1 + 1=Purple? Why Common Core Doesn’t Make Sense
I have heard a lot of troubling experiences from parents who have complained about Common Core curriculum, but without experiencing it myself, I didn’t know how bad it was. It really hit home for me while helping my nephew with his math homework a few weeks ago. My nephew, Ian, is in third grade. I don’t mean to brag, but he is a bright kid. He has been invited to participate in gifted student programs, and he gets good grades. So when I saw his confusion with Common Core math, I knew that this method of teaching could not be right for students.
I was babysitting my nephews, and my brother asked me to make sure that Ian did his math homework. I told Ian when it was time to do homework and that if he needed help, that he could ask me for guidance. The assignment was multiplication problems, and Ian needed assistance. The instructions asked the student to show their work using the method that the curriculum was proposing. Even though I knew the answers to the problems, I found myself struggling to understand the steps to solving the equations as taught. Even though my nephew and I both knew how to solve the problem in a way that brought us to the correct answer and we could show our work using our way, Ian would not receive full credit for his answer because he did not follow their example. However, had we been able to reach the wrong conclusion using their methods, well…that would have been accepted.
I have always been good at math, but it didn’t come naturally to me. It was a challenge and I had to work at it. Fortunately, my mom has always loved math and she is good at processing numbers quickly. When I didn’t understand how to solve a math problem, my mom would explain the concept to me in an alternate way, and she was always showing me multiple ways to solve equations. She would then tell me that all of these options would lead me to the correct answer, and that I should choose the method that I found most efficient.
Just because I oppose Common Core does not mean that I do not believe that students should show their work. Showing how a student reached their answer is important. This is where teachers determine where a student has gone wrong, and hopefully they are able to correct the error. This is also to ensure that the student has reached full comprehension of the concept and is not depending on rote memorization or lucky guessing. However, the issue that I take with Common Core is the lack of flexibility in allowing students to solve equations in the way that is most logical to them, as well as the acceptance of substandard work simply because it uses their method. America is a nation that was built on innovation. Because of our creative spirit, we have been able to progress as a country. Our experimental nature and willingness to try things that have never been attempted before has led to many incredible breakthroughs in math and science. I fear that if we teach our children that there is only one correct method for solving problems, we will fall even further behind because of this rigid thinking and micromanagement. It is our eagerness to think outside the box that has made our nation first in the world as a leader in science and technology, and I am afraid that with Common Core, our ingenuity will be stifled.