Recently, my daughter came home with a math assignment that she needed a little help with. My husband and I both flinched as we heard the request come from the living room, “Moooom, Daaaaad, I need some help with my math.” We flinched because we knew what was to follow was a tear-filled hour (and by tears I mean mine) over trying to figure out some new-fangled strategy for doing long-division. You guessed it…we are in the throes of common core math.
Like most parents nowadays, my husband and I are absolutely befuddled by the math assignments that come home, not to mention, frustrated that what started as a methodology to try to access more students has become instead a way to turn off students who are our future leaders in STEM.
Let me explain and I’ll use the most recent homework battle as an example. Our daughter came home with 10 long division problems with only one direction – use the “sharing method” to do the following problems. So, I ask her, “What’s the sharing method?” and having just learned it that day my nine year old was unable to explain what it was. Okay, no problem, I think…I’ll Google it. Sure enough, there is a ton out there about the sharing method with examples for problems like 12 divided by 3. Then I look at her first problem – 416 divided by 4….hmmmmm…how does that work?!
After about 20 minutes of me running multiple examples I finally got a grip on it myself, enough to be able to help her. As I sat there trying to explain to her the multitude of steps that I could intuitively do due to the fact that I excelled in math and have done it for how many more years, I felt my frustration growing, not at her, or the assignment, but rather the absolute insanity of the number of assumptions and estimations that someone with her limited background would have to make in order to do one problem in under 5 minutes. I watched as she mentally slipped away and her frustration grew only to have her throw up her hands and say, “I am TERRIBLE at math.” This is a child who scored advanced in math on her SOLs!
In other words, common core is losing her, a child who would excel in math and has since the age of three said she wants to be an engineer, a child who from that age has been continually complimented for her ability to solve complex problems and for her advanced conceptualization of the world.
So, If the goal of common core math is to access more students, then why do we penalize students for not knowing EVERY strategy for a given concept? Why are we not introducing all the strategies and then grading students on using whatever strategy works best for them that shows they know the concept? Isn’t knowing the concept the standard we need to achieve?
And then I began to think about children with dyslexia and not only about the fact that this way of teaching math is even more confusing for them for a variety of reasons. Rather, I thought about how we teach reading only ONE way and that got me asking…So when are we going to introduce Common Core Reading with multiple strategies for one concept?
In the meantime, I think I will publish a Common Core Math for Dummies and give it to parents who need to help their kids with their homework!