Common Core was designed to set standards for each state in order to make sure that all students learned the same material without some states being behind ahead of others. These changes extend to both English and math. With these standards introducing new methods of understanding the principles of math and English, it can be stressful deciding what a parent needs to know in order to ensure the success of their student. For that parent, here are four tips that can help them maximize their understanding of Common Core Math and some tips to help their students and do so hopefully with their sanity still intact.
It’s Not New
This style of Math was introduced in 2009 by governors and commissioners in 48 states. Contrary to most opinions, it wasn’t designed to ruin kid’s lives and give parents headaches. With the U.S. falling behind other countries like South Korea and Singapore, a team of mathematicians from 48 states was commissioned to create a new standard for math so that the U.S. could measure up internationally. Now, ten years later, the results of these changes to the school curriculum are inconclusive. Many are saying that there was a slight decline in student test results. Others are saying that there is no way to know conclusively whether or not the new standard has been a positive change for establishing student standards and that more research is necessary. Either way, Common Core’s purpose remains and will likely not be going anywhere anytime soon.
Math Is Still Math, Just With a Twist
It’s a reimagining of Math that brings some of the principles back to the forefront. The argument with the older version of Math was that as a student progressed through their learning some of the older concepts are abandoned, like place values in triple-digit addition and subtraction. A great YouTube video posted by The 74 breaks down the old method and how it stacks up against the Common Core method of addition and subtraction. Basically, when adding one three-digit number to another we are taught to stack both sets of numbers in column form and add each place value to the one below. But when borrowing we ignore the values of the columns in favor of adding from top-down like we were always taught. With Common Core, the numbers are broken down into their respective place values. So 469 would become 400, 50, and 9. If we added to 514 (which breaks up into 500, 14, and 4), the total will become 900, 60, and 13. Then the total would be 963. This breakdown method is also not new. A similar breakdown of a larger computation can be seen around the 1:53 minute mark in Elementary, My Dear, which is a School House Rock video circa 1973. Though it involves more steps, it keeps the prior teaching of ones, tens, hundreds and so on that students had learned in the years before in place so that it can be later built upon when more difficult computations become the norm.
It Doesn’t Just Explain the What, It Also Explains the Why
Forbes magazine did a study of why the procedure for Math changed in 2018. Upon studying mathematicians it became clear to investigators that the math skills taught at the most basic levels were bypassed in favor of other methods of coming to computational conclusions. Based on that research, another study was done to understand how to teach students to have a better “number sense”. As Salon.com puts it “the Common Core definitely advocates that educators encourage students to interact with ways of modeling the mathematical concepts they are learning so as to better master them”. Instead of only seeing the problem and then working to the answer, students are given the ability to see why to conclusion to the problem is the conclusion. So, to my previous example, 469 and 514 adds up to 963 because 400 plus 500 equals 900, 50 plus 10 is 60 and 9 plus 4 is 13. With this knowledge, students are able to see why the solution is and not just what it is. With this foundation, students are able to transpose the same methods when the variables are larger and the question is more complicated.
Discomfort Now, Easier Progression for the Future
Part of the reason for the discomfort that comes with Common Core Mathematics is because a more even playing field for all, regardless of income level and varying standards from state to state was necessary to make sure that all would be competitive in the future. Under the old method of mathematical study students would have trouble with calculus and trigonometry because of the lack of ability to simplify and manipulate the problem using “strategic reasoning”. Though the process of learning a new method is new and can be very difficult it is ultimately for the betterment of students looking to go to college and compete for jobs in technology and science. The Common Core standard is the way to make students in the present more prepared to face the future.
The most recent change in Math instruction has caused many students and parents confusion and no shortage of difficulty when it comes to understanding the procedures that accompany the Common Core method. But after ten years of being the basis for K-12 education, it is clearly not changing. But this newer structure has not changed the basics; it only reintegrates them in order to maintain the coherency of the previous instruction. This builds a stronger foundation for children moving into higher mathematical studies. With students from all parts of the globe having a better-established baseline, it is now easier to determine who is better suited for college admissions slots and jobs once high school comes to an end. Though this newer standard has been difficult to integrate and difficult to assimilate with, the core of the mission is likely one that we can all get behind.
We would like to hear your thoughts on Common Core. What is your stance on the topic?
74, The. “Math 2.0, Common Core Explained: Part 2 – How to Split the Bill.” YouTube, YouTube, 5 Apr. 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVzguLD06zQ.
Barnum, Matt. “Nearly a Decade Later, Did the Common Core Work?” Chalkbeat, Chalkbeat. 30 Apr. 2019, https://chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2019/04/29/common-core-work-research/.
Garland, Sarah. “The Man Behind Common Core Math.” NPR, NPR, 29 Dec. 2014, https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/12/29/371918272/the-man-behind-common-core-math.
D’Alessio, Mark. “Common Core Math Explained in 3 Minutes.” U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, 23 June 2016, https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/blog/post/common-core-math-explained-3-minutes/43020.
Nelson, Libby. “Everything You Need to Know about the Common Core.” Vox, Vox, 13 May 2015, https://www.vox.com/2014/10/7/18088680/common-core.
Rutter, Sharon. “Elementary, My Dear Schoolhouse Rock.” YouTube, YouTube, 13 Sept. 2009, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AilDza95hYc.
Quora. “Why Did The Approach To Teaching Math Change With Common Core?” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 5 Sept. 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2018/09/05/why-did-the-approach-to-teaching-math-change-with-common-core/#6145463a9ff2.
Goodman, James. “You’re Wrong about Common Core Math: Sorry, Parents, but It Makes More Sense than You Think.” Salon, Salon.com, 29 Nov. 2015, https://www.salon.com/2015/11/28/youre_wrong_about_common_core_math_sorry_parents_but_it_makes_more_sense_than_you_think/.