Common core frustration

Danvers

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Mar 15, 2019
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Ok, I have tried to talk to teachers but they seem clueless I've searched for 2 days looking for a website where I could ask these questions but everyone wants money to ask a math question. I'm happy to find this site. Now the problem.

My 3rd grader is doing multiplication in school. They are trying to force this box method on him and it's confusing him because I showed him the way I learned math 20 years ago when I was in school. My way is different that most others because I learned from my father before the school taught me.

Anyways the problem is that he can solve 2 digit by 2 digit multiplication in his head in 5-10 seconds. He can show the work on paper if needed in the same amount of time. He can even do things like
(2x+4)(4x+5) in his head or on paper which they are not even teaching yet.

He always gets the correct answer but the keep giving him failing grades for not doing it their way. He has said that he's tried their way but that is so odd and time consuming that he suddenly gets confused and turns around to do it his way. The way that makes since.

Had same trouble when they were doing addition and subtraction it was so barbaric and want logical at all. And I had to fight like crazy before they would finally accept it.

So why are they failing him when getting the right answers? And had anyone else had problems with this new math some schools are doing?
 

Dr.Peterson

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Part of the problem may be that some people who think they are teaching "Common Core" are really just teaching a different set of rigid techniques. The Common Core standards do not specify methods that all students must use; they state that they should understand things like multiplication so that whatever method they choose to use makes sense to them! So Common Core is on your side, ultimately. But "Common Core" curriculum providers and teachers too often don't seem to be, from comments I've heard.

Here is what Common Core itself says about multiplication (http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Content/3/NBT/):

Use place value understanding and properties of operations to perform multi-digit arithmetic.¹
CCSS.Math.Content.3.NBT.A.1
Use place value understanding to round whole numbers to the nearest 10 or 100.​
CCSS.Math.Content.3.NBT.A.2
Fluently add and subtract within 1000 using strategies and algorithms based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction.​
CCSS.Math.Content.3.NBT.A.3
Multiply one-digit whole numbers by multiples of 10 in the range 10-90 (e.g., 9 × 80, 5 × 60) using strategies based on place value and properties of operations.​
1 A range of algorithms may be used.

No specified methods!

But curricula aligned to Common Core do teach certain methods, which are different from what we used to learn in school, because these methods are expected to help them think through the operations for themselves and see why they work. You haven't shown what your method is; it may well be even better suited to the real goals as the method being taught, or it may be a rote method that works very well but doesn't build understanding. I don't know.

So, although I am not happy with students being told they are wrong for using a different method, there is a purpose to their teaching the methods they do, which goes deeper than just expecting them to do things one way. Perhaps if your child understands their goals, he might find it easier to go along. Explain that the methods they teach are not meant to replace the wonderful thinking he is already able to do; they are meant to provide different ways to look at the same concepts, to give him a broader picture of how numbers work. By learning to do things the way they are taught, he will be improving his understanding in ways he (and you) may not yet see. It's sort of like a coach taking an already-good runner back to the beginning and teaching him different ways to think about running, so that he can become even better by combining his natural ability with deeper understanding.

I've seen many articles putting Common Core in this more positive light, while also acknowledging the errors that are made in implementing it. For example, I found this article, https://www.vox.com/2014/4/20/5625086/the-common-core-makes-simple-math-more-complicated-heres-why , that explains some of what I'm saying, but comments, "A key question is whether elementary school teachers can learn to teach the conceptual side of math effectively. If not, number lines and area models will just become another recipe, steps to memorize in order to get an answer." I can't judge whether your teacher or curriculum is doing it right or wrong; but you can find ways to make the most of what is being taught.

Here's an explanation of the box method, and why it's worth learning, even though it will not (and should not) be what your child will be using as an adult: https://www.businessinsider.com/common-core-multiplication-method-2014-6 .
 

Otis

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Apr 22, 2015
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… So why are they failing him when getting the right answers? And had anyone else had problems with this new math some schools are doing?
Have you asked the teacher why failure is based on your child's methods instead of the correct answers? If so, then ask administration the same question.

I haven't experienced this in secondary schools, but I've worked at the community college level in classrooms (as a teaching assistant) working with adult students from many places on Earth. These students often perform arithmetic using setups or notations that differ from standard methods taught in the United States. Only one time did I see an instructor try to force them to relearn their methods. It reminded me of U.S. teachers who feel it's necessary to force left-handed people to write with their right hand. Anyway, one trip to the division chair solved that problem.

If your child can pass a proficiency test, then speaking with instructors and/or administration is worth a shot.

😎
 

Jomo

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Dec 30, 2014
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Dr Peterson is correct that looking at math from many different angles really helps understanding math.

I'll like to tell you a story. I was working in the math tutoring lab at my college and there was one calculus problem that I could not do. At this point I was done studying calculus as a student when a student came in and ask how to do this problem. I told him that I could not do it but said that I would try anyways. To my surprised I solved the problem. Then I started thinking why I was able to do this problem even though I was not studying Calculus. I realized that my advanced math courses taught me how to think differently-more clever-and this is why I was able to do this problem.

Partly as a result of this incident I believe that thinking about things in alternate ways is very helpful, especially for math.
The bottom line is if you son is so good at arithmetic I am sure that he can learn these other methods. Your job is to make sure he understands why they work. I have always told my students to NEVER believe what I tell them but to go home and convince themselves that what I told them is true. If you need help explaining things to your son, then come back and ask.
 

Otis

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Here we have a third grade student who can mentally multiply algebraic binomials, and we want to force them into a one-size-fits-all approach, beat them down by reinforcing the idea that something's wrong with them and punish them for getting correct answers in arithmetic.

Is it any wonder why the United States consistently ranks around 30th place in education, among all developed countries on Earth. Way to go!!

By the way, Finland ranks first, Finland does not assign homework (they let students think for themselves) and Finland does not punish students for being different.
\[\;\]
 

Jomo

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I think that 3rd grade teachers can't handle their students being different which is a terrible trait for a teacher.
 

Dr.Peterson

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I try (not always successfully) to avoid judging all teachers, or one particular teacher, based on minimal evidence. As I pointed out, there are good reasons for asking all students to learn a particular algorithm. My main concern in this particular case is that the teacher may not have explained why this is required, and honored the student's ability in other ways; if the teacher were writing, I'd have asked a few pointed questions. And, yes, I have plenty of experience (via questions I've answered) with teachers having simply rejected good answers because they are not what the teacher's manual shows.

When I teach elementary algebra, I tell students that they are required to give algebraic solutions to every problem, even though most of the early word problems can be easily solved by problem-specific thinking. I tell them that if they find other solutions, they should feel good about it, because it means they are good thinkers. But algebra applies to much more complicated problems, so it is important to learn it as a tool that will serve them well later on. When a non-algebraic solution is mentioned in class, I take a minute to talk about the thinking that went into it, and point out how it is similar to some of the thinking we do in algebra; but then I say, unfortunately, that won't be allowed on a test.

That's not quite the same sort of issue, but I think it's the same attitude: Do it my way now, because it's good for you, but don't feel bad about knowing other ways. Feel good for thinking independently!
 

Subhotosh Khan

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Ok, I have tried to talk to teachers but they seem clueless I've searched for 2 days looking for a website where I could ask these questions but everyone wants money to ask a math question. I'm happy to find this site. Now the problem.

My 3rd grader is doing multiplication in school. They are trying to force this box method on him and it's confusing him because I showed him the way I learned math 20 years ago when I was in school. My way is different that most others because I learned from my father before the school taught me.

Anyways the problem is that he can solve 2 digit by 2 digit multiplication in his head in 5-10 seconds. He can show the work on paper if needed in the same amount of time. He can even do things like
(2x+4)(4x+5) in his head or on paper which they are not even teaching yet.

He always gets the correct answer but the keep giving him failing grades for not doing it their way. He has said that he's tried their way but that is so odd and time consuming that he suddenly gets confused and turns around to do it his way. The way that makes since.

Had same trouble when they were doing addition and subtraction it was so barbaric and want logical at all. And I had to fight like crazy before they would finally accept it.

So why are they failing him when getting the right answers? And had anyone else had problems with this new math some schools are doing?
Did you ask your student - why is he getting confused with box method?
 
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