The More Things Change, Dept.

Alice Lloyd has a pretty good article in the Weekly Standard on the Common Core crisis, how its being portrayed and the confusion over Fordham’s survey on same. She gives a good background history and articulates some of the problems in the math standard implementation. In fact, it tracks pretty closely with what I said in my talk at ResearchED last month in UK.
“Every stab at reform has had roughly the same aims. Common Core math is no different—it’s meant to make problem-solving processes simpler and more uniform and to let students build a grounding in basic “number sense” skills before they’d start to solve rotely. The reforms in the 1960s, when there was purportedly a numeracy crisis in America, and again in the late 1980s and 1990s, when “anti-racist math” was a thing, shared the lofty aim to make the deeper experience of math accessible to a wider audience.”
Yes, exactly right.
“Kick a number like 202 to the nearest multiple of ten, remembering the difference for your final answer: 617 minus 202 is not as easy as 617 minus 200, which is obviously 417; just remember to take away the 2 you knocked off on the front end when you’re done, and you get 415. Mentally it takes mere seconds, and explaining it is fairly simple. But that’s just where we hit a wall: Teaching multiple solutions, and letting children choose the one that comes most easily in practice, makes sense—but the more methods on offer, the more rules there are to govern them. Teachers new to these multiple methods stick to the rules, or else risk getting something wrong. And it’s not just teachers.
“I asked a young woman at the Fordham Institute talk, who turned out to be a math curriculum designer, if the standards intentionally ingrain intuitive math-problem-solving practices in order to make the kids’ little lives easier. She said no, not exactly: With addition problems, for instance, a third grader would have to draw a certain type of diagram a certain way to “show her work.” “
Not to mention the interpretation/implementation of CC in which the standard algorithms are delayed until 4th, 5th and 6th grades, because that’s when they appear in the standards. Nothing prohibits teaching them earlier, ensuring their mastery and THEN showing the alternative methods afterward. This is how it had been done in the days of traditional or conventional math teaching that are mischaracterized as having failed thousands of students. The alternative methods are nothing new and were taught for years. And of course the ever-pervasive “Students must understand or they will just be doing things by rote” mentality, thus preserving the false dichotomy between understanding and procedure.

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