Common Core Math Curriculum A Math Teacher Comments, it is time for a change.

By Greg Sampson
A
recent Times-Union story about elementary math curriculum (http://jacksonville.com/news/2015-10-20/story/parents-stumped-elementary-math-blame-common-core-standards-duval-new)
and the reactions to it have prompted me to put out some thoughts about the
“Common Core” and why its early education standards and curriculum are
problematical. There are three basic issues: Developmental Appropriateness,
Teacher Training, and Communication with Parents.
Before
I go further, let me disclose that I am a public school math teacher with
certification in middle and high school mathematics. I am not a career College
of Ed graduate; I am in a second (or third or fourth) career as a teacher. I have
taught for ten years, during some of which I was an instructional coach, tasked
with helping other teachers. Currently, I am back in the classroom teaching on
the high school level.
Florida
teacher ethics require me to disclose that this post is my opinion and mine
alone. It does not in any way represent the beliefs, policies, or positions of
my employer, Duval County Public Schools, or my school, or anyone associated
with either.
That
being said, I do have experience with the struggles of middle school students
and the mathematics they are asked to learn.
Teacher Training:
I have looked at internet and social media rants about the homework elementary
children are asked to do. What is 43 – 29? What the ranters object to is an
attempt to teach children to think flexibly about numbers in ways that make
sense to them. We can solve this subtraction problem by working backwards and
adding from 29 to 43. 29 + 1 = 30. 30 + 10 = 40. Add 3 more and we have 43. How
much did we add? 14: 1 and 10 and 3.
If
children are to develop the fluency with arithmetic that they will need to be
successful in high school math, beginning with Algebra 1, they must develop
flexibility with numbers.
What
that means is that children must be allowed to do arithmetic in ways that make
sense to them. That solution I outlined in the paragraph above? It is not the
only way to solve the problem.
Thus,
the first problem with the new math (good grief, I am 58 years old and I was
doing ‘new math’ when I was in elementary school) is that the internet and
social media posts reflect teachers not granting students permission to make
sense of numbers any way they can, but in saying to students, “Here’s the new
procedure. Do it exactly this way.”
That
is not an indictment of teachers, but an indictment of the rushed way the new
standards were put into place. Teachers needed time for their learning and
adjustment. They were not given that time.
Superintendents
of Schools asked for three years of transition. States, in particular the State
of Florida, told them to I will use
‘Go jump in the lake.”
We’re
talking Early Elementary education. These teachers are not specialists in
mathematics; they are specialists in the development and learning processes for
young children.
Give
teachers the training they need? Oh, no, this is the era of Arne Duncan, test
and punish policies, and school profiteers. Teacher training is not part of
their plan.
So
teachers struggle as much as the children in dealing with the ‘new math.’
Parental Communication:
It is uncanny how quickly adults catch on to the ‘Common Core way’ of doing
arithmetic once it is explained to them. Most people need less than a minute.
Why
are parents upset? Like Mary Poppins, when called to account by George Banks
for the chaos she has set loose, schools seem to say, “I never explain anything
to anybody.”
As
school professionals, we need to make communication a key focus. If we are
changing the ways we are teaching children, we must communicate with parents
multiple times in as many ways as possible.
Parents
support teachers once they understand what is going on. They are particularly
thrilled when we enable them to help their children with learning. We have to
take the time to make that communication, which means that school systems need
to make it a priority and stop burdening teachers with meaningless work that
produces little, if any, results.
As
a teacher, my three priorities are planning effective and engaging lessons,
evaluating student work and providing feedback, and communicating with parents.
Everything else, some of which is important, is secondary in priority.
Developmental Appropriateness:
Without parents, we are nothing. We must listen to them with respect. And when
an overwhelming number of parents report that their children cry, throw temper
tantrums, and say, “I hate school,” we need to admit that something has gone
wrong.
When
experts in child development, especially early child development, say that the
Common Core is developmentally inappropriate for early elementary children, we
need to respect their judgment.
While
it is desirable for children to think flexibly about numbers, if it is done too
early, it is wrong.
(Long
have I argued that we should not put students into Algebra 1 before they are
ready.  A 7th grade level 3
FCAT result is not the determining factor. Sometimes children need to go
through 8th grade math before they are ready for algebra. The State
of Florida, with its inflexible policies, used to punish schools for making
that decision.)
Developmental
appropriateness is crucial. That is why middle school teachers struggle to
reengage students who have given up on school. Those students were forced to
undergo inappropriate curriculums far too early.
As
a teacher of secondary mathematics, I can explain elementary math. But I have
no expertise in judging the appropriateness of the age in which students are
required to do that math. I must and do rely upon experts and parents who say
the curriculum and standards are terrible.

It
is time for a change.

2 Replies to “Common Core Math Curriculum A Math Teacher Comments, it is time for a change.”

  1. The people who wrote the common core math standards deliberately/conspiratorially screwed up the standards.Its not that they do not know entirely what they are doing (although a lot of that is true), they have effectively screwed up in many areas of math. So, if you should ask them to explain the standards for a particular math subject area, they would not be able to explain them fluently; they do not have any rational understanding of what they did. Repeal common core!

    Repeal common core!
    Repeal common core!
    Repeal common core!

  2. "Developmental appropriateness is crucial. That is why middle school teachers struggle to reengage students who have given up on school. Those students were forced to undergo inappropriate curriculums far too early." Just imagine what happens when they get to high school math! But, this civil discourse does not get you anyway. We need to somehow get this stuff out into the DONALD TRUMP CAMPAIGN. They begin listening when he talks because he gets nasty at them, in their faces, and calls them names. They abuse teachers because we are civil. The politicians in this country are scum. We need either TRUMP or SANDERS or BOTH in the government to shake up the 2 worst clubs in America; for decades the two traditional heads of the serpent have abused the people. They say give us the votes and then next 4 years you will hear from us again. What pathetic and shameful beings they are; SPIT!

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