Let me start by saying that I am no math major. I make a living writing, and math has NEVER been my strong suit. So, when my son has second-grade math homework, I get anxious the minute he unzips his backpack. My dad was a math teacher at one point, and even he couldn’t get through to me. I’m not talking about adding or fractions, I’m talking about Common Core math — what is it even?!
Common Core sets consistent math and language arts guidelines across states identifying what students are expected to know and be able to do at each grade level, K-12. Common Core math standards for second grade say you basically must be able to explain how you arrived at an answer — not just memorizing a formula.
If you have a child in public school, you are very familiar with it. If not, critics say the problem takes a simple one-step subtraction problem and turns it into a complex endeavor with a series of unnecessary steps, including counting by 10s and 100s. Proponents say while emphasizing place value when teaching students basic addition may seem excessive when simple tools are available, such emphasis pays off years later when students learn about more complex concepts such as decimals and fractions.
If I had a dime for every time I saw my son making little round dots to depict a 10s and 100s column, I’d be rich! If he knows the answer, why make it so complicated?
So, when news broke recently that our new Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, was signing an executive order calling for the state to ditch the Florida State Standards for math (and English Language Arts), he got my attention. He stated that parents find Common Core sometimes confusing. Um, you think?
Here’s what a few parents I asked had to say about it:
“I’ve never minded Common Core math because some of the ways they teach math is how my brain has always done it and allowed me to be much quicker than others. But, I do wish they still focused on basic times tables memorization. I mean, where are the flash cards?!”
“Honestly, I don’t understand it. When my now-fourth-grader was younger, I couldn’t help him with his math homework if he had a question. I knew the answer and could tell him how I did it, but he would tell me it wouldn’t count with the teacher. I suppose I would be fine with it going away, depending on what took its place, of course.”
“I don’t hate it. I think the different strategies the kids learn can make all the difference for some kids’ learning.”
“My child hasn’t been faced with all the standardized testing yet, but I hope this means teachers will have the ability to teach for overall knowledge of the subject instead of to a test.”
“Our school sends home explanations to make it easier for parents to understand. I like how my kids have the tools to figure out the problem a variety of ways. We do teach them the old-school way at home to check their answers.”
“It would be nice if Common Core was replaced with something parents understood to reinforce teaching at home.”
“What I like about Common Core math is that it gives you more, not less options. Common Core can exist with traditional teaching. But, traditional teaching does not always allow for creative thinking like Common Core does.”
“I don’t mind the addition and subtraction methods now that I understand them, but I’ve heard nightmares about division, which is in our near future.”
“I’m not a fan of it. If my child is trying to complete problems, how am I supposed to help them? It’s part of the reason we opted to send ours to private school. I watched a video on it last week and I understand the concept, but I also see why it’s so confusing.”
“As an analyst, I love Common Core math. It helps children discover the language of math as opposed to the ‘known facts’ of math. Common Core exposes young children to strategies rather than fact-based learning and strengthens their ability to reach for higher mathematical theory sooner. There is less un-learning to do. As the available work drives more towards innovation, these skills will become more and more paramount. The future is not in knowing how to code today. It’s knowing how to create the next language.”
Clearly, there is a lot of debate out there. And this post doesn’t even include the educator viewpoint.
As a mom, I just want what’s best for my kids. Teachers do an incredible job and will continue to do so whether Common Core goes away or not. But, I worry… if I am this confused in second grade over Common Core math, I dread what third grade and beyond is going to bring. Maybe they need to offer Common Core 101 for parents!