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 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!