The Common Core standards are too difficult, not age appropriate, and focus on unrealistic math strategies. I've heard it all and have had my blog and Facebook fan page targeted and spammed by people who oppose Common Core.
A couple of weeks ago, someone sent me this message on my Facebook Fan page. "NO COMMON CORE!!!!!!!!!!" If I sat down and counted all of the times this happened, it would take me quite some time. Most of the time I ignore it, delete it, and forget about it. This time was different. I sat down and wrote a thoughtful response with the goal of trying to hear what exactly this individual thought was so bad about it.
"I have done a lot of reading on common core..I have also listened to teachers and other educators speak on the subject...it is NOT for our children...do not be deceived by this junk that is being dangled in front of our schools by the government by the race to the top..it is all about who will sign up for common core first so they can get the money allotted by the federal gov.....it is only one more way the Federal gov...is trying to own us..thank you for responding and thank you for asking..it actually was the idea of people across the waters..that is the root of it all.."
This was a perfect time for me to educate this individual. After a handful respectful comments back and forth to each other this was her final post to me:
"Ya know you really sound like someone who wants what is best for the children and that is all I want...I am not aware as you are of the actual everyday or long-term problems or even of possibly some better things from it...I hope in the long term it can somehow lead to something better for any and all involved. I am glad there are educators in our system like yourself. Just these messages we have shared makes me to know you care. That is one thing that this world is lacking,many just want the dollar they work for and are willing to just blindly walk on in whatever is put before them. As a teacher(you), it is so good to know you are making the best of a situation you may not entirely agree with but are willing to drain all of the good out of it for the children. I pray everyday and will include you in My prayers that God will guide you and help you in all aspects of your life....I really appreciate you for actually taking the time to say.." Hey You Share With Me Why Say That!!!"..haha..My impression of you is "awesome"...if you ever need to bend an ear about anything..I am here for you.."
I actually could't believe it. Maybe me taking a few minutes to interact with this person helped change one individual's perspective. If we were to all take a minute to educate just one person on what Common Core actually is, and let them know that educators aren't set out with the goal to confuse their kids, would those against Common Core really still despise it?
In my conversation with this individual, I sent her some pictures that I really think helped her see that this "new math" isn't really all that new.
I just moved into a new house with my husband. My mom unloaded and endless amount of boxes on me that she had been storing for years. I sat in my office looking through my old papers. I'm not kidding when I say she must have saved EVERY. SINGLE. THING I brought home. Looking through my 3rd grade folder was what I was most excited for since I have taught 3rd grade for 5 years. Look what I found! My 3rd Grade math student journal. I immediately ruffled through my stuff and took out the one I used to teach my students last year. I was in 3rd Grade in 1993. Surely, there should be vast differences in the curriculum because of the Common Core Standards, right?
As I flipped through the pages I found that many of the pages remained similar - if not identical.
This is the same probability lesson I teach every year. I totally forgot doing this in third grade. In my classroom, I have students color in the blocks on their page to help them visualize what the questions are asking. We also underline key words such as "sure," "more likely," and "3 times as often."
Scoring 10 Basketball Points. First, let's ignore the fact that I thought my page when I was 9 was very "ok." Please excuse the unnecessary amounts of praise I gave myself in my book. :)
I will be the first to admit, this is really difficult for students. This is another page I didn't remember doing back in the day, so I was surprised to find something I found difficult to teach was something identical to what I learned. Parentheses confuse students at first, but they tend to pick it up quickly. This math page forces the students to dig deeper into parentheses and find multiple ways a basketball team could score to get 10 points. I always introduce parentheses by putting my hands on either side of my mouth (to look like parentheses) and I whisper to my students "do this first." Now, whenever they see the parentheses, they picture me with the "parentheses" around my mouth telling them to solve that part of the problem before they do the rest.
These are two identical (except for the illustrations of the animals) pages that help students learn to estimate weights of animals. For example, one question on their student page could be, "Which animal(s) weighs about 3 times as much as an Atlantic Green Turtle." Students use mental math to find an animal that has a weight similar to their calculation.
Ok, now here comes the doozie. During Curriculum Night, for the past 6 years I actually tell the parents that the math curriculum teaches multiple ways to do multiplication. I also tell the parents to not worry, just because it's taught doesn't mean it's the only strategy I'm going to force the students to use. I also let them know that I did the same exact "crazy math" when I was in elementary school and I think I turned out just fine. My old page is on the left. I was apparently so confident that I decided solving these problems in pen was a good choice. Yes folks....1993. It hasn't changed a bit. So is "New Math" really all that new?
Nope! If you look at the bottom of my old math journal (I don't know why they would take this portion out of the new book...it's very helpful) "New Math" really isn't new math. It's actually REALLY REALLY OLD MATH. :) Moreover, this illustrates nicely that the Common Core standards didn't create these methods, since they were obviously being taught in the United States decades ago. If you're not fond with a particular math strategy, that's perfectly fine, but don't blame the Common Core.
Now, for all those who still disagree that this math is unnecessary, you can continue to think this way. I will still believe that exposing students to multiple ways to solve a problem - even if it takes more time - even if it involves more steps - develops better thinkers, problem solvers, and provides the students with a deeper knowledge of what they are doing.
And for all those teachers out there who think there is no end in sight to the backlash you are getting from parents - don't worry. It won't be long until you get to teach the babies of the students who were in elementary school in the 90s. They'll get it. :)