I've been thinking again. I can already see the eyes rolling. Bear with me. I learned something, so maybe you will, too. I've heard a lot of bitching and moaning on social media about Common Core math. Since my youngest daughter is a junior in high school, this new teaching method has no direct impact on me. But the problems I see posted on Facebook look ridiculous. My gut reaction has always been, "What insane person came up with this crap?" So, when a fellow author posted the following math problem off her child's homework, the response was typical.
"One Saturday, an orchard sold 83 bags of apples. There are 27 apples in each bag. Which expression represents the total number of apples sold?"
D. 1,600 +60+560+21
D. 1,600 +60+560+21
I looked at it and shook my head. A storm of responses about "doing math the good old way" and not "complicating" the simple process of multiplying 83 X 27 followed. Except from one man who explained the steps to come up with the answer.
That wasn't so difficult to figure out. Hmmm, maybe this Common Core math isn’t totally out in left field, after all. I could actually do the math in my head to get the answer this way. I can't multiply 83X27 the old fashioned way in my head. So, while it looks complicated, I could figure it out with relative ease. But, what's the point in teaching this new method other than to start a firestorm of controversy and parent rebellion? After a bunch of haranguing comments about the idiots in charge who always have to change everything, this same man commented that the principle behind learning math this way makes understanding higher math (algebra and beyond) easier.
For me, an epiphany followed. I recalled a conversation I had with Tara when she was in AP Calculus. My daughter is very good at math. She loves it. When I asked how the other kids in the class were doing, she said it was harder for them, that only she and Jack understood the reasoning behind the math. Everyone else learned how to do it by memorizing, but they didn’t “get” why they did it. Oh boy, I could relate. I memorized and followed orders in math in high school and did well enough. But it never made sense to me, and I didn’t like math for that reason. Not surprisingly, Tara and Jack were the only two kids in the class who got a 5 on the AP Calculus test. The ability to actually understand why paid off. So, could it be that teaching this new Common Core method is an attempt to help kids understand math better and make learning advanced math simpler down the road? It’s a possibility. I hope it works for the millions of kids like I was who don’t understand (or like) math. Or maybe the guy on Facebook is totally crazy and the new method doesn’t help at all. I’ve no idea, but I’m throwing it out there.
But to get back to my original question, why do we all hate change so much? Why do we think anything new has to be stupid without taking the time to learn about it? The next time I blindly follow the trend of denouncing something I know nothing about, I’m going to stop and try to understand it first. The “old-fashioned way” doesn’t always have to be better. Case in point—computer vs. typewriter. So, my new motto is to embrace change.
That’s all I’ve got for now. For info on my books, which have nothing at all to do with math J, check out my WEBSITE.