Tangled up in emotions.
I relate to those feelings oh so well when I look back at my experience with the Common Core Math Standards.
Much like Rapunzel, I was wide eyed and excited to learn about these math standards. I knew that because we were such a transient culture that it could help more children be at the same place academically when they moved to a new city. I was giddy at the idea that children were going to dig deeper into math as well.
Then my own children experienced Common Core Math. (cue the scary music) Suddenly, I felt myself getting angry at the way they were teaching my children to do math. I also felt like we were going against the way we were taught. What was wrong with the way we were taught?
Math became hard and confusing at times for my children and me. To make matters more complicated, I am a private math tutor. For goodness sake--I should be able to figure this stuff out! And honestly...I did, but it took some time and thinking. I wanted desperately to go back and have things stay the same.
One night, my son brought me his homework and he was marked wrong (yet again) even when his work was correct. After dealing with my frustrations, I realized what she was trying to teach my son something very important. She wanted him to attend to precision. The very skills that I demand in my own students when they came to tutoring!
And so the pendulum swung for me this previous school year while I sorted out my feelings and own misconceptions about Common Core Math. I decided to confront some of my own thoughts and frustrations. I started to read Common Core Standards beyond the grades that I tutored. I read the suggested pacing guide and got a more complete picture. While reading, I discovered something that teachers should be telling parents...the standard algorithm that we grew up using is in there! Imagine that. Starting in third grade, the standard algorithm shows up. Students are expected to know how to add and subtract the "old school" way.
"Fluently add and subtract within 1000 using strategies and algorithms
based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship
between addition and subtraction." (3.NBT.2)
I could feel the joy bubbling up inside of me. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for teachers and parents to know where we have been in grades previous and where we are heading. We need to see the full picture. I know that celebrities and comedians like to paint a picture of students using number parts and number lines as adults, (ahem--Stephen Colbert) and I laugh right along with them...because using those methods as an adult is crazy. The point is, the methods being taught in lower grades enables students to do mental math thus freeing up their mind to do harder mathematics. I spend a lot of time as a middle and high school math tutor waiting for a child to tell me what 6 x 8 equals. I've seen a change with some of my students that are younger. They have fluency with math facts whereas, the older students do not.
Common Core Math MindsetTo bring my feelings full circle, I made a choice to attend a mathematics conference this summer. Phil Daro, the lead author of the Common Core Math Standards, was our keynote speaker. He made excellent points about the teaching children to be critical thinkers and less worried about answer getting. Our world needs more critical thinkers. He emphasized teaching math with this mindset:
You Do: The student explores a problem and comes to conclusions on their own.
We Do: The teacher leads a discussion about the conclusions students make. Students are encouraged to share their ideas and the teacher guides them towards the concept being taught.
I Do: The teacher then steps in and teaches the mathematical concept and provides exercises for students to practice.
No matter what your feelings are about the Common Core Math Standards; it takes time for teachers, children, and parents to adjust. Even if you are hopeful that Common Core will just be a blip in history, we need to stop putting our heads in the sand and get comfortable with these ideas that are not new in any sense.
Educating Parents About Common Core MathWhat can you do as a teacher to help implement and educate parents about common core math?
1. Host a Parent Math Night
At the beginning of the year, show parents how Common Core Math is being taught to their children. Reassure them that the way they learned how to do math is being taught right along side other methods. Laura has a great free resource about how to host such a night like this. Download it here.
2. Include Parents During Math
If you are having discussion about math with your students, don't be afraid to invite parents to come and watch so they can see the value in what you are teaching their children. Specifically ask for volunteers to come to class during math as well!
3. Give Parents a Math Glossary
I've seen many awesome math vocabulary packs on Teachers Pay Teachers, why not take it a step further and allow parents to have their own copy of math vocabulary in a glossary. Make sure the definitions also include examples so that parents can refer to the glossary when an issue arrives with homework.
4. Provide Quality Articles and References
There are a lot of misleading images and articles floating around on the web. Parents are confused! Help them get some clarity by sharing articles and references that you've found are helpful. If you have a class website, provide an entire page dedicated to links that will help parents understand Common Core more fully. Here are some suggestions:
Americans Are Bad at Math, but It's Not Too Late to Fix It
Common Core Math Standards in Action
Truth About Common Core
The Common Core Savvy Quiz
Bottom line, implementation of Common Core Math Standards is key. If we don't take the time to properly educate and introduce parents to these standards, we will always be facing resistance.
What about you? How have you educated parents?
Adrianne is a private tutor and creates materials for tutors and teachers alike. She authors The Tutor House, a blog aimed at helping tutors run an effective business.