Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Common Core math may set unrealistic goals


A national survey of math teachers in states using the Common Core has found mixed feelings about the standards. Some teachers think the standards established by the Common Core may be beyond the reach of many of their students and their parents.

The Thomas B Fordham Institute interviewed about a thousand K-8 teachers who use the Common Core math standards during the spring of 2015, but results are just now being made available. The foundation reached the following conclusions:

  • Parents tend not to reinforce math learning at home, perhaps because they don’t understand the way the subject is being taught.
  • Teachers believe the Common Core standards will help their students prepare for college and beyond.
  • Students are sometimes frustrated when asked to check their answers by using a different method to solve the same problem they just solved.

Education Week wrote a blog post about the survey, and a few parents posted comments saying the problem isn’t so much that they are unfamiliar with the new way old subjects are being taught under the Common Core but that schools and teachers are providing too few resources that allow them to help their students learn the math with the new methods.

A key finding from the report is that almost two-thirds of teachers said they are more likely under the Common Core to ask their students to explain their math solutions in writing. While writing is an important skill, it is less relevant in mathematics than it is in, say, social studies or science.

Requiring students to explain mathematical calculations in paragraph form, then, does little to advance their understanding of mathematics. Teachers would better use this effort, I believe, to develop numeracy skills in their students and teach them how to use the language of mathematics, rather than English.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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