In an article appearing in the Arizona Republic last week, parents discussed their experiences helping their kids with math homework, and understanding the added expectations of and approaches to Common Core Math being used in Arizona classrooms.
As the article explains, “Arizona’s previous standards emphasized memorizing formulas,” whereas the new Common Core Math standards “call for students to first learn the concepts behind the formulas.”
Indeed, the ability to move beyond simple memorization and understand mathematics at a more conceptual level is one of the primary goals of the Common Core Math. The standards encourage students to learn multiple approaches to solving complex problems – to be able to explain their answers and to engage in real-world applications of math strategies – in addition to the memorization and standard approaches used in the past.
To meet these goals, Arizona students’ homework looks a little different from the homework their parents had when they were children, involving more puzzle-solving, number lines, and drawings to illustrate concepts, in addition to traditional approaches.
“I think all of us are resistant to change,” said Francesca Thomas,mother of a Phoenix Arcadia High School student. “I’ve come to really like what the new standards are emphasizing — concepts rather than just memorizing.”
A former fourth-grade teacher at Gilbert Public Schools, Michelle Ferrell, shared her experiences with the changes initially:
“I didn’t like the new ways of teaching,” she recalled. “I fell into the camp of ‘It’s been taught this was for years, so why change?’ ”
Ferrell decided she would experiment with the new style of teaching for a year.
“If it didn’t work, I could at least say I tried,” she said. The results surprised her.
“I was sold,” she said. “Under the old standards, we taught multiplication one way. With the new standards, we taught several different ways. Having more than one way to solve the problem helped more kids master the skill quicker.”
You can read the full article here: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/phoenix/2015/07/22/parents-struggle-common-core-math-homework/30501871/
We also recommend you read this testimony by a 2015 Arkansas Teacher of the Year explaining why the Common Core Math Standards’ approach to learning math is working in her classroom.