New Math? Common Core Math?
Every few months, it seems that a new article circulates highlighting parent concerns about math. Their child brought home a worksheet with problem-solving methods that they haven’t seen before or the problems seem longer than the shortcuts that parents learned when they were in school – and they are rightfully frustrated. What’s important to remember is that while the math may look different, the results are better than ever.
Are students learning math differently than their parents did? Yes.
Is that a bad thing? Absolutely not.
Common Core State Standards still require students to know basic procedures and traditional problem-solving methods, but the standards also encourage kids to use multiple approaches to solving math problems so that they can choose what works best for them, and so that they “develop a full understanding of concepts before they move on to more challenging levels,” according to a Collaborative “math check.”
Jason Zimba, a writer of the Common Core State Math Standards, notes that “according to the Common Core, students are expected to know their sums and products from memory and to be fluent with the standard algorithm for each of the four basic operations (the traditional “carry” method, in the case of addition).” Most of these methods weren’t created by the Common Core, they are methods experts agree are strong approaches to get kids to truly understand math concepts, rather than just memorize rules.
We know it’s important that students learn these multiple methods of problem solving, but is it worth it?
Early introduction to conceptual math, and a focus on showing students multiple ways of solving problems, is benefitting our nation’s students.
Collaborative Policy Director Adam Ezring notes, “Despite all the concerns of ‘fuzzy math,’ more 3rd graders this year were proficient than the year before, and the year before that… Math experts agree that this approach is key to getting kids more comfortable with math, so as they grow up, they are ready to tackle more difficult concepts.”
Recently, education advocate Campbell Brown asked, “If we are trying to bring our kids up to the next level… shouldn’t we allow our education system to evolve and get better, even if [we] don’t understand how to do that math problem?”
Parents are an integral part of their children’s success in school. And if they don’t understand the way their students are learning math, we encourage them to learn more. They should talk to their child’s teacher. By working alongside educators, families can best support their children and ensure they are prepared to succeed at high levels of math.
West Virginia elementary curriculum specialist Jamie Merendino says it best: In math, high standards bridge the gap between memorization and understanding, “We need parents to know and understand the purpose behind these standards because then they are able to support their children.”