I remember an old “Little House On the Prairie “ show where the administrator of the schools came into the classroom unannounced and wanted to see how the students were doing in Math. One of the students volunteered for the challenge of working the problem out in his head. The massive problem was given, and standing right there, the young man did the math and got the right answer. I couldn’t even remember the problem, much less do the math! I don’t believe most of our young people could tackle such a problem spontaneously. We don’t teach that kind of thought process anymore. We use pencil and paper, or a calculator.
My daughter shares the story of a time in a college math class, when the instructor asked her for the answer to a homework problem as an opening to discussion. She responded. “That is correct,” he said. “Can you tell us how you came to get that answer?” She looked at him in total honesty and said, “I put it in the calculator!” Shaking his head with a chuckle he acknowledged she did that right, but moved to another student for further discussion!
As I did some research on the subject, considering my own math issues, I discovered there are some real problems in the Math curriculum in the classroom. Apparently Core Curriculum leaves a wide open door for a lot of freedom in strategy. Standards are given for requirements of what students need to know, but the street getting them there leads in a lot of different directions!
There is added stress, because our students are being required to break down math problems in ways which complicates the problem rather than simplifying. Additionally, the component of needing to be able to express themselves verbally about why and how they reached their answer using models or drawings, rather than memorizing a formula creates more issues. Not all students think this way. When several totally different strategies are combined, it only makes things murky and unclear.
Core Curriculum wants students to be able to explain relationships between the math functions rather than just doing the problem. Not a bad idea; but most students, like my daughter with the calculator, just want the right answer with no desire to be able to explain strategy. Is this a good thing? I don’t know. What do you think, and why?
I don’t have the answers to the classroom dilemmas. I think our children are facing all kinds of challenges, however, and as parents and grandparents, we need to be especially supportive. I believe our teachers need support too. Whether they choose or are forced to use Common Core Curriculum, our children need to learn. They need the basics, which in my opinion is rooted in a Liberal Arts Education where our young people should be challenged, learn the basic foundations upon which they can build year after year, in as simple and clear a language as possible!