Archive for August, 2014

The Dreaded Math and Common Core

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

Until now, nobody has asked how and why does the student use sums, subtraction, multiplication, or division to find the answer to why one train reaches a station before the other. As if most children care. In the real world they are bundled into a car. And are only interested in asking “Are we there yet?” So much for making math part of the student’s world.

It has been established that Americans, in general, are not only poor readers, but admit their innumeracy, inability to perform more than very simple arithmetic. To be kind, Americans are at a low level compared to Finland, Japan, Singapore—all countries with strong mathematical students. Do those statistics make it all right to have a few math whizzes and everyone else be a victim of innumeracy ?

As has come to the attention of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Commission, it isn’t that students are not capable of learning math concepts. It isn’t that America has poor teachers. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) in the 1980s affirmed that memorizing facts was not enough. Finally, the time has come to admit that other strategies make better math learners.

However, teachers in the United States, old and young, rely on teaching the way they were taught. The issue is that very few American teachers are trained to improve their abilities in alternative teaching methods at student education institutions or in professional development classes arranged by a County Office of Education.

Take a guess why. In spite of the NCTM’s strategies, acclaimed as the best methods invented in the world, do you know a teacher at your school that will not implement a new strategy, no matter which resources are available to support a new model? What are the reasons? “It’s just another idea.” “It won’t last.” “Something else will be pressed on me.” “My kids do well enough.”

Nevertheless, transformation is happening. With the adoption of CCSS by 43 states and the District of Columbia, teachers have the opportunity to learn how students learn best and so raise the school population out of the muddy waters of innumeracy and illiteracy.

For example, in Northern California teachers attend a MERIT two-week professional development class for language and technology at the Krause Center for Innovation on the Foothill-De Anza Community College campus or FAME that stresses student collaboration to find more than one way to solve a mathematical problem. Did you know that it can be done and certainly teaches students how to think?

There are many programs like these. Search in your teaching area. Here’s the chance to change your whole concept of teaching. It takes time to change old habits, but America’s students will benefit in school and in the real world. Isn’t that the point?

To learn more about math anxieties in the U.S. read “Q: Why Does Everyone Hate the New Math” by Elizabeth Green in The New York Times Magazine, July 27, 2014.