Writing on the Huffington Post, Alan Singer, a social studies instructor at Hofstra University, claims when it comes to the Common Core, “You are not supposed to think. You are not supposed to imagine, estimate, or consider options. You are to follow instructions and solve problems in the right order.”
Of assessments, Singer adds, “Common Core math, for better or worse, is no longer about calculations; it is about reading…Passing the math test means memorizing specific the vocabulary.”
However, Common Core State Standards encourage students to use multiple problem-solving techniques, which help students build fluency with numbers and functions. By doing so, the standards empower students to build strong fundamental math skills, which are necessary to succeed at high level content.
“Math education today is designed to help all children, regardless of their background, develop a stronger understanding of math, so they are prepared for college-level coursework,” a “math check” by the Collaborative for Student Success notes. “It’s important for kids to learn multiple approaches… so that they can choose the approach that works best for them and so that they develop a full understanding of the concepts before they move on to more challenging levels.”
At the same time, students are still expected to know and be able to use traditional problem-solving techniques, including multiplication tables and standard algorithms. Jason Zimba, a lead writer of the Common Core math standards, says opponents have mischaracterized the Common Core as “a move away from all of that,” but traditional skills are still a foundational component of math instruction.
Across the country, states and school districts are working to help parents understand changes happening in the classroom as schools implement the Common Core. Many are hosting “math nights” and other outreach programs meant to familiarize families so they can support their kids.
It’s worth noting Singer’s criticism of assessments aligned to the Common Core cites New York as an example, even though New York does not use Smarter Balanced or PARCC assessments. States like New York might address concerns like Singer’s by using consortia exams—which are specifically aligned to the Common Core and match up closely with good classroom instruction.
As Jim Cowen wrote last fall, a lot of parents’ frustrations stem from poorly-written homework problems. But it’s wrong to attribute those issues to Common Core State Standards.
“As we shift to these new approaches in math, we’re going to need to get comfortable with the uncomfortable – of embracing a type of learning that is wholly unfamiliar,” Cowen explains. “Let’s focus on helping parents – help their children not just understand math, but learn to love it.”
Parents have an opportunity to help their kids achieve their full potential by working with teachers, not against them, as they introduce students to learning techniques that will serve them well throughout their education and careers.