1st-4th Math Coach Constantly Searching for New Ideas
This post won’t go viral. Speeches of 13 year olds or stay at home moms railing against the Common Core in front of state legislators will. People’s instagram photos of their 3rd graders math homework will, too. Unfortunately, railing against the Common Core as a set of standards is completely missing the point and not enough people realize that. Are these standards perfect? Not even close. Were the standards before these perfect? No. Standards are a set of goals. Some students meet them, some students fall short, and some students far exceed them. Each of these types of students present their own particular set of challenges. Any teacher would be able to agree on that, no matter how they feel about the Common Core.
I think there is a misplaced outrage with the Common Core. A fair bit of the backlash is directed at the testing which is fine to me. I think that the depth and duration of these tests do much more to harm educators than help them. Imagine if for most of your career (in whatever you do), you were given 180 days to accomplish something. Then, as time passed, you were given less time to complete that same task. Finding inefficiencies and staying organized/focused might be able to bridge that gap. But now, imagine if you were given about 120 days for a more difficult task and your worth as an employee was linked very closely to the completion of this task. That would be stressful and difficult enough, but now you also have to multiply that by however many students a teacher may have to get the full picture of what a teacher goes through to get students ready for the tests in April.
I understand that parents are upset with how these tests make their children, most educators are as well. Allowing or forcing students to refuse to take the test isn’t the answer though. What message is that sending? It’s saying, “Hey kids, if you disagree with something just give up.” Imagine “refusing” or “opting-out” of something your boss asked you to do? You’d better have an updated resume.
If you look here, here, here, and here you would notice some parts of the crusade against the Common Core. You would also notice multiple articles from Eric Owens of The Daily Caller where he actually copy and pastes his “zinger” against the common core.
This awful set of homework problems is the latest in an ever-growing series of stories demonstrating the awfulness of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a curriculum — but don’t call it a curriculum! — currently being implemented by 45 states and the District of Columbia.
I don’t know what background he has in education, but this is a popular sentiment among Common Core bashers. They love to call the Common Core a curriculum. For those that are confused, standards are a set of expectations. An example of a standard would be:
3.G.A Reason with shapes and their attributes. – 1. Understand that shapes in different categories (e.g., rhombuses, rectangles, and others) may share attributes (e.g., having four sides), and that the shared attributes can define a larger category (e.g., quadrilaterals). Recognize rhombuses, rectangles, and squares as examples of quadrilaterals, and draw examples of quadrilaterals that do not belong to any of these subcategories.
The standard is telling you, as an educator, that your students should be able to explain that every rectangle is a quadrilateral but not every quadrilateral is a rectangle, among other things. Once you have a standard as your goal for a lesson, it is up to the educator to decide how to demonstrate that concept, how to show students to apply that concept, and how to assess that your students have grasped that concept. Blindly following a ditto from a workbook has never been a good way to educate. Whether the educator used them with this “new math” or not. Math is best understood in real-life circumstances, not in abstractions. The authors of these articles wonder why students have to draw pictures to show subtraction with regrouping. If you ask most 3rd graders to do 350-760, they wouldn’t be able to articulate that you are taking away 6 tens from 5 tens, they would view it as 5-6. That doesn’t show an understanding of what is actually happening in the problem. Most people would argue that it doesn’t matter for a 7 year old to understand that concept, that they aren’t developed enough to conceptualize something like that. But if we let that same 7 year old skip out on that concept, when they are 17 and preparing for the SATs there are going to be knowledge gaps that have been growing for a decade and will severely handicap that student’s ability to conceptualize more difficult concepts. It becomes more and more difficult to fill in those gaps as the student progresses. This leads to math anxiety and a general feeling of “I suck at math.” That is the main reason why most people aren’t good at math, because they think they aren’t.
Long story short: a standard is an expectation, a curriculum is your roadmap to get to that expectation. Chances are that most people are unhappy with their curriculum, not the set of standards. We can achieve these standards with innovative and creative modes of delivery. I hope this blog and others can aid other teachers in getting there.