The new state-imposed math standards leave some students struggling to graduate. Many more are having problems with “explaining” how they get their answers. Math problems are not exclusive to students in public schools. Teachers used to teaching traditional algorithm are no longer allowed to now that the Common Core Math Standards is in place. The program is supposed to cure America’s lagging mathematics performance. But will it, really? It’s definitely going to change the way how math is being taught. Educators, whether they’re ready or not, ought to think of its implications. Expecting students to solve problems like little geniuses can do more harm than good. Ultimately, the challenge is to find ways to equip students with skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the real world.
Passing the Common Core Math Standards
To get the grade and graduate, students are required to prove their common core of knowledge for math and pass mandatory tests of student achievement. There’s another set of guidelines written for the English language arts. Other standards for science or social students have not yet been developed.
Students who successfully completed math are expected to compete in a global economy. This is no easy feat. More is definitely expected of students. And a lot more real challenges await math teachers. A look at the first 97 pages the “Content Standards” reveal that the new way of teaching mathematics demand students to explain why they choose a particular procedure or why it works. It’s not enough to be able to add, subtract, multiple and divide.
As teachers, asking students to explain how they’re able to solve a problem seems like an odd pedagogical method. If students can’t explain the “why” of a method, Common Core State Standards (CCSS) education experts said, then problem solving is merely a calculation and not real comprehension. Conceptual understanding, these same experts argued, is crucial before students can master practical skills.
Potential Challenges and Complications
The new approach, as you can imagine, makes the simplest of mathematics lessons more complicated. It also delays learning since the Common Core Math Standards only allow students to learn traditional math operations such as adding and subtracting two- and three-digit numbers until fourth grade. Before the Standards, most schools teach these two years earlier. Meanwhile, students are taught conceptual foundations in mathematics through strategies that are less than efficient.
The last three pages of the 100-page document include guidelines that at first seem reasonable. After all, there’s nothing wrong with wanting students to “Make sense of problem solving and persevering in solving them.” But with seven other principles, as outlined below, the list of guidelines seems a rather lofty challenge for students in K-6.
- Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
- Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
- Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
- Model with mathematics.
- Use appropriate tools strategically.
- Attend to precision.
- Look for and make use of structure.
- Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.
High-performers in class can move ahead quickly. But if the majority of students aren’t prepared to take on intensive mathematics, then the only rational policy is to tailor instructions to the various needs of students. Teachers have pivotal roles in training a new generation of students and preparing them for their prospective careers. It all starts with creating a learning space where students can wrestle with math concepts in an engaging way.