Thursday, May 22, 2014

Common Core Mathematics: I don’t usually share my politics

Property of here

"Example of Common Core"
Many parents think the NEW MATH is too complicated...and too many steps.

Here is my resume… Bachelor’s degree in special education. Taught 5 years 9-12 grade remedial mathematics and geometry. Master’s degree in special education/autism. 2 years teaching math to 6-12 grade students in alternative/jail school. 1 year teaching online 8th grade pre-algebra. Certified in Mathematics grades 5-9 and 6-12.

You do notice, there is no formal mathematics education curriculum here.

I didn’t plan on teaching math. It landed in my lap, my first day on the job.

“Can you teach math?” asked the assistant principal. I had been hired to teach reading, but I am pretty confident. I replied, “I can teach anything you want me to.”

I found my niche. I love teaching math to struggling students. I, TOO, STRUGGLED! I understand why they “don’t get it.” I try to learn new ways to teach it. I teach it in every manner that I have available to me.

I do very well at it. My students succeed. My students LIKE math. (Yeah, I couldn’t believe this was happening in my classroom.)

I haven’t been teaching this year, due to our EPIC WORLD TOUR, but I have been watching, and sometimes participating, in the discussions online.

When I read about the resistance to Common Core, I am on the fence.

When I read about the resistance to Common Core, I realize that my friends and I are…old.

When I read the resistance to Common Core, I realize, most people have forgotten their own parent’s laments about “new math.”

I guess conspiracy theorist would have us believe that our government is purposely trying to dumb our children down. Parents who are struggling with the new concepts, will automatically discount its efficacy. Students, who never have had the voice they have now, will make broad, sweeping commentaries via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Here is what I think:

1.     The common core is our country’s reaction to other countries surpassing our students in education.
a.     What a wonderful thing! Countries that were “2nd and 3rd –world” a few decades ago are educating their children!!!! This is amazing!
b.     Exactly which children are other countries educating? The normative tests that are being compared to America include ALL American children in the education system. We have compulsory education for ALL students. That means, regardless of learning ability, behavioral ability, and physical ability, all children in America will be educated AND TESTED. This is NOT the case in other countries. Many of the countries we are discussing, that are beating our pants off, are NOT testing all of their children. Children with “problems” are not in the regular classroom, and children who are not showing college-preparedness by 14, are often separated to a vocational track.
c.      Our culture emphasized competition in the workplace and in technology, but should that be the focus of our children’s education? The country’s economics? I guess for some it is, but I was taught that the purpose of education was to create citizens who could participate in the democratic process…?
2.     We HATE anything new
a.     The principle of the common core it to make sure that every child, in every classroom, is receiving the same level of education, regardless of the school they attend.
b.     The change to conceptual understandings of mathematics is abhorred by parents everywhere! Why? Because we don’t understand the point. Why make an easy question multiple steps? Why learn this, when we learned the easier way to do things???
c.      Times change, and so does education. Do you want your children to receive the education you received? That your parents received? No! Times change, and the needs of the student change. This is a new millennium, and the kids have to adapt to this to stay current in this setting.
3.     Abstract thinking and mathematics
a.     We were NEVER taught to learn mathematics conceptually. We were taught how to do math by rote. Procedurally. We were never taught what this MEANS. How does it apply to higher maths? Do you think, perhaps, this is why sooooo many people HATE math? We get to a certain level where it doesn’t make sense anymore… To alleviate this situation, in which student’s don’t GET math anymore, the school systems have developed this conceptual mathematics program.
b.     I was taught, as a young education major, all about developmental psychology. One of the concepts taught was the development of abstract thinking. Abstract thinking is something that is developed around the age of 11-12 ( Some people NEVER get to abstract thinking! So why are we starting this type of thinking in 1st grade? Kids are going to fail, and we have NOTHING set up for them when they do. We have no vocational tracks. Nothing alternative for the non-college bound kids. Nothing to help them other than an F.

In conclusion, do I think that Common Core is “the devil?” No. I don’t think it is horrible. Do I think that Common Core is appropriate for all students? No. Do I want my 9-year-old daughter to participate in Common Core? Yes!!!

Luckily, my daughter hasn’t had a problem with the new mathematics program. When I don’t understand what is being demonstrated on her homework, I ask her to explain it to me… I go from there… I have the world-wide-web in my pocket!

I clearly remember my father, the civil engineer with three degrees, struggling to help his four children with Algebra. We all protested, “That isn’t the way the teacher did it!!!”

I would like to remind my peers of these same experiences that they had with their own parents. It is happening to you NOW! We are old. The old ways are not going to work now. We need to spend the time understanding WHAT is being taught to our students and WHY.  If your child is struggling, stay on top of the school and what they are doing to HELP you!

The schools are not out to ruin your child. They are trying to prepare them for their future. Please try to understand what is going on, and contribute to the process.

Change is hard!


  1. I have to say I like the fact that you included the link to the other article, which explains exactly what the process is here. I agree that exploring multiple solutions to the same end result is a good thing- I was initially confused as to how the numbers in the steps were being arrived at, but once explained, it doesn't strike me as an invalid procedure. But I like the fact that you've gone beyond the "See this? COMMON CORE! GRR!" and elaborated on your point.

  2. Thanks for you comment Chuck! I really appreciate you reading my blog! I, also, think there is a gut reaction to this process that is negative. I hope others spend a little more time analyzing this to see if it as bad as they think.

  3. Thanks for writing this! I admit that the idea of Georgie learning commin core when he starts school scares me. I just keep thinking that I don't get it so how am I going to help him when he needs it. Thanks for reminding me that our parents didn't get our math and that we do have access to the web! :-)

  4. I am sure you will be able to help him Heather! You can do it!!!