Monday, May 19, 2014

Same shift, Different day

Another of the Common Core memes has found its way across the internet.    In this incarnation, a basic algorithm is show at the top and described as the "old fashion" (sic) way.

At the bottom of the page, you will find a seemingly convoluted way to reach the very same answer and it is described as the "New" way.

I steer clear of these memes as they are obviously loaded and created by people that aren't truly researching the new Common Core State Standards but instead by people that have clearly have an agenda decidedly against CCSS.

Successfully I stayed clear, until I was called out on my Facebook page by a member of my own family.  She posted the picture and asked me to explain to her and her friends the reasoning behind this type of math.

As I am sure that I will need to access this reply again, my response follows:
Let me begin by saying, that paper shown in that picture is obviously written by a parent, perhaps frustrated, maybe even with an agenda against Common Core, who is trying to make a point.

I do not know a teacher that teaches that second way as "the new way."  There are, however, teachers that would accept that answer as a correct response...I would be one of them.  Stay with me for a second before you form your opinion...

The top algorithm is the ultimate goal, but that algorithm is devoid of meaning unless students have built a good number concept.  Introducing the algorithm too early is one of the reasons that adults today struggle with math.  They didn't understand the concept, they were just taught the shortcut.  In the long run, their mathematical prowess would be damaged, although it may not become evident until higher level mathematics.

To build that good number concept, we teach kindergarteners and first graders (especially) to work from landmark numbers (5s and 10s) which it looks like this student was using.  If I saw a third grader doing that, I'd be worried.  I'd worry that his/her number concept was weak.  However, think of how much more information I would get from the second problem than the first.  If a student wrote 32-12=22...would you be able to adequately analyze the incorrect student response in order to design a lesson for remediation?  It would be hit of miss.  I prefer not to teach like that.

Now, if I saw a Kinder or first-grader completing that second problem, I would be blown away at their mathematical critical thinking.  The fact that they could deconstruct the problem in order to get to an answer would lead me to believe that this students has a firm grasp on concepts needed to move toward the algorithm.

The Common Core mathematical movement is really a move deeper instead of a movement to a "new way."  We want students that think critically about math so that they can apply that critical thinking to other facets of the practice.  

If we only teach them the shortcut and they don't understand the concept behind it, we are doing a disservice to our students and the future leaders of our nation.

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