Common Core :: Why You Should Love the Math Everyone Hates

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math

Many parents come to me with the same refrain “we hate this new math!” or “it is so needlessly hard, why can’t my child just do it the way I was taught?” It’s true, the “new math” or Common Core State Standard: Mathematics is VERY different than how we were taught in the 80’s or 90’s. And it is also true that it does take MORE steps to solve a problem the “new” way. So, I get it, why change what isn’t broken? Why make things harder when the old way was easier?

The problem is, the old way was broken. Ask most adults what their least favorite subject is, and 99 out of 100 will tell you math. We, as a country, HATE math. And THAT is the problem. THAT is why things are changing. Our children cannot compete in a global economy of students who LOVE math if the message is that it is okay to HATE it because everyone does.

Now, not everybody is going to be a math prodigy. It is true that it does come easier to some than others. But, I promise, everyone CAN do math. There isn’t some gene that dictates who is good at math and who isn’t. That is like saying “I can’t speak Spanish because my mom couldn’t speak Spanish.” No, the problem isn’t with you, it was with the way you were taught. And now, very smart and experienced educators have revised the way we teach math to excite students into LOVING math, just like their global peers. From CoreStandards.org “The Common Core focuses on developing the critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills students will need to be successful.” How great is that?!

I get it, not great, right? When you sit down at night and are completely lost helping your second grader multiply using place values, it is a whole lot of not great. No parent feels good in that situation. But don’t hate the new system! The old system failed you, and now you have a chance to develop a passion for math. You can undo old beliefs by learning the “new” way along with your student. You, too, can LOVE math!

Still not convinced? Check this out. Not only is Common Core math teaching your child how to think, but it is also preparing them to knock-out Algebra. Why? Because with a strong foundation in number sense and basic arithmetic, students can easily apply what they learned in second grade to their high school homework, only replacing numbers with letters. The process is the same! Common Core will drastically cut down on students flailing in Algebra because they have already learned the skills they needed in Elementary School.

Raise your hand if you LOVE Algebra! No, one? I’m not surprised. Many people hate Algebra for the same reason they hate fractions. They were never given the opportunity to learn, only forced to memorize. They never developed a deep understanding of arithmetic and how numbers work. The old way failed there too!

Common Core isn’t the enemy. The teachers teaching it aren’t the enemy either. The whole initiative is to build students who are strong in mathematics, passionate and confident learners, and who grow into successful and competitive adults. Common Core is good, I promise.

But that doesn’t help you when your student is struggling and you don’t have a clue how to do the work. That’s ok. We all have to start somewhere. Here are some suggestions for how you can learn the “new way” to help yourself and your child.

  • Talk to your child’s teacher. Ask about resources used to teach the new way and ask how you can help your child with his homework. Many schools actually hold education nights to help bring parents up to speed!
  • Do your research. All of the standards are available online, which means you can actually find the lesson plan for your student’s homework! By searching for the specific lesson number, you can pull up the explanation and practice problems covered in class.
  • Keep an open mind. Just because it is hard or different, doesn’t mean it is bad. But if you are frustrated with it, do you think your child is going to be psyched about it too? Children will mimic our attitudes, so why not be positive!

Still need more help? Check out this resource from Duval County.

About the Author

Michelle KasierMichelle Kaiser, founder and lead tutor at m.power tutoring, is a Michigan State University graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Syracuse University. After several years working in the public and private sector, Michelle took time off to raise her family.  Now, when she isn’t empowering students in math, she is spending time with her three children, hard-working husband, and energetic pup. She believes math is a building block of critical thinking skills that are so important to students.  Early intervention can turn subpar math students into superheros!

11 COMMENTS

  1. I disagree. I am one who never liked math. But my first grader already hates math as well. So do some of his classmates. Many of them are struggling, being given word problems to solve when they can’t even fully read yet. This type of article makes it seem like CC math is perfect, and it is far from it!! Maybe it teaches them to think outside the box and see math in a different way than I was taught, I get that. But it is also way too much, way too soon, and they are getting burnt out – which is ridiculous for a first grader!!!

    • Success still depends on great teachers, training & curriculum. You can’t judge Common Core or any standards based on classwork.

  2. It would be lovely to teach our children to love the new math. However, you have clearly not reviewed the curriculum, at least at the elementary school levels. They are learning a new lesson every day – EVERY.DAY – and are speeding through the fundamentals. They’re teaching my 6 year old to add and subtract 3 different ways using factoring, which I would not be completely opposed to except for the fact that they are EVALUATED on these techniques. It’s one thing to expose our elementary children to alternative methods, but forcing those principles on them is not only deterring them from loving math, it’s impacting their overall confidence in school. My daughter has already told me she doesn’t feel like she’s smart at math. And it’s not her fault. We’re asking these children to do way to much too soon.

    So before you endorse these methods, I would suggest you educate yourself on how Common Core is being applied in Duval County.

  3. I totally disagree with your point. From what I’ve read, you say that the “old math” has FAILED us. Couldn’t disagree more. The “old math” has gotten thousands of students engineering, math, and science degrees from colleges, universities, and community colleges around the countries. We have engineers, scientists, architects, construction managers that are building ungodly-sized buildings, making technological advances that no one would have dreamed of, and doing incredible work because they were taught how to use your “old math.”

    There is no necessity to reinventing a system that has produced many of the worlds brightest innovators. If anything, this new form of math is DISCOURAGING to students and their parents. I would submit that this “new math” will be even more depressing than the “old math” that you disagree with! (I never said I liked math – I just think that the way we’ve done it works!)

    Your point is based on an emotional feeling toward math. Emotions and perception are not valid reasons for fundamentally changing our system of education.

  4. I agree with Blake. Associating an emotion with a tool is not productive to encouraging our children to work hard in school and pursue careers in STEM. Based on the authors credentials, it doesn’t seem like the old system failed her. I didn’t LOVE math in school and still became a successful engineer, I may not have loved the tool, but I did love being challenged and the feeling I got when I succeeded. Teach our children to overcome and persevere rather than complain and withdraw and blame the system when they are challenged and you will prepare them to compete with their “global peers.”

  5. I’m a teacher in Iowa so maybe other states are different, but the Common Core is a set of concepts and standards that sets out WHAT we teach, but not HOW. It’s the poorly written curriculum, that some districts require teachers to use just as written and others allow teachers to modify to better reach their students, that give the Core such a bad reputation. Nowhere on our state website are the lessons posted. Trying to spice up math instruction is nothing new. It was done by textbook companies long before the core. And traditional math methods are not a failure either. If they were the doctors, engineers, scientists and others would not have gotten as far as they have.

    The following blog post addresses it really well.
    http://mctownsley.net/tag/common-core/

  6. I definitely do not want my HS child being able to solve HS math with a 4th grade level of problem solving. You addressed this in your article, and I can clearly see that CC is dumbing down kids. What happened to achieving a higher standard of excellence in education because one was challenged and conquered. We don’t need change, we need to accept that the “old” method clear and concise, not confusing and ambiguous like CC.

  7. It’s not often I comment on blog posts, but in this case I will. I think your generalizations that math has failed us and 99% of people hate math are untrue. If the old style of math has failed us, how in the world do we have evolving technology or corporations staying in business? The foundational math we all learned has been the foundation of many things we have and use today.

    And I can’t be the only one who does not want to get tutored at my child’s school so I can help my first grader with homework.

  8. As a 9th grade Algebra teacher, I loved this article and completely agree with everything the author stated. From my experience, I feel a lot of the problem is the growth mindsets and perseverance that are lacking from my students and their parents.

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