Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fixing Common Core (or at least a small part thereof) over at the teaching blog

With a nod to David Coleman, last week I did a post called "Deconstructing Common Core" focusing on the homework problems going out under the Common Core banner.

[The generally unproductive question of what is and isn't Common Core comes up frequently. Hopefully, having an actual copyright notice will keep us from wasting any more time on the subject.]

I've become increasing concerned about the direction of mathematics education. Here's a big part of the reason:
I volunteer a couple of times a week to help a group that tutors kids from urban schools. My role is designated math guy. I go from table to table helping kids with the more challenging homework problems.

Recently, I have noticed a pattern in helping with Common Core problems. First I explained them to the students, then I explained them to the tutors.

That may be the most noticeable difference between the mathematics of Common Core and the new math of the 60s. In the summer of love, an advanced degree in mathematics or engineering was sufficient to understand an elementary school student's homework. These days, the tutors with math backgrounds often find themselves more confused than their less analytic counterparts since what they know about solving the problem seems to have nothing to do with what the assignment asks for.

To follow a Common Core worksheet, you really need to have a little knowledge of the underlying pedagogical theories. Unfortunately, if you have more than a little knowledge, you'll find these worksheets extraordinarily annoying because, to put it bluntly, much of what you see was produced by people who had a very weak grasp of the underlying concepts.
I thought it might be of interest to walk through the process of 'fixing' these problems, showing how, with a few changes, these confusing and ineffective problems could be greatly improved.

I used an example of a Common Core problem that went viral a while back.

Here is my proposed fix (which was anticipated by at least one of our regulars).

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