (3) the level of language/reading sophistication required of the students in order to complete their math homework was disastrous.

For example: one of the problems on my not-reading-yet first grader's worksheet was along the lines of:
José has 5 apples
Sandra gives him four more apples.
Write a number sentence telling how many apples José has in all.
Now, inherently, using words to communicate math is much more interesting and useful than simply computing 5+4 = ?. But let me tell you, for a kid who's not really reading yet---but who is reading at grade level, since they're not really necessarily supposed to be able to read everything leaving kindergarten!---trying to get through "number sentence" is...challenging. With the result that she couldn't get through her math worksheets by herself at all, which doesn't lead to feeling successful.

But that's a problem with evil Pearson and cruddy EnVision math (and, I suppose, the math curriculum committee of the school board, although friends of mine were on it), not with the Common Core itself.

I actually kind of liked 10-frames, although Matilda got a little bored with them before they transitioned out of them.

The curriculum claimed that there was some webpage parents could go to to get help, but I only learned about that because I went to the "family math night" that was held for my daughter's grade, which, if you forgot or couldn't make it, sucks to be you in the future. Occasionally handouts would come home for parents purporting to explain what was going on, but they were few and far between.

(Can I just say again how awesome lattice/area multiplication is for really deeply understanding the standard algorithm for multiplication? The idea is if you want to multiply a 2 digit x 2 digit number, , say 23 x 48, you make a rectangle that's 23 long and 48 wide. Then you chunk up the length as 20 + 3, you chunk the width as 40+8, draw out your lines, and fill in the resulting rectangles with the corresponding areas. Add up all the areas, and boom, there's (1) your answer, and (2) the numbers that you would've gotten from at least the partial products version of multiplication.

----------20----------|----3----|
| ................. ......... |........... |
40 .... 800 ............ |.... 120 |
| ......................... | ........... |
-----------------------|---------|
| ...........................|...........|
8 ..........160......... |.... 24...|
|---------------------|----------|

pardon the crappy ascii diagram.

So:
48
x 23
------
24 (=8*3)
+120 (=40*3)
+160 (=8*20)
+800 (=40*20)

And the standard algorithm would instead have you compute 48*3 (as 8*3 + 40*3 with the addition happening "in place" via the carry, since you're not going to get any extra ones from the 40*3 computation, so you can just write the ones digit down right away), bring down the zero for the next line, since you know you're not going to get any ones digits from computing 48*20, and then compute 48*2, again, being able to complete the computation because you know you're not going to get any extra ones digits.

Incidentally, the Italian ``algebraists'' from the 14th century apparently "held numbers in their hand" when doing this sort of computation, rather than writing down the carries.
posted by leahwrenn at 11:34 PM on September 23, 2015 [8 favorites]

That parent with the BS in engineering couldn't look at the number line and figure out how to subtract with it? It took me 45 seconds, and I struggled with math. (Well, I struggled with it given the way it was taught to me.)
posted by persona au gratin at 11:35 PM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

So the secret to Chinese math domination in standardized tests is their sticking to base 10 for millennia while the West waffles between base 10 and base 60. :) Damn you Babylonia!
posted by wobumingbai at 11:40 PM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

No offense to Babylonian time travelers although they're probably in the wrong year because we switched to base ten for numbering years.

Strangely enough they might be in the right year if they use a traditional Chinese calendar because those are set up in 60 year cycles. Damn you Taoists!
posted by wobumingbai at 11:44 PM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

After my first week of geometry in high school, I told my mom that I thought it was really fun. She told me that she always hated geometry and asked to see what was so fun about it. I showed her my workbook, and she went still for a moment. She then said, "Wow, they wouldn't let us draw pictures when I took geometry!".

Also, +1 for geometry. This makes me so happy.

See one of my very worst memories of a math class was the "innovative" geometry textbook with drawing pictures and cutting things out of paper and god knows. Now, I probably would never have loved geometry because the underlying issue here is that I'm a very verbal/symbolic thinker and my spatial/motor skills are not great, and especially were not when I was a kid. But that makes me a person who would have learned a lot more of practical use about geometry had somebody just explained to me in words how many degrees are in a triangle.

What I'm saying is that as long as you actually do this:

The more methods there are of visualizing attract concepts, the more likely you can match one to a particular student's learning needs. This seems like a pretty cool system to me.

that's awesome. Just don't force kids to do it your way (and also don't suddenly change the way they do it from year to year).
posted by atoxyl at 11:50 PM on September 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

The most amusing part is that they can't cash the check, as the figures don't match - it's either \$8.43 or \$10.43, depending on if you assume he's using the ten frame, or intended to use a non-standard eight frame, as noted in the final link in the OP.

That’s true, but only because he used frames in both fields and those are arguably both “numbers”.

In the U.S., if you write “five hundred” in one field and “600” in the other, the cheque can be cashed for the amount of \$500 this is because:

If an instrument contains contradictory terms, typewritten terms prevail over printed terms, handwritten terms prevail over both, and words prevail over numbers.
posted by Fongotskilernie at 12:29 AM on September 24, 2015 [8 favorites]

I just got through figuring out and explaining to a friend on fb how this method of subtraction works because she asked.

You know, it took me a few minutes to understand what was going on in that. But now that I get it, I find it *delightful!* It's so intuitive! It's so easy to do in my head! If it's all like this, then seriously: Common Core FTW!
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 1:00 AM on September 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Nevin: “just got through figuring out and explaining to a friend on fb how this method of subtraction works because she asked. All the people who responded continue to badmouth math and complain about how it's the fault of Common Core (this is Canada), when it actually makes quite a bit of sense - it's just different.

What's wrong with the "old-fashioned way", though?”
juv3nal: “I just got through figuring out and explaining to a friend on fb how this method of subtraction works because she asked.

I dunno, I get how it works, but I don't get how it's easier. (I concede if the intent is to make more complex things later on easier then it may not be part of its design to necessarily make simple subtraction easier)”
In that subtraction problem I'm pretty sure the point of it is to teach mental math. If you have some way to write, doing it using the "old-fashioned" algorithm probably takes the least time. If you don't, starting from the left-most digit and working right is probably quicker. Perhaps quicker still is evening up one or both numbers, then adjusting the result accordingly.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:01 AM on September 24, 2015

I see attempts to teach mathematical insight in a way that actually represents how I deal with math every day.

Apparently Common Core is the kind of math I ALREADY did in my head anyway.

I want to echo these sorts of statements, and add that this came up in conversation with a friend who is a college math instructor working on PhD applications: He said that he'd had a conversation with other graduate students at one point and they'd discovered that they all do some form of grouping to do math in their heads. All of them. Everybody I know at this point who considers themselves "naturally good at math" has confirmed that they gravitated early to something that greatly resembles the current Common Core math ideas. And the thing is, adding up the old way works fine if your whole goal is to complete a math assignment where the hardest question is "what is 347 + 26". It becomes a much bigger problem the further you go if you can't do at least part of it in your head and you want to someday get to the point of comfortably doing calculus. Or even algebra.

I do think this needed a much longer transition time, but for a certain crowd of conservative people on Facebook and whatever, this seems to have turned very quickly into "they're doing things different, BURN THE WITCHES". The textbook shortage thing is tragic, but if you have the ability to post your rant about Common Core math on the internet, you have the ability to Google it.
posted by Sequence at 1:13 AM on September 24, 2015 [12 favorites]

Oh man the math program at my well-to-do midwest public school!

Every unit started with some kind of puzzle, which turned out to relate to a mathmatical concept, which we then learned how to use our nifty TI-ninetysomethings to work with. What's the minimum number of blocks the firetruck has to travel from the station to the fire? Absolute values! TI-BASIC programming!

I permanently screwed up my ear from trying to hear the ultrasound speakers we were using for racecar impact algebra, but it was all worth it.
posted by 3urypteris at 1:20 AM on September 24, 2015

What's wrong with the "old-fashioned way", though?

You mean beyond the fact that what's being shown there isn't a complete method and only works for carefully chosen numbers?

(Seriously, it'll probably take my brain a couple of days to get back to where it was before looking at that Twitter thread, and I didn't get that far into it. The moment the US stops importing engineers, you'll be completely fucked :-)
posted by effbot at 1:23 AM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

If an instrument contains contradictory terms, typewritten terms prevail over printed terms, handwritten terms prevail over both, and words prevail over numbers.

OK, an instrument contains typewritten "five hundred dollars" and handwritten "\$600". What now?
posted by The Tensor at 1:48 AM on September 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

What now?

"handwritten terms prevail over both"
posted by effbot at 1:56 AM on September 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

And can someone tell me why twelve was so important? No one I know buys that many eggs.

Twelve can be evenly divided in half or into thirds, fourths, or sixths without ending up with any fractional eggs. It's precisely because no one you know buys that many eggs that it's important.

Sixty has similar advantages, although I've also run across a fascinating theory that the primacy of both twelve and sixty in the ancient middle east is partly the result of a particular way of counting to sixty on your fingers that is still in use today in parts of the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia.

(Though actually, I personally buy eggs by the dozen and sometimes even thirty-pack all the time. Does your circle of friends and acquaintances perhaps still suffer under the 20th-century myths about dietary cholesterol?)
posted by XMLicious at 2:10 AM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Heaven forfend adults learn something alongside their children.

Or, we could, you know, not. I'm serious. Why do we expect parents to do their kid's homework? I'd never heard of such a thing before I came to the US; homework was about learning things, and how is your teacher supposed to know you haven't learned something if an adult is helping you do your work? And how is your kid supposed to learn the consequences of not paying attention in school, or how to ask for help, if you are compensating for it at home?

Most of the anti-CC math rants I read seem to boil down to "I'm embarrassed because you made me feel dumb in front of my kid," which would never have happened in my house because my folks would have said "what did you do during class?" I have no idea how my parents learned math, and vice versa, because my homework wasn't their job. They made sure I put in effort, and we reviewed the assignments after they were graded to see what I got wrong and why, but never once did they help me do my homework.
posted by snickerdoodle at 3:11 AM on September 24, 2015 [18 favorites]

Though actually, I personally buy eggs by the dozen

I'm currently in Europe, and they sell eggs by the 10 in my local grocery store. It's just bizarre. Metric is great and all, but this is just too far.
posted by leahwrenn at 3:22 AM on September 24, 2015 [12 favorites]

Lior Pachter (who I learned has a mighty brain when I had to give a presentation to him for a grant progress review) has an excellent blog post arguing that kids can and should be introduced to some of the great unsolved problems in maths using Common Core topics.
The emphasis on what K–12 students ought to learn about what is known has sidelined an important discussion about what they should learn about what is not known.

To make the point, I’ve compiled a list of unsolved problems in mathematics to match the topics covered in the common core.
posted by kersplunk at 3:41 AM on September 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

I don't know anything about this, but I detect a kind of irony: the guy's basic complaint is that he doesn't understand it: his complaint is slapped down because... he doesn't understand what he's talking about.

Maybe when you introduce new methods you have to make an effort to bring parents along with you rather than just wait till things go wrong and then patronise their ignorance, frustration, and (presumed) faulty politics.
posted by Segundus at 3:47 AM on September 24, 2015 [6 favorites]

I'm currently in Europe, and they sell eggs by the 10 in my local grocery store.

Where a baker's decade goes to eleven.
posted by BWA at 3:57 AM on September 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

> The reactions I see people having to Common Core math is why I don't think I'll see a
> conversion to metric in America in my lifetime.

Having spent five-odd years managing a chemical laboratory I am entirely comfortable thinking in nanograms, degrees celsius, moles per liter, and all the other standard lab-style units.

From several decades of life experience I am also entirely comfortable making a roux by mixing X cups flour with X (identical the same) cups oily thing (for me, olive oil, but every now and then butter; if foodies are coming over I make sure to use lard) over low heat, as judged by holding hand over stove eye. Cooking time is measured in beer units. Stir flour and oily thing together with whisk over low heat while drinking one beer = white roux. Three or four beers = dark brown gumbo roux.

I have never felt the least need to convert back and forth between one measurement system and the other.
[whycan'twehaveboth.gif]

> I'm currently in Europe, and they sell eggs by the 10 in my local grocery store. It's just
> bizarre. Metric is great and all, but this is just too far.

The main motivation for this need to convert to metric is that you get to reduce the amount of food or whatever that you give the customer, without cutting the price. Whiskey was sold in the US by the "fifth" (4/5ths of a quart, or .946 liter.) Now when you go into a booze store and ask for a "fifth" of Old RotGhut you get a bottle containing 750 ml--a smaller amount, but at no reduction in price.

If egg sales are ever metrificated in the US you will get 10 eggs for the same price that used to get you a dozen. People who actually want metrification are either sellers rather than buyers or else just fools.
posted by jfuller at 4:29 AM on September 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Also, it proves that I was right that I actually DO understand higher level math. It was the crap I was told by rote memorization teaching that was wrong. I CAN do differential equations in my head. I can see the plot from reading the variable coefficient and plotting the arch in my head. Now, it is probably not as accurate as a computer(aka, a glorified calculator). But it is still more than my damn teacher could do. ARGH.

Actually, for higher level math, I think the more important skill is to show your reasoning so others can follow your work in your theses. Saying "I did this differential in my head, its answer is definitely X" won't cut it.
posted by ymgve at 4:36 AM on September 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Whiskey was sold in the US by the "fifth" (4/5ths of a quart, or .946 liter.) Now when you go into a booze store and ask for a "fifth" of Old RotGhut you get a bottle containing 750 ml--a smaller amount, but at no reduction in price.

(Minor derail) Except 4/5ths of a US quart (i.e. 1/5th of a US gallon, which is the point of the term “fifth”) is 0.757 liters. So it's not nearly as drastic a case of stealth inflation as you suggest.
posted by letourneau at 5:29 AM on September 24, 2015

The main motivation for this need to convert to metric is that you get to reduce the amount of food or whatever that you give the customer, without cutting the price. Whiskey was sold in the US by the "fifth" (4/5ths of a quart, or .946 liter.) Now when you go into a booze store and ask for a "fifth" of Old RotGhut you get a bottle containing 750 ml--a smaller amount, but at no reduction in price.

I don’t believe that’s right. A fifth of a U.S. gallon, which I think is the correct one, is 757 ml. One fifth of an Imperial gallon is 909 ml.

Or on preview, what letourneau said, but with the addition that the arithmetic doesn’t work for Imperial gallons, either.
posted by Fongotskilernie at 5:30 AM on September 24, 2015

jfuller--a fifth of a gallon is .757 liter, not .946. The old and new measurements will rot your gut nearly identically
edit: Third? Oh foo..
posted by hexatron at 5:36 AM on September 24, 2015

It's great that you parents are so supportive, but really I have to say it's a bizarre alien world to me, as a kid who got Ds and Fs throughout school, to see parents who help their kids with homework.
posted by idiopath at 5:50 AM on September 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

The guy literally wrote a check his ass couldn't cash.
posted by Poldo at 5:51 AM on September 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

I just got through figuring out and explaining to a friend on fb how this method of subtraction works because she asked.

That's the way I sometimes see older and very experienced cashiers giving change. It's a really smart way to turn complicated subtraction problems into simple addition made up out of basic components, but I was never taught it in school or had to learn it for a job, so I get to enjoy being naively amazed when someone does it fluidly.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:02 AM on September 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oh god, leahwrenn. My kids have both had the hardest time with "number sentences," and they even were advanced readers and writers. We eventually settled on the understanding that they just want you to write out the equation in words, so 2+2=4 is "If you have two and add two to it then you have four." But when it first comes home, it sounds a lot like they're asking "Why is math?" which is a terrible thing to ask a grade school child.

And maybe for some kids this is a helpful spelling-out of what the equation means, to solidify how to read the equations? But if your kid knows perfectly well what the equation means, those number sentences feel like some sort of trap, because just writing out the same thing again can't possibly be what they want you to do. That's not an explanation! And they said they want an explanation.
posted by Andrhia at 6:04 AM on September 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

We eventually settled on the understanding that they just want you to write out the equation in words, so 2+2=4 is "If you have two and add two to it then you have four."

That seems backwards to my understanding. A "number sentence" is just an equation. In leahwrenn's example, you're give the words and you're expected to produce a number sentence of 5+4=?. It's one of the ways they introduce algebra concepts earlier to students in contemporary math education.

Taking a number sentence and translating it into a word sentence would also have value, but you're not producing a number sentence (as I understand it).
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:24 AM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

From the Friendly Atheist article: If Herrmann doesn’t understand what his son is doing, then they should sit down together and work through it. Read the textbook. Go to Google. Ask the teacher for help. Any of those things would have helped and none of them would have taken very long.

What struck me about this is the missed opportunity. I bet that kid could have taught dad how to write the check correctly in 10 frame, and it would have been a great experience for both of them.

The incident highlights how parenting plays a crucial role in education. Without parents rising to the occasion, no institutional school can do as much good as it might otherwise. The breakdown in that kid's learning caused by Herrmann's failure to "work the problem" effectively will never be diagnosed by any teacher, and he will probably go on blaming its effects on the schools, the politicians, and the poor.
posted by maniabug at 6:25 AM on September 24, 2015

The breakdown in that kid's learning caused by Herrmann's failure to "work the problem" effectively will never be diagnosed by any teacher, and he will probably go on blaming its effects on the schools, the politicians, and the poor.

Given the intense amount of publicity around this particular incident, that seems highly unlikely.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:31 AM on September 24, 2015

That seems backwards to my understanding. A "number sentence" is just an equation.

I may well be mixing up terminology -- I haven't actually looked at the instructions on the math homework in a couple of years. But when you reach the question where there are five lines for you to write on, you know they're not just asking you for an equation.
posted by Andrhia at 6:31 AM on September 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Nevin: "What's wrong with the "old-fashioned way", though?"

The "old-fashioned" method taught arithmetic first and left "math" for later. So the most traditional curriculum started algebra in 9th or 10th grade because it took THAT LONG to get kids OUT of doing arithmetic (starting in about 5th grade) and IN to doing math.

Arithmetic -- let's call it "being able to manipulate numbers quickly and by rote" -- is a crucial building block for math, because it allows you to do later math much faster, and if you're a cashier you'll just want really solid arithmetic. But it's not MATH itself. And it turns out that if all you teach elementary school students is arithmetic, they end up pretty good at doing arithmetic, but they fall apart when they have to start manipulating numbers or equations or geometric shapes. They have done studies on the brain. Teaching ONLY arithmetic closes down areas of math thinking and those pathways are LABORIOUS to rebuild.

So one of the most basic things that we now do with kids -- even before common core came in -- is present first graders with problems that aren't just "3 + 4 = ?" but also "3 + ? = 7" and "? = 3 + 4." Showing all the different way "number sentences" (i.e., equations) can be put together. Kids are very intuitive at this -- "Oh, I have three and I want to get to seven, how many more do I need?" and they count it off on their fingers -- but parents FREAK THE FUCK OUT because WHY ARE YOU PRESENTING NON-STANDARD EQUATIONS IN KINDERGARTEN? As soon as they have 0, 1, 2, and the + and = sign, they are doing non-standard equations as well as the regular old 1+1=2. They can also tell you 1+?=2 and ?=1+1 and so forth.

Pretty much this change alone allows you to start teaching algebra in FOURTH GRADE instead of ninth. We're a low-achieving district and even our remedial students are doing algebra in fifth grade. And they don't stumble the way students of my generation did -- it's a smooth transition into variables and rearranging equations because they've been doing that with numbers their entire school lives.

There's a lot of the Common Core math that I only sort-of get -- I am definitely hamstrung in math by having learned "only" the algorithm methods -- but there is rich research from all over the world on why these methods are superior to straight arithmetic, in helping students understand numbers, not just memorize how to use numbers. And a lot of parents, when you explain, say, the Singapore Number Line, go, "Oh, hey, that's how I've been doing it in my head since high school, why do we have to teach it?" Well, wouldn't it have been better if you learned it in second grade and if EVERYONE knew that little trick?

My kid's in first grade and they've been doing the pythagorean theorem geometrically. He can tell you what the square of a number is -- and loves drawing out the squares (to square 5, draw five boxes in a row, and then draw five boxes in a column, and then fill 'em in and count 'em out). He gets that a "square" of a number is literally drawing a square of it. And he can draw you a right triangle and then he attaches a square to side A, a square to side B, and a square to the hypotenuse, and will show you that if you count up the square of A and the square of B, they will always equal the square of the hypotenuse. He's six.

Working backwards to figure out what side B is if you know A and C is a little more complicated because you need some memorization of square roots to do that (although if you're working in plain units and he can use a measuring tool, no problem ... but then he could just measure B), but that kind of rote learning comes with time.

He's also big right now on "unrolling" circles to find out that when you unroll the circumference, you end up with the diameter 3 times, plus a little extra. Like they literally take a circle with a diameter marked, mark a spot, roll it on paper until that spot comes around again, mark it, and then use the circle to count how many diameters makes a circumference. They're pretty excited that it's always "3 and a bit." After they worked out that it ALWAYS worked out that way, no matter how big the circle, their teacher told them its name was pi and it was 3.14159... and all kinds of interesting things about pi that you'd tell first graders. But the point is that they UNDERSTAND pi in a way I didn't for years. (He came home from school and told me pi was a magic number that never ended and we call it "three point one four dot dot dot.")
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:47 AM on September 24, 2015 [55 favorites]

Oh, and if you'd happened to be going for the Simpsons reference, the textbook crap was base 6.

funny how I can't keep a detail like that straight over twenty-three years!
posted by thelonius at 6:47 AM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

the basic problem is that this sort of "reform" is focused on curriculum rather than instructors. there are as many ways of teaching math as there are people who are good at math and enjoy it. but little is invested in helping the people who teach become good at math and enjoy it... often the opposite.

there is a second and deeper problem with "progressive' approaches to math pedagogy, which is that you can't teach "understanding" or intuition. No, really, you can't. Most of these sorts of "controversial" problems are someone's attempt to make a useful intuition about basic arithmetic into an explicit exercise. You can gain intuition by doing rote exercises, or you can be totally alienated, but at least the exercise itself is reducible to simple instructions, so that you can separate the "robot" part of yourself which is just following the instructions with the human part which is developing intuition, in part by observing the robot. The progressive problem requires a sort of advanced AI algorithm for a robot to do it, which causes all sorts of problems.

A lot of learning is doing something stupid repeatedly until you become smart enough to realize it's stupid. Education is the US is often about doing something stupid repeatedly until you become stupid enough not to care and 'Common Core' or any other new math isn't going to change that dynamic. Basically, there is utility to rote exercises, sometimes you need puzzles to think about or push at your thinking but in the end it comes down to having a teacher who is good at and enjoys math.

(also, it's funny as a math teacher at the university level to see all of the fads in math ed come through in the exam problems of the students... it rarely works out well, especially the "write the answer out in words" thing, in part because most US university students come in totally unable to write coherently)
posted by ennui.bz at 6:49 AM on September 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Are there any long-term cohort studies proving out the superiority of the new pedagogical methods over multiplication tables, etc?
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:52 AM on September 24, 2015

The main motivation for this need to convert to metric is that you get to reduce the amount of food or whatever that you give the customer, without cutting the price.

The most common measurement for food in the UK is the pound (lb), which is 454g. Nearest metric round figure is 500g (ie more). A lot of things just get measured into 454g units (sausages, I'm looking at you). UK pints have stayed pints despite the 40 years since we started going metric.
posted by biffa at 7:00 AM on September 24, 2015

"since we started going metric" - a journey that will never end.
posted by MessageInABottle at 7:12 AM on September 24, 2015

grumpybear69: "Are there any long-term cohort studies proving out the superiority of the new pedagogical methods over multiplication tables, etc?"

Well, you STILL LEARN the multiplication tables ("math facts" we call them now), but there are large cohort studies from other countries, yes. I don't know what the largest or longest-term in the US would be.

Don't think of it as "instead of arithmetic." It's "arithmetic, AND ..."

As other people have noted, Common Core materials are a hot mess. They're corporate, they're thrown-together, they're not very well proof-read, and even though I have been to approximately a billion seminars on the new math curriculum, my child frequently brings home worksheets that I JUST HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO COMPLETE. If my kid can show me one problem, I can figure the rest out, but if he has no idea what those circles and lines are for, I certainly don't, and the worksheet certainly doesn't explain itself.

At these seminars, though, learning how new curricula work to meet the Common Core standards, with things like lattice multiplication and Singapore number lines and decomposing numbers, I'm constantly like, "Hey, that's the trick I used in fifth grade and got in trouble for!" and "WHOA, that test I got a C on in tenth grade just suddenly came clear," and "Wow, this is a cool trick, I did not know numbers did that!" Just all this cool shit that nobody ever bothered to teach me about how numbers WORK instead of what numbers DO when plugged into rote equations.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:16 AM on September 24, 2015 [9 favorites]

It's funny how you take for granted the stuff they teach you in childhood. It probably hadn't occurred to me until I read this that talking about "borrowing" and "carrying" in subtraction or other arithmetic isn't an eternal practice, but has a history, a history that started not that long before I arrived at elementary school.
posted by thelonius at 7:19 AM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Common Core math stuff is just as confusing to me as the Regular Core That I Didn't Pay Attention To in High School math stuff. My kid comes home with the same algebra problems I had back in the day and I'm all like duhhhhhh.

It's a "use it or lose it" situation and I never used it to begin with.

I'm finding Common Core Social Studies to be just as confounding. And I don't know if there even is such a thing, but there might as well be.

I'm glad my kids are smart and have smart friends that they are in study groups with, because if they had to depend on me to help with the homework part of their homework they'd be screwed. My role instead (which I'm pretty good at) is to remind them to put their name on their homework and put it in their folder and put the folder in their backpack and don't forget to bring the backpack to school with them.
posted by Cookiebastard at 7:21 AM on September 24, 2015

- They don't have enough textbooks for each student, so the student arrives home with homework, but no textbook to go with it

- The homework worksheet is shitty with half-assed explanations that don't quite agree with the textbook or quite make sense on their own or after trying to reconcile with whatever the textbook says

- They have (probably? who knows?) worked out several examples in class but the kid arrives home with no notes whatsoever or any conscious knowledge of anything related to the topic

- They don't have enough funding for new textbooks now that they are on Common Core so they are just using the old one but 'changing around' a lot of things

. . .

- And then they are using a bunch of supplementary handouts, Youtube videos, etc etc etc that all cover the same general basic topic but differ in so many important detail ways--most of which are not written down in any form or fashion. And which the parent has no way of knowing about.

. . .

So basically, it has nothing to do with Common Core and everything to do with basic shit teaching.

Um...it actually looks like it has everything to do with basic shit FUNDING. None of the stuff you listed here is the teacher's fault--they don't get paid enough to buy new textbooks and materials out of pocket for every student, for every subject. Sick as hell of teachers being blamed for not being superhuman/independently wealthy enough to fix a national funding problem through the sheer goodness of their fucking hearts.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 7:32 AM on September 24, 2015 [32 favorites]

just got through figuring out and explaining to a friend on fb how this method of subtraction works because she asked.

it took me way too long to figure out why you would do it the "new" way. Basically it's transforming it to 32=12+x. Maybe to set them up for algebra later on? I would have broken out the 10's ("30-10"and "2-2"). And if my kid had come home with a worksheet showing just the problems with some of them filled in and no other information, I would just have been confused. Do the teachers not send an overview home?
posted by ArgentCorvid at 7:37 AM on September 24, 2015

The "counting up" technique cashiers use to calculate change, referenced above, is no more. And I had the following fun exchange recently:
Clerk: That'll be \$18.43, please.
Me: [digs in wallet, hands clerk \$23.53]
Clerk: [Stares at money. Puts coins and singles on counter, enters \$20.00 into the cash register. Places \$20 bill in the till and removes \$1.57. Combines \$1.57 with \$3.53 sitting on the counter and hands me back all of it.] Here’s your change!
Me: [considers asking that pile be converted to a \$5 bill and a dime, but worries that would strike the clerk as scammy.] Thanks.
posted by carmicha at 7:37 AM on September 24, 2015 [9 favorites]

Sixty has similar advantages, although I've also run across a fascinating theory that the primacy of both twelve and sixty in the ancient middle east is partly the result of a particular way of counting to sixty on your fingers that is still in use today in parts of the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia.

What I never understood about this: why 12? You can get 16 on one hand if you include the joint at the base of the fingers.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 7:41 AM on September 24, 2015

Not to dig on you, carmicha, but why did you do that? Why not just give her a twenty? Is it so important to you to get some kind of "right" change back?

Cashiers don't earn much. They work on their feet all day and often do a lot more than just run registers; they restock and clean and do other tasks too. Being suddenly faced with a fun math problem in the middle of the day when she's just trying to get through her line is probably something she didn't want to deal with.

Basically, I am really REALLY tired of the "LOL CASHIERS SO DUMB AT CHANGE" jokes that seem to have been around for decades. It's a shitty job, most of the time, and they have better things to do than play math games with random people trying to catch them out.

Just give them exact change or something obvious to calculate.
posted by emjaybee at 7:46 AM on September 24, 2015 [21 favorites]

Grumpybear69, ok to your point about the publicity on Herrmann, but I think maybe you were talking past me.

In a more benevolent universe, I fantasize that CC is an attempt to provide parents with a lifelong learning opportunity and a way to strengthen intellectual and emotional bonds with their children, with the goal of fostering a more inquisitive society capable of pluralistic thinking and a positive approach to problem solving. All of which would stand us in good stead going forward.

Too bad it so often boils down to an opportunity for parents to undermine and devalue the schools, modeling for their kids the kind of closed-minded agenda bigotry we already have in surplus.

Yes I'm aware that CC is deeply imperfect, and no I'm not a CC expert (yet, that is... my oldest is in Kindergarten).

But still, take the good and leave the rest is not a bad credo. Certainly better than indignant trolling.
posted by maniabug at 7:48 AM on September 24, 2015

Just give them exact change or something obvious to calculate.

No need to calculate anything, just type in what you got and machine will tell you what to return.
posted by effbot at 8:02 AM on September 24, 2015 [8 favorites]

The "counting up" technique cashiers use to calculate change, referenced above, is no more. And I had the following fun exchange recently:

I used to work as a cashier in my various part-time jobs and was able to quickly round numbers in my head to produce change.

Then I went to Japan, and when I arrived in 94 people never asked for exact change. It was considered gauche or just something you didn't do. You paid with a ten or a hundred, and took the change and put it in a change purse. Japan had just come off its boom times and people still thought about money differently.

Over the years this attitude has changed, but it has taken the longest time to get exact change at the till.

The cashier just would not get what I was trying to do. But it's changing.

I think the biggest difference in Canada now is that everyone uses debit cards.
posted by Nevin at 8:02 AM on September 24, 2015

You: [digs in wallet, hands clerk \$23.53]
Me: [Rolls eyes at jerk holding up the line sorting through their change pouch]

The cashier is not your personal bank teller. You shouldn't expect to buy a \$1 pack of gum, pay with 600 pennies, and get a \$5 bill back either.
posted by peeedro at 8:05 AM on September 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

but parents FREAK THE FUCK OUT because WHY ARE YOU PRESENTING NON-STANDARD EQUATIONS IN KINDERGARTEN?

Thanks for answering my question up-thread. Your explanation makes sense to me except for what I have italicized.

Now, I know I am not all parents, but the non-standard math for me is not the problem. What the problem has been all along is that parents are taken out of math. We don't know what is being taught, teachers in elementary school often cannot articulate what is being taught, and we can't help our kids learn. And then our kids get a "performing under expectations" evaluation every year in elementary school, and then a C- in middle school.

That's what irritates me.
posted by Nevin at 8:06 AM on September 24, 2015

ArgentCorvid, maybe in evaluating the "new" way, the important thing is its utility as a tool for learning about numbers, rather than a procedure for use in daily life. I wouldn't solve that problem in the way illustrated, but the question is what value it offers to the learner. I imagine that if I had internalized the method of bringing the smaller number closer to the big one in round increments, I might use it practically. Thing is, it doesn't matter. What habits a person acquires for daily arithmetic is not as important as whether they are afraid of numbers.

All these angry facebook critics are doing their children a big disservice, in my opinion.
posted by maniabug at 8:10 AM on September 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

emjaybee, I worked as a cashier for years. Customers who do that are helping us. The cashier is supposed to shove most of the money through a narrow slot into a safe they can't open, and not keep it out where it can be used to give change, because if it's available for change it's available to steal.

If every person who comes in, hands me a \$20, I don't have enough change for that. The more you can hand back the fives and tens, the less likely you are to reach a point where you don't have the right change. You do this all night, so you can keep the best mixture of smaller bills in the till.

Maybe once per shift you get some customer who launches into a tedious math explanation about how they are giving you \$23.53 so you can give them a five dollar bill in change. Guess what? The cashier knows. They do this all the time. If they don't know, they're new enough that they are unfamiliar with something that happens constantly. Just hand it to 'em and let them figure it out. The ones that are baffled by it will either learn, or get fired very quickly. Because this is a completely necessary skill.

When I was a cashier I was most annoyed by people who pull out a handful of small bills and change, and I can see at a glance they could give me the small change that would let me give them a ten as their change instead of counting back \$8.89, and they fail to do it. Especially when it's one of those nights when I have a shortage of ones and fives. Sheesh, bad enough working nights at the liquor store, without having to teach basic math to skeevy fratbros.
posted by elizilla at 8:11 AM on September 24, 2015 [27 favorites]

Well, emjaybee, I've been a cashier and do not consider this scenario difficult, especially since there was no line. Moreover, the cashier (whose gender I did not specify but was a dude even though emjaybe presumed otherwise for some reason) doesn't have to do the math since the machine handles the calculation. And singles are useful much of the time. My "digging" for change probably added a few seconds to the transaction, peeedro, if that, which is less than if I'd used a credit card, so your eye-rolling would be excessive.

I was not trying to "catch" the cashier at anything; note that I accepted the change without comment and took his potential concern into consideration. Sheesh!
posted by carmicha at 8:14 AM on September 24, 2015 [13 favorites]

The cashier is not your personal bank teller. You shouldn't expect to buy a \$1 pack of gum, pay with 600 pennies, and get a \$5 bill back either.

That said, if you've got any singles, the cashier will probably take as many as you'll give.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:16 AM on September 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

ArgentCorvid, maybe in evaluating the "new" way, the important thing is its utility as a tool for learning about numbers, rather than a procedure for use in daily life.

ok, but that doesn't help me help the kid with homework.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 8:19 AM on September 24, 2015

Nevin: "Thanks for answering my question up-thread. Your explanation makes sense to me except for what I have italicized."

Instead, people ignore all of that, don't read any of the sent-home materials, and show up at school board meetings to literally shriek at unpaid public officials for two solid hours because they think "new math" is stupid. A lot of districts simply back off improving math instruction because parents are so flatly opposed to any math teaching that is different from what they learned 30 years ago. They'll try for a year or two and decide parental refusal to participate, and constant parental pushback, makes it not worth it. A sad number of parents send back worksheets with notes that their kids aren't going to do math the "stupid" way and they want a "regular" arithmetic worksheet. It's very discouraging.

(I send back post-its that say "I do not actually know this technique so I wasn't sure how to help him, can you send me a xerox or an e-mail so I'll know what to do?")
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:20 AM on September 24, 2015 [9 favorites]

Homework also often assumes the child was actually paying attention when it was explained in class, to which I say HA!

...

Wretch729, I feel your pain....

Boy do I ever. My daughter would bring home homework that was common core and there would be no context at all. None. Zero. Zip. The homework sheets have VERY little in the way of instructions and background. And then I'd have to figure out what the intent was, how to honor the intent and make it accessible and meaningful to my daughter who has severe cognitive delays. Yeah.

What it comes down to is that there are a shit ton of different ways of approaching math and every 10 or 15 years, someone has a brand new innovative approach which is rarely new, but very different from the current accepted practice.

My opinion of what I've seen of this is that the ideas are OK, but the materials are shit.

And in that, very little has changed. 10 years ago, the district I taught at got a bargain on some new math text books for 8th grade algebra and the teachers were complaining about what shit they were, but they were stuck with them for a year. And 35 years ago when I was trying to learn algebra, I just couldn't get the first few chapters which were all boolean logic. I asked my dad for help and he complained about the quality of the book and then recast boolean logic as a different type of arithmetic and showed me how to do it with 1's and 0's. Similarly, high school, I remember them covering binomial multiplication using the FOIL method and I found it frustrating. Instead, I made my own method that was based on traditional multidigit multiplication and as a result was able to multiple polynomials of any given size. It worked for me, but not for other people. *shrug*

My son is getting this stuff, but he usually just shrugs off the chaff in the problem and can pop the answer out.
posted by plinth at 8:20 AM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Multiplying something like 22x13 by instead doing 22x10 + 66 = 286 seems instinctual.

Seems that way to me but most likely not. My kid kind of gets it (7) when I step through. It may have been taught in the past but has always been sort of a "smart kid trick" where you do learn factoring and how multiplication and division are just algebraic inverses of each other but it's definitely not instinct. More the sign of a mind that likes tackling quick problems mentally. I used to have a crazy conspiracy nut neighbor who taught this to a 3 year old. He made it out like it was some illuminati secret unlocking a hidden font of power.
posted by aydeejones at 8:22 AM on September 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Eyebrows McGee: "nothing brings out more parents than changing any tiny little thing about math curriculum"

Actually, ONE thing brings out more parents, and that is firing the coach or choir teacher who got caught sleeping with students, and then you get to put up with six weeks of pickets until the cops get around to arresting him. But small changes to math curriculum is a CLOSE SECOND to "obviously unjustified firing of a teacher who is weirdly popular with students and always staying after alone with female students, this isn't weird at all, why do you think it's weird?"

posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:23 AM on September 24, 2015 [7 favorites]

If you were unable to figure out the strategy by looking at a completed problem, and the child was unable to teach it (a good exercise in itself) then it would be time to ask the teacher for help. My point is just that I don't think it's time to get on social media and slam the whole curriculum. (@ArgentCorvid)
posted by maniabug at 8:23 AM on September 24, 2015

Instead, people ignore all of that, don't read any of the sent-home materials, and show up at school board meetings to literally shriek at unpaid public officials for two solid hours because they think "new math" is stupid. A lot of districts simply back off improving math instruction because parents are so flatly opposed to any math teaching that is different from what they learned 30 years ago.

This would be a good time to tell them that .99999999...... = 1 and maybe get them to argue about that for a while.
posted by thelonius at 8:25 AM on September 24, 2015 [6 favorites]

Also my 7 year old has homework problems that amount to "remember what the answer was two questions or a week ago? Put that here." But because they don't do any rote multiplication stuff and they spend so much time drawing tables and dots, they get frustrated at things like 81 divided by 9 instead of remembering that 9 x 9 is 81 and all single digit multiples of 9 can be broken down into digits that add up to 9 etc.
posted by aydeejones at 8:26 AM on September 24, 2015

I don't know anything about this, but I detect a kind of irony: the guy's basic complaint is that he doesn't understand it: his complaint is slapped down because... he doesn't understand what he's talking about.

He's slapped down because he lives in a world with THE INTERNET. He has resources that would make 19th century royalty weep, he likely has more computing power in his pocket than the Apollo missions, but instead of using those resources to educate himself, he uses those same resources for LOLBUTTS. Any irony is his own making.
posted by disconnect at 8:26 AM on September 24, 2015 [7 favorites]

Maniabug - it appeared that you were talking specifically about Herrmann, hence my response.

I agree that grousing on Facebook re: new and unfamiliar math techniques is unhelpful and overall problematic. I see it all the time in my news feeds and kind of shake my head since a lot of parents have decided that Common Core is an enemy they must fight and ridicule instead of a ham-fisted implementation of a solid and noble concept which they would do well to work to understand.

But there are multiple bad actors at play here. Parents who complain rather than understand, education departments which implement too rapidly and without consultation, profiteering companies like Pearson who only care about the bottom line, etc. It is no small thing to overhaul and educational system, and consensus-building is a key element in making the transition smooth and getting better adoption rates. At least in NY, that consensus was never built. As a result we have the opt-out movement which, IMHO, carries a whiff of the anti-vaxxer movement in terms of being dogmatic and unyielding.

The big difference between opt-out and anti-vaxx, though, is that you can't just write the opt-out demographic off. Their trust is a necessary component of making Common Core adoption successful since they are largely affluent and have sway with local education departments. Dismissing people who oppose the Common Core (excepting the right-wing State's Rights crowd who oppose CC and IB for xenophobic reasons) is not going to help achieve the end goal of getting all students in the US a better, more standardize education.

Positioning it as a partisan issue and taking snarky partisan stances will only help to make adoption more difficult. Articles like the Patheos bit, while being correct, are also just preaching to the choir. Doug Herrmann is someone who needs to be converted, not ridiculed.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:26 AM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've got a few years until I have to figure this whole thing out, but I'm watching with interest. While it is interesting to consider this a "life-long learning" opportunity for parents, I'm more concerned about the parents who have to work two jobs to make ends meet, and then may be faced with unfamiliar and poorly explained materials when they get home exhausted at the end of the day. Or the single parent with two kids who has to multitask homework assitance while watching over a toddler. For them, it's probably less of a fun opportunity to learn or slam the poor teachers who have been assigned a poorly designed curriculum, and more of another hurdle to leap while keeping all the balls in the air.
posted by Existential Dread at 8:27 AM on September 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

As a computer guy I get where the common core stuff is headed but the amount of work showing is a bit trudge-y. I'm confident my own son likes math in all sorts of ways and is gifted but currently hates math because of all of the "draw a grid of 81 boxes" sorts of problems. He's fortunate to be in a GT program and they encourage multiple approaches (as does common core) but ultimately the "showing your work" has to be learned so you can jump through hoops and pass tests. And it does make a hell of a lot more sense years down the road. Hence the core.
posted by aydeejones at 8:30 AM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Still unclear why those square things are better than simply telling the kids that it is easier to break problems down into tens-parts and such but obviously they must have research saying it is so.

Kids don't fully develop the ability to think abstractly until they are teenagers. I guess the theory is that if you explicitly teach them concrete/visual ways to approach problems when they are young, you'll give them quite the head start over their peers who are left to figure it out on their own.

My elementary school math instruction was pretty good (Canada, 90s). I called math my favourite subject! But in middle school my mom bought me a supplementary "problem solving" workbook that emphasized creative ways of solving problems. It was really frustrating at first because I was used to being told exact what algorithm I should be using to solve each problem.

This problem solving workbook kind of left you to your own devices, and once you had an attempted answer to a problem, you flipped over the page to see if you were right and to read the authors' suggestions on how to solve the problem. I only did one a day so that I could really think about it afterwards. The approach turned each problem into a teaching opportunity. I never felt stupid if I didn't get an answer (though maybe frustrated with myself) because I had also just learned a new skill I could hopefully apply to future problems!

I'm not a teacher or a parent though; maybe kids with other learning styles would have hated my problem solving workbook and never gained any traction. I think that's the main point of teaching: you need to be (free to be) really responsive to the needs of your individual students.
posted by mantecol at 8:33 AM on September 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm more concerned about the parents who have to work two jobs to make ends meet, and then may be faced with unfamiliar and poorly explained materials when they get home exhausted at the end of the day. Or the single parent with two kids who has to multitask homework assitance while watching over a toddler. For them, it's probably less of a fun opportunity to learn or slam the poor teachers who have been assigned a poorly designed curriculum, and more of another hurdle to leap while keeping all the balls in the air.

While this is definitely true, it seems like the answer isn't, or shouldn't be, "better hang on to this likely inferior pedagogy forever then." I mean life isn't going to get any easier for anyone, anytime soon or ever. Do we just then give up on improving things we know can be improved because people are tired?
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:38 AM on September 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

By the way, my kids teachers tell me that in the past two years I've been the only parent to send back a worksheet with the note "I don't understand the technique, can you explain it?" (for me the parent). In every case it's been the teacher taking ten seconds to show me one example when I drop off cupcakes, or a two-sentence e-mail explaining it. They're not HARD problems, they're just set up differently than I've seen before. (And we go to the curriculum nights, and all that stuff; and I spent five years going to endless meetings on curriculum. And still sometimes I just don't know what it's getting at. Because I'm not an elementary school math teacher!)

A lot of parents don't ask because they're embarrassed that they don't get it, afraid of math, or worried about taking up the teacher's time. If you are getting Common Core math worksheets with techniques you don't understand, ASK THE TEACHER, you will be like the only parent who asks all year, they EXPECT parents to need to ask and wish you would ask more often, and the explanation is pretty simple and clear for an adult who can keep a budget -- you just need the technique explained and you'll know how to do it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:40 AM on September 24, 2015 [9 favorites]

The school my daughter goes to has figured out what seems to be the best approach to this problem. They explicitly discourage parents from helping with their kids' homework, the idea being that the students will learn better if they do it themselves, mistakes and all. That's not to say that I don't look over my fifth-grader's homework from time to time, but that is more to see what she is learning than to check her work. It works for us; she loves math and it really isn't that hard to figure out what they are teaching her.

As for the little cashier derail, I, like many of you, have had jobs that required running a cash register and I have little sympathy for cashiers that know neither the simple arithmetic needed to make change nor how to operate their cash register. It is their job, after all. It's not like they are Kim Davis or something. (Although some people do have religious objections to set theory.) Recently I handed the cashier at the McDonalds at work a \$20.00 bill to pay for my lunch. They keyed in \$2.00 by mistake and it was complete chaos. They couldn't just figure out the correct change on their own, and they didn't realize they could key in an additional \$18.00 on the register and have it calculate the change. The manager had to come over, they couldn't figure out either of those solutions and so voided out the transaction and started over, just to get me the correct change. As good an example of what the late Steve Allen called dumbth as I have seen in a while.
posted by TedW at 8:50 AM on September 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

While this is definitely true, it seems like the answer isn't, or shouldn't be, "better hang on to this likely inferior pedagogy forever then." I mean life isn't going to get any easier for anyone, anytime soon or ever. Do we just then give up on improving things we know can be improved because people are tired?

No, certainly not. But the designers of a curriculum should be extremely sensitive to the role that parents of all economic classes play in a child's learning, and should design a curriculum that can address those needs as well. Otherwise this becomes another mechanism by which the well-off succeed (by virtue of having time/education/etc to understand and aid their child) and those without fall further behind.
posted by Existential Dread at 9:00 AM on September 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

[One comment deleted. At this point the discussion about cashiers and making change is taking on a life of its own, please let's just cool it on that.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:07 AM on September 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

The most common measurement for food in the UK is the pound (lb), which is 454g. Nearest metric round figure is 500g (ie more). A lot of things just get measured into 454g units (sausages, I'm looking at you). UK pints have stayed pints despite the 40 years since we started going metric.

In Canada a lot of things are in seemingly arbitrary values -- can of coke at 355mL sure, why not -- I think because we import so much from the US that all they can be bothered with is a unit conversion and some bilingualism on the label. Some local stuff is in nice round metric units, like when you buy deli meat it is usually by the 100g or milk comes in containers of 500mL, 1L, 2L, etc. But then again my grocery store lists produce by the pound, but then charges you by the kg at the till.

Anyways, growing up this way, I just cannot see why anyone would care if they got 454g in a package or 500g, it's still a package of food right? What does it matter if the number on it is a nice round number?
posted by selenized at 9:08 AM on September 24, 2015

No, certainly not. But the designers of a curriculum should be extremely sensitive to the role that parents of all economic classes play in a child's learning

This is absolutely true, but points in a different direction than people tend to think. The designers of Common Core are not the same people as the designers of the curriculum; Common Core is not in and of itself a curriculum. The people who Do design curricula, however, do tend to assume the best of possible worlds --teachers who have *gasp* enough textbooks for their classes, students who have actually grasped prior concepts, etc.-- and I'm not sure what the solution is to that except...you know, taxes and other shit people hate.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:09 AM on September 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

So, I guess like a lot of things in education one of the big problems talking about Common Core as a single thing is that implementation varies so much from State to State, district to district and even school to school.

I absolutely love the Common Core is implemented in my kid's class. Like, he learns about 3 ways of thinking about how to play with the numbers for every new skill he's taught. Yeah it's kind of frustrating for me to watch that he's doing yet another way of quickly adding things over 10 that's basically a twist on what he did before, but you know what? He absolutely loves it, and he knows if he doesn't get one way of thinking about a particular concept there's always another way. This way he's never bad at math, he just finds another easier way of doing it.

Thanks to the emphasis on learning concepts instead of memorizing numbers, he thinks math is a fun thing to play with. He likes to spend time in the car figuring out new tricks to do with numbers. Last year, based on one of the ways they showed of grouping things in 1st grade he figured out multiplication, and on Monday this week he came up with a "new way of counting high really quickly, you just count until you get to 2, and then you count by twos until you get to four, then eight, then sixteen". I'm pretty proud that in 2nd Grade he not only came up with exponential growth, but also found an use for it. I mean, maybe he would have done this anyway, he's pretty bright, but I doubt that the way I learned math would have turned numbers into fun conceptual legos that he gets to build things with.

On the other hand, yeah, I'm absolutely expected to be my kid's "homework buddy", but this year that mainly seems to be making sure he only spends about 20 min. on math homework (The teacher's theory is that if the kids are spending more time than that, they're not getting the concept for some reason, and she needs to know that), and that can be tough on weeks where I work every night, or if he's struggling with a concept that's new to me. So, I have absolutely all the sympathy in the world for people who that's their constant reality. The thing is, that's not really a Common Core problem, I'm pretty sure that any way of teaching works better if one parent or some member of the family's support network has time and energy to help with homework. I think the solution to that is more society based than curriculum based. I mean, maybe what we really need is a grassroots movement to (in addition to paying enough for DURING school programs, which is a whole other can of worms) provide stronger and easily accessed community based homework help options.
posted by Gygesringtone at 9:10 AM on September 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

Instead, people ignore all of that, don't read any of the sent-home materials, and show up at school board meetings to literally shriek at unpaid public officials for two solid hours because they think "new math" is stupid.

Eyebrows, hopefully I didn't give you the impression that that's what I do.

To reiterate: as parents, we sometimes feel left out of the learning process, and we also wonder why our child is not performing satisfactorily at math.

I think you have consider that you are speaking here in this thread as a school board trustee (I believe). It would be nice to believe that I am being heard as a parent, and my comments not being misrepresented by someone in a position of power and moral authority.
posted by Nevin at 9:31 AM on September 24, 2015

Eyebrows:
A lot of parents don't ask because they're embarrassed that they don't get it, afraid of math, or worried about taking up the teacher's time. If you are getting Common Core math worksheets with techniques you don't understand, ASK THE TEACHER, you will be like the only parent who asks all year, they EXPECT parents to need to ask and wish you would ask more often, and the explanation is pretty simple and clear for an adult who can keep a budget -- you just need the technique explained and you'll know how to do it.
I personally would love learning about these techniques. (Singapore Number Line? Shouldn't that be a song? About a train?) Do you think there might be some teachers who would be willing to share that info with the wider population? Maybe a blog or forum site where teachers could post a recent worksheet exercise and explain it the way they explained it to their class, or parents could post a worksheet exercise they didn't know how to help with, and get a short explanation back?

I would love to read something like that, and as a programmer I would be happy to set up the infrastructure; I just worry about asking overworked teachers to do extra work.

Or does a site like that exist already?
posted by kristi at 9:41 AM on September 24, 2015

The school my daughter goes to has figured out what seems to be the best approach to this problem. They explicitly discourage parents from helping with their kids' homework, the idea being that the students will learn better if they do it themselves, mistakes and all.

oh man, that's classic. Yeah, parents don't do the one thing kids desperately need...

Well, one of the big barriers to improving math instruction is that nothing brings out more parents than changing any tiny little thing about math curriculum. You'll easily get a dozen people at a school board meeting literally shouting because their children are doing "backwards" equations (?=3+4 instead of 3+4=?). And this will typically be after sending home information on the curriculum and hosting curriculum nights and "math nights" specifically geared towards helping parents understand the new curriculum.

Is it be possible that your parents have the right idea: "something is wrong", but for the wrong reasons?

One of the problems with having teacher focused math development is that when you have a local group of teachers who think they understand math, enjoy it, and think they are good at it then, they likely will be resistant to some directive from above to change the curriculum, the pedagogy, etc. Is that good or bad? You are basically saying: the parents don't know what's good for their children, and the teacher's don't know what's good for the children (else presumably they would be doing it already...).

By making these curriculum changes you are saying: you can't trust primary school teachers to teach your kids math without these changes. That is the message you are sending to the parents. It's no wonder they get upset.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:49 AM on September 24, 2015

I wonder how many computer lab teachers are having students make a blog or video to help parents with CC. As a former comp lab teacher that sounds to me like a project with potential.
posted by maniabug at 9:56 AM on September 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

By making these curriculum changes you are saying: you can't trust primary school teachers to teach your kids math without these changes. That is the message you are sending to the parents. It's no wonder they get upset.

Honestly I couldn't parse the majority of your comment (the problem with teacher-focused math development is that teachers resist the change but the parents resist the change??) but this last part stood out to me. Why on earth is that the message parents interpret and not "hey, actually we've been studying this awhile and it turns out there's this way to do things that has good results, so we're gonna try that."

Otherwise...we can't ever make a curriculum change because trust means teaching the same thing forever or else maybe someone was wrong so trust is dead? What?
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:59 AM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

> To reiterate: as parents, we sometimes feel left out of the learning process, and we also wonder why our child is not performing satisfactorily at math.

But in her school district, they host math nights at different schools every month for parents. It sounds like that doesn't happen in yours. Can you go to school board meetings and encourage other parents to do so to ask that something like that be offered?
posted by rtha at 10:08 AM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Anyone ever look back fondly to the time before Facebook when people actually felt shame for being stupid?
posted by any major dude at 10:13 AM on September 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

ennui.bz: "One of the problems with having teacher focused math development is that when you have a local group of teachers who think they understand math, enjoy it, and think they are good at it then, they likely will be resistant to some directive from above to change the curriculum, the pedagogy, etc"

My district, being large, has an in-house curriculum department with dedicated employees and teachers who serve on the various committees are paid for that service, and our teachers attend ongoing teacher training. And my district had to change very little in its curriculum to align with Common Core; a lot of this "Singapore math" has been best practice for a while now.

So, yes, it is shitty when Houghton-Mifflin Textbooks says "NOPE WE'RE CHANGING HOW YOU TEACH MATH, NEW TEXTBOOKS FOR EVERYONE!" and I do think the printed materials available for Common Core math are a hot mess, as I said before. But my experience is that this is a teacher-directed change by teachers who are expert in their field, and if there is an administrative (or school board) fiat, it is much more likely to be, "Go back to teaching it the old way, we're tired of fielding complaints from parents, we don't care that you're the experts."

ennui.bz: "By making these curriculum changes you are saying: you can't trust primary school teachers to teach your kids math without these changes. That is the message you are sending to the parents. It's no wonder they get upset."

This seems a bit crazy to me. Curriculum is constantly undergoing revision. I mean ideally you're not tossing down a massive overhaul, failing to support it, and then completely changing direction every two years, but a school district of any substantial size should have a department wholly committed to nothing but the constant fine-tuning and updating of curriculum. (And, in fact, one of the weaknesses of US districts is how corporate consultants have convinced many smaller districts to "outsource" their curriculum departments to textbook makers, and just buy whatever premade curriculum is on offer.)

But I'm ... not totally sure I understand your comment, so if I've misinterpreted, please help me out and I'll try again.

Nevin: "Eyebrows, hopefully I didn't give you the impression that that's what I do."

I didn't say YOU do that, I said many PARENTS do that, and when a school district is trying to respond to parents in the aggregate, those are often the parents who are driving the response, because they are legion and they are noisy. You said you didn't understand my bit in italics; I was explaining what I'd meant, not discounting your experience where you are. It's quite possible, and indeed sadly common, to have elementary teachers in particular who are not well-trained in teaching math and not particularly competent to do so. (Most K-2 teachers in particular don't get into K-2 teaching because they just! love! numbers!) Depending on the culture of the district, getting elementary teachers to take math education seriously can be like pulling teeth.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:15 AM on September 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

rtha: "But in her school district, they host math nights at different schools every month for parents. "

We offer them in English and Spanish (as much as possible), have translators on call for most of the other languages we know our students speak at home (and will take translator reservations from those parents! If grandma is managing the college application process, and grandma is only fluent in Gujarati, then BY GOD our Gujarati translator will be there to talk grandma through the FAFSA), there is transportation available, we will get social workers there, whatever needs to happen! For parents who have limited contact with or expertise in dealing with the bureaucracy of schools, we want to teach them literally anything they might want to know, and we want to make it as painless as possible for them to learn it, and create as many opportunities as we can for parents to learn how to be better advocates for their kids and better partners in their education.

It is an enormously successful program (despite the dearth of people showing up to learn about math curriculum ... but the "stop bullying" "help with reading" and "prepare for college" programs are always packed) and I would urge every school system to consider the model.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:31 AM on September 24, 2015 [18 favorites]

largest number of parents I ever saw at a night -- where we provided tacos! if you don't provide food, people don't show up! -- to help teach parents about the new math curriculum was a dozen, in a district of 14,000. We hosted these EVERY MONTH, at different schools so parents who couldn't travel as far could attend, and through the course of a year we maybe reached 60 parents.

I've seen that pattern time and time again. And every year, the teacher unions in my state get to take on some keen new Education Minister who is convinced that what's wrong with schools is that they are Just Not Transparent Enough and need to be More Accountable To Parents and has some idiot plan involving more bullshit makework for teachers to make that happen.

Schools have been doing the transparency thing well above the call of duty for as long as I've been alive. What educational communities really need is more accountable parents.
posted by flabdablet at 10:34 AM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Anyone ever look back fondly to the time before Facebook when people actually felt shame for being stupi

Well, there's always been this idea that being unable to do simple math makes you Just Plain Folks. I mean, you don't hear people going around, saying almost pridefully, well, I'm just not a word person. Never was any good at understanding what the hell people are talking about!
posted by thelonius at 11:02 AM on September 24, 2015 [6 favorites]

I got taught New Math a bunch of years ago. It wasted a lot of time, which is a horrible thing to do to kids, so I'm kind of suspicious of New! Improved! methods of teaching.
posted by theora55 at 11:43 AM on September 24, 2015

I'd never heard of common core math before seeing this thread, but upon investigation it turns out this is exactly how I do subtraction in my head. If I have paper and pencil I do it the way I was taught (40+ years ago) with the borrowing and crossing out digits. But if I'm forced to do it in my head, this is the method I seem to have intuitively taught myself.
So I guess I approve. Carry on.
posted by rocket88 at 12:05 PM on September 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

In case anyone wants to look at the standards, here are the guidelines for grade 2.
posted by Gygesringtone at 12:15 PM on September 24, 2015

Hit post too soon, meant to add: I don't see anything even remotely approaching New Math in there.
posted by Gygesringtone at 12:16 PM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

I got taught New Math a bunch of years ago. It wasted a lot of time, which is a horrible thing to do to kids, so I'm kind of suspicious of New! Improved! methods of teaching.

I'm equally suspicious to sticking with the current forms of teaching when they clearly aren't working for most people. I always did well in math because my mind is pretty attuned to an algorithmic approach, but it's not good when you're just teaching a small segment of people like me and leaving everyone else to fend for themselves. I've seen a lot of criticism of Common Core but a lot of it is based on flawed premises like parents getting upset by any deviation in the way that they were taught math. I know you want to help out your kids with their homework, but it's not worth perpetuating a broken teaching method just because you don't want to have to learn another way to do simple arithmetic.
posted by zixyer at 12:18 PM on September 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

Anyone ever look back fondly to the time before Facebook when people actually felt shame for being stupid?

They definitely still feel shame. The example up top is one method of expressing it.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:41 PM on September 24, 2015

Our school district sends home a little packet (2-3 pages) every Friday that's like "Here's what your kid will be doing in math next week! Here's what all the weird jargon and pictures mean! Here's why we do it this way!"

There are real problems with the implementation, but I love the common core math my third-grader has been bringing home. Each concept seems to have two or three different methods behind it, so kids can stick with the ones that work best for them, and my kid never seems to come home baffled about exactly what's going on -- she usually just does her homework without needing any help from me. Sometimes I catch her explaining it to her 4-year-old brother, which is neat.

Of course, we're a reasonably wealthy district (17% on F/R lunch) in an area with a lot of STEM professionals, including the parents who formed a parent committee to evaluate the different Common Core math curricula. But yeah, if you're regularly confused by your children's math homework, it's worth writing to the teacher or the school board to say "Hey, where can I get resources on how to best support my child in her math studies? What curriculum are you using? Is there a teacher/parent guide available? How do I get my hands on it?"
posted by KathrynT at 1:14 PM on September 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

I say we get away from all of these confusing squiggles they are teaching my progeny and go back to the Roman numerals I was taught ! If I want to write out a hundred in this new Arabic style it takes triple the effort of a simple C! And to add a one to that I may simply just append an additional I, but if I attempt to do similar with this new math, my son informs me that instead of one hundred one, it mystically changes to one thousand one!
posted by ckape at 1:29 PM on September 24, 2015 [10 favorites]

I read through Feynmann's essay, linked above, and it's remarkable that the things he identified as faults with (what was then) "New Math" were still being taught in Australia when I was at school. In retrospect, and only based my recollection of the curriculum, I think there must have been an idea that all this work on set theory and number bases would finally pay off when someone could turn to us impressively and say
Children. I am now ready to teach you the definition of a number. Do you know what a number is? The number of a thing is the set of all sets that are similar to the given thing.
This would have happened around year eight or so (Form Two in the Old Math), but by that time I think we had moved on to incomprehension of geometry instead.

We never learned the definition of a number; in my case that was left to L Sprague de Camp and his Enchanter series.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:54 PM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

So is there a "New English" corresponding to this "New Math", with the design goal of getting our kids to really understand speaking and reading instead of just memorizing a lot of meaningless yabba-dabba? We already know what happens if you make them memorize "I before E except after C." You get generations of educated adults who can't spell "atheist."
posted by jfuller at 2:56 PM on September 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Whole language is basically what you're talking about, I think.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 3:59 PM on September 24, 2015

We never learned the definition of a number; in my case that was left to L Sprague de Camp and his Enchanter series.

That's what that was?

It's been so many years since I read that back in Jr. high, but I do remember dismissing Chalmers'(?) formulas for dimensional travel at the time as the SF-usual A/not-A Korzybskian bullshit a la A E Van Vogt.
posted by jamjam at 5:24 PM on September 24, 2015

Oh say, Joe in Australia -- I also remembered from a somewhat similar math thread to this one a few years back you saying there were all kinds of calculational shortcuts and elaborations peculiar to certain Indian traditions, which you described as "Vedic tricks", as I recall, and subsequently I happened to be thinking about Ramanujan and the mystery of how he came up with all those amazing identities, and your words came back to me, and I wondered whether the answer might not be found in an inspired application of those same Vedic tricks and extensions of them to much more complex mathematical entities than simple whole numbers.
posted by jamjam at 5:45 PM on September 24, 2015

Nobody gives him checks written as calculus problems.

WHAT NOW, BITCHES?
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 5:55 PM on September 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

The letter zero came from the Indians.
posted by rhizome at 6:22 PM on September 24, 2015

I wish I could give fifty favorites to flug's comment.

In California it is super super common for districts not to have enough money for proper course materials. So as an adult helping a kid, you may have a worksheet that's a sixth generation samzidat-like copy with incomplete instructions, and no textbook at all because the school doesn't let the kid bring it home to save on wear and tear and replacement.

So to even figure out the pedagogy in use in a particular grade and week (see the multiple methods cited earlier) it's almost a black box problem. Are we solving addition this way or this way or this way this week.

Because the kid may not be able to describe the method (they're learning it but haven't mastered it) figuring it out from incomplete information, without a text, while making dinner, is quite challenging.

The method of teaching may be fine, but the lack of info combined with the inability to make use of methods one is fluent with, are a barrier to helping the kid.

And helping the kid is important when, in most districts, you've got an overloaded teacher who may not have time to give individual feedback to kids, either in class or even on graded assignments.
posted by zippy at 6:28 PM on September 24, 2015

snickerdoodle: "Or, we could, you know, not. I'm serious. Why do we expect parents to do their kid's homework? I'd never heard of such a thing before I came to the US; homework was about learning things, and how is your teacher supposed to know you haven't learned something if an adult is helping you do your work? And how is your kid supposed to learn the consequences of not paying attention in school, or how to ask for help, if you are compensating for it at home? "

What?

What what what?

Okay, going part by part

Q: "Why do we expect parents to do their kid's homework?"
A: We don't. But many parents who have the time and energy choose to help their kids learn. Doing the homework for the kid doesn't help them, but we're not talking about parents doing homework in place of their kids. Instead, we're talking about helping the kids understand. Acting as an additional teacher, as it were. It shouldn't be expected, but your comment makes it sound like even parents with the time and energy shouldn't teach their kids anything, which is really weird. I dunno what country you're comparing the US to, but parents helping their kids with math homework is also extremely common here in Japan.

Q: "homework was about learning things"
A: Homework (at the elementary school level) should not be about learning new things, but about mastering what was learned at school. It should be about practice. If your kid basically understood a lesson, then they probably won't ask for help with their homework that night. They'll do the homework on their own, reinforcing what they learned at school. If they didn't understand a lesson at all, the homework will be a piece of paper with random words on it. There is no way to answer a question if you have no idea what it is even about. In those cases, some parents choose to provide additional explanation so that the kid will get the concept that was taught at school. This is what "helping with homework" is.

Q: "how is your teacher supposed to know you haven't learned something if an adult is helping you do your work?"
A: Tests or quizzes. And I'm not talking the big scary American standardized whatever, I'm talking about the regular tests and quizzes that schools have administered for eons. If, as you posit, homework isn't review and practice but instead a form of level identification, then what the heck are the tests for? Killing time? And if homework is a form of level identification, then when is there actual review and practice? You learn in class, and then get tested that night, without ever practicing?

Q: "how is your kid supposed to learn the consequences of not paying attention in school, or how to ask for help, if you are compensating for it at home?"
A: Okay, the "consequences of not paying attention in school" part, I get. In my kid's case, the problem isn't that he doesn't pay attention, but that he doesn't understand even when paying attention (I know this because when I teach him stuff, he pays attention, but generally fails to understand for quite a while before it clicks). But, sure, I guess there are kids who don't pay attention in class, and then get their parents to explain everything later. But if you want to make them learn the consequences, you just point out, "Hey, Timmy? You spent an hour in math class today, and you didn't pay attention. Now you're listening to me explaining math for an hour at night. If you had paid attention in class, your homework would have been finished already, and you could be drawing dinosaurs instead of listening to me explain everything again."
As for "how to ask for help"...I mean, your whole question is predicated on the kid asking the parents for help with homework, right? How can you ask "If you're always asking for help, how are you supposed to learn how to ask for help?"

emjaybee: "Not to dig on you, carmicha, but why did you do that? Why not just give her a twenty? Is it so important to you to get some kind of "right" change back? "

I know we're off the cashier topic, but there's a non-math, non-cashier related element that hasn't been brought up. Guys' wallets usually go in their back pockets, and a wallet with a few coins doesn't feel like much, but a wallet full of change is painful. Like sitting on a small rock all day. Not saying you should therefore find it justified, but I interpreted your question as asking for the reason for even wanting to minimize change, and that's mine.
posted by Bugbread at 6:53 PM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was doing some CC math stuff on the Khan Academy website. It's amazing how that math anxiety comes rushing back, even though it's been almost 25 years, and I teach at a university. So many years struggling and being told I wasn't good at math.
posted by persona au gratin at 7:02 PM on September 24, 2015

I happened to be thinking about Ramanujan and the mystery of how he came up with all those amazing identities, and your words came back to me, and I wondered whether the answer might not be found in an inspired application of those same Vedic tricks and extensions of them to much more complex mathematical entities than simple whole numbers.

IANAM(athematician) and I cannot speak to Ramanujan's serious body of work at all, but some of those mathematical identities are just astounding, even if they're mostly meaningless. E.g., pi squared is very very close to the square root of the square root of (9^2+ 19^2/22). Ramanujan said that he came up with it "empirically", which is just astounding. Perhaps his visceral feel for numbers went far beyond what we can imagine, so that he could tell that he was "getting close" to an identity without having to do the hard work of testing each possibility.

Incidentally, here's one trick that I haven't seen anywhere else: 7*11*13 = 1001, so you can test larger (four or more digits) numbers for divisibility by 7, 11, or 13 by dividing by 1001. The easy way to do that is:
Divide your number into two parts, the front part and the last three digits. "Borrow" numbers from the front part until the last part is greater than the front.
Subtract the front part from the last part.
Is the result divisible by 7, 11 or 13? Then so was the original number.

E.g. Is 1,234,567 divisible by 7?
Separate the number into 1,234 and 567.
"Borrow" a digit from the first part and add that to the second: 1,233 and 1,567
Subtract the first from the second: 1,567-1,233 = 334
I know that 350 is divisible by 7; 334 is 16 less than 350; 16 is not divisible by 7 so 1,234,567 is not divisible by 7.

Let's check our answer on a calculator. 1,234,567 + 16 should be divisible by seven: yes, it's 176,369. QED.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:14 PM on September 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

I was doing some CC math stuff on the Khan Academy website.

I was just doing the same. I was doing basic fractions, which is something I've always struggled with. All the talk about so much of common core math being totally intuitive (especially base 10) is very true for me. I don't remember if I was taught to think of things in base 10 or if I developed the mental shortcuts myself. But seeing the fractions on Khan Academy being taught as a number line kind of blew my mind a little, because that's how I (with my very poor understanding of fractions) do it as an adult. If I have two fractions with uncommon denominators that I need to compare, I will literally sit down and draw two lines and mark the fractions on the lines to see which one is bigger. I might have learned it that way in elementary school in the 80s, but I don't really remember it. I just know it's the best way for me to visualize it. Of course, I hit a wall when I have to then combine two fractions with different denominators quickly (without taking the extra steps to find the common denominator - this comes up with some regularity because I like to cook) but that's a later lesson, I'm sure.
posted by triggerfinger at 7:45 PM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

As for "how to ask for help"...I mean, your whole question is predicated on the kid asking the parents for help with homework, right? How can you ask "If you're always asking for help, how are you supposed to learn how to ask for help?"

There's a big difference between having your parents preemptively help you, or even having them help you when asked, and going to your teacher, articulating the problem, and seeking assistance. And if your kid doesn't know how to do the assignment at all, his or her teacher needs to be aware of that fact. Homework is a feedback mechanism for the teacher as well as the student. I can't tell you how many students I've tutored, of all ages, who simply don't think to raise their hands and ask questions in class when they're confused.

I definitely get why parents want to help with homework. We've made education such a high-stakes topic, and it seems wrong to put your kids in a position where they're at a disadvantage, given how tightly coupled grades/college/etc. are to achieving a middle-class life in the US now. But the evidence on parental intervention is surprisingly mixed. For most kids, instilling good study habits and self-motivation is going to be more important in the long run. You can absolutely do that without actually knowing or teaching the material itself.
posted by snickerdoodle at 7:46 PM on September 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

In California it is super super common for districts not to have enough money for proper course materials. So as an adult helping a kid, you may have a worksheet that's a sixth generation samzidat-like copy with incomplete instructions, and no textbook at all because the school doesn't let the kid bring it home to save on wear and tear and replacement

Not to derail, but California schools are required to provide students with sufficient instructional materials, including a textbook for each student to use at home. If someone's school is violating that requirement, there is a statewide uniform complaint procedure they can take advantage of. More info here.
posted by heisenberg at 7:59 PM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

snickerdoodle: "Homework is a feedback mechanism for the teacher as well as the student."

Something occurs to me that perhaps explains the difference in our views; here, homework isn't turned in and graded by the teacher, it's graded by the students themselves at the start of class. And yet, even though we helped our son with homework when he was in 1st and 2nd grade (when he was struggling with math), our teacher was fully aware of his having a hard time with math, so while homework certainly can be used in that way, it's neither an inherent nor essential aspect of homework.

snickerdoodle: "I definitely get why parents want to help with homework. We've made education such a high-stakes topic, and it seems wrong to put your kids in a position where they're at a disadvantage, given how tightly coupled grades/college/etc. are to achieving a middle-class life in the US now."

That's...not remotely why I helped him with his homework. Math builds on itself. If you don't understand the basics, you're not going to understand the more complicated stuff that comes after. Judging from what I've heard from people who are bad at math, you're going to end up hating math class for the next, what, 10 years of public school? It'll be hours of torture each week. And helping with math homework has not, from what I've seen, impeded good study habits or self-motivation. You seem to be interpreting "helping on homework" as "sitting down every single evening and doing every question together" instead of, well, providing additional instruction when a kid has a hard time understanding something. Like, in that article you posted, it talks about "Do you review your daughter’s homework every night? [D]ata...show that this won’t help her score higher on standardized tests." I don't think anyone in this thread talking about helping their kids with homework is talking about that strawman.
posted by Bugbread at 9:15 PM on September 24, 2015

Welp, reading this thread has convinced me that America's students are by and large doomed.

Other countries put a lot of emphasis on best practices, the value of education, and the need for society to aim higher.

Not America. Good luck with that. You need it.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:52 PM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

triggerfinger: that's really interesting. I think I try to get as close to a common denominator as possible. Or if possible do the division and render them as decimals.

I was digging the stuff up to middle school. When I went to the HS stuff, fear.
posted by persona au gratin at 11:30 PM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Multiplying something like 22x13 by instead doing 22x10 + 66 = 286 seems instinctual.

I'm reasonably good with math (including passing calculus, though not with distinction, in college) and am over 40. I just figured out this trick in the last few years, when I started needing to do volume calculations of material in the field all the time (How many cubic yards are in this pile? How many cubic feet were removed from the bottom third of that ditch?) which meant doing a lot of basic multiplication in my head. It ended up being faster and easier to figure out the mental trick of breaking down multiplication in my head than it is to get out my iphone and turn on the calculator app.

On the positive side, it also turned out that I still had most of the basic geometry formulas stuck in my head from all of the rote memorization I went through, which is really handy. At this point I feel that the math I was taught was reasonably good at forcing memorization of formulas and concepts, but very poor at leading to understanding of how to use them and how to make connections between different parts. And it was all at the mercy of individual teachers -- I had a much better teacher for geometry than for trig, so if I were to need to use more than the most minimal trig I would have to relearn it almost from scratch.

Knowing only what gets posted here in FPPs and comments about the common core, I really like that it seems to include an effort towards showing connections and different approaches to the same basic problem (such as how to multiply two large numbers), rather than just one in isolation. Some of it is probably unnecessary and other parts not fully thought through, but parts of it would definitely have helped me at that age and would be useful concepts as an adult who has to use math every day.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:20 AM on September 25, 2015

nothing brings out more parents than changing any tiny little thing about math curriculum

I just want to ask those parents, "Do you feel like you're good at math? No? Then why should we teach your kids the same way you were taught?"
posted by LizBoBiz at 6:44 AM on September 25, 2015 [6 favorites]

LizBoBiz: "I just want to ask those parents, "Do you feel like you're good at math? No? Then why should we teach your kids the same way you were taught?""

True, but I don't think the zinger would work. In their minds, I'm sure they believe that they are bad at advanced math, but good at basic math, and the problems they are encountering are all in the area of basic math. You see lots of Facebook complaints about Common Core elementary school arithmetic, after all, and not about Common Core high school calculus. I don't think there's a quick zinger or snappy comeback that would make them realize that part of the reason they're bad at advanced math is because even though they can do basic arithmetic, they're not actually good at basic math, either.
posted by Bugbread at 8:02 AM on September 25, 2015 [6 favorites]

ahhh. Touché.
posted by LizBoBiz at 9:00 AM on September 25, 2015

I'm a middle school teacher, though I don't teach math. I work in a district with a math proficiency rate on the SBAC (one of the two Common Core approved tests) that's in the 90% range. And that's without a math teacher for 2/3 of the school year. We have a math club every Wednesday morning with 45 students attending, which is about 10% of our student population.

So our school is "succeeding" in that sense. But last year, we had a MAJOR issue when the decision was made to remove textbooks from the classroom. Parents and students flipped out, and the textbooks were brought back into the classroom...and when they were brought back, they weren't even used for long. We continued to pilot different Common Core math programs all of last year, and the district paid well over 100k for consultants to come in and tell a great group of math teachers that they weren't doing the right things. Now, we have a huge book room full of math textbooks we'll never use again, and our students have (pretty good!) consumable math books.

And while I count myself as being pretty competent with math, last year, I found myself trying to help my students in a class that's essentially study hall, and I had the same frustrations as have been mentioned here. The worksheet was copied with pages missing. The sample problems from class were way easier. The kids needed to complain about how they were being taught and how frustrating the homework was because they didn't feel like they learned anything in class. It didn't help that one of the new math teachers (who is no longer at the school) would regularly give the 6th graders the 7th grade homework and vice versa. And they would STILL COUNT IT even though THEY MADE THE MISTAKE.

It's one reason why I believe so heartily in the flipped classroom model. With a short video that covers a concept and required questions/notes, it would remove most of the issues mentioned in this thread. Then kids can do the "homework" with the teacher there, and the support of peers. AND parents could learn the concept along with the kids.

This discussion also gives me the opportunity to share an episode of The Adventures of Pete and Pete where one girl starts a revolution by demanding that the teacher explain how word problems and Algebra are relevant to anyone's life. Steve Buscemi and Janine Garofalo are in it. Plus a guy named Mr. Shrek. It's quality.
posted by guster4lovers at 9:35 PM on September 25, 2015

This Raj Khan explanation of "new" math is pretty good. I'm going to learn this stuff just to see if it makes me better at mental math. I'm better now than I was in high school, which isn't saying much.
posted by sneebler at 10:57 AM on September 29, 2015

From tunneling through the sun with dimes, to Every Time two different times, to the meaning of number sense: a new Singapore Math blog series.
So here's the deep insight that Dr. Kho brought to math education. The reason most kids don't have much number sense when they need it is because they have been actively trained not to use it when they're doing math.
The kid who hits The Wall and never gets up again learned that you do this, then this, then this, and what you write is your answer. That kid, unless s/he is exceptionally talented, will break down, never to be good at it again, whenever the number of "this" becomes too large or too complicated to memorize.
More on that Singapore Math thing: So what was wrong with American math teaching in the first place?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:18 PM on September 30, 2015

It's one reason why I believe so heartily in the flipped classroom model. With a short video that covers a concept and required questions/notes, it would remove most of the issues mentioned in this thread. Then kids can do the "homework" with the teacher there, and the support of peers. AND parents could learn the concept along with the kids.

Our high school math teacher did dedicated in-class homework sessions in trig and calculus, and it was extremely helpful.
posted by thelonius at 12:53 PM on October 7, 2015

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