Common Core: Why Are They Making Math Harder?

facebookAs I’ve mentioned before, math is not my thing. I still don’t have my multiplication tables memorized and generally farm out the tabulation of a 20 percent tip because numbers equal brain hurt.

My oldest child isn’t in elementary school yet but I’m starting to hear lots of rumblings about Common Core math. The latest is a frustrated father who posted a subtraction problem from his second-grade son’s math quiz on Facebook this week with a note to the teacher calling it ridiculous.

The worksheet shows a complex Common Core formula for solving a math problem as opposed to just subtracting the small number from the larger one. The worksheet instructs the student to explain why a fictional kid named “Jack” should be using common core strategies to solve the problem: “Jack used the number line below to solve 427 – 316. Find his error. Then write a letter to Jack telling him what he did right, and what he should do to fix his mistake.”

Jeff Severt’s reponse:

“Dear Jack, Don’t feel bad. I have a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electronics Engineering, which included extensive study in differential equations and other higher math applications. Even I cannot explain the Common Core mathematics approach, nor get the answer correct. In the real world, simplification is valued over complication. Therefore, 427 – 316 = 111. The answer is solved in under 5 seconds — 111. The process used is ridiculous and would result in termination if used. Sincerely, Frustrated Parent.”

So what’s the deal? Why is this particular Common Core problem so difficult? The Hechinger Report asked a couple of the lead writers of the Common Core math standards, Jason Zimba and William McCallum, who say it’s not their fault, it’s writers of the curriculum. After speaking with McCallum, The Hechinger Report stated that “textbook publishers, smaller startups, school districts and teachers are all grappling with how best to incorporate the standards into the lesson plans, classroom activities, homework and quizzes that students encounter on a daily basis. So far, there has been little quality control. Some of the new curricula labeled Common Core include high quality materials that match well with the standards, but many don’t, supporters of the standards say.”

Sounds like one huge headache for students, parents, and teachers. But maybe not. According to a teacher survey from February, the more teachers get to know the controversial Common Core State Standards, the more they like them.

That’s definitely not what I’m hearing from frustrated parents like Jeff Severt and others in the blogosphere including Heather Armstrong, AKA Dooce, who recently wrote the following:

Last night when I sat down to help Leta with her math homework I stared down at a whole bunch of words that made no sense to me whatsoever. Do you know how many times I’ve started a conversation with a parent whose kid is learning math the new way they are doing math these days, and we have simultaneously yelled, “WHY CAN’T THEY JUST CARRY THE ONE?”

Place value drawings.

Have you heard of these? (If you are a third grade teacher PUT YOUR HAND DOWN YOU CHEATER) I had not, so I had to google it. I had to google something in order to help my third grader with her math homework.

What about you? What’s your experience with Common Core math and helping your child with homework? Is it helping your child grasp certain mathematic concepts or just confusing everyone?

Image: Facebook

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