I Heart Common Core

All across the internet, I see stories of people bashing common core – saying that the math is ridiculous and obtuse.  I’m here to publicly declare my love for these new standards.

I heart Common Core.

Just the other night I ran across the following post on Facebook:

Common-Core-letterSource: Tickld Mobile

Frustrated Parent is right.  If anyone used the above process in their job, they would get fired.  Adults don’t use that method to subtract every day, so why should kids?

When I was a kid, I was good at math.  I attribute it to having a very good memory.  I could easily memorize exactly what procedures I needed to do and I did them.  Sometimes, I wouldn’t even understand why I was doing something.  In fact, my math teachers encouraged this lack of understanding.  Does anyone else remember the rhyme for dividing fractions?  “You don’t need… to ask why… just invert and multiply.”?

As a fifth grade teacher, I had so many students who came into my classroom and were completely lost when it came to math.  They believed that they were horrible at math.  They said it didn’t make sense.  My students were right.  The ways that we were teaching them did not make sense.  Whenever they would come to any sort of problem solving, many would use operations without any reason for using them.  When I asked a student to explain why she multiplied in a problem, the student told me “I saw two numbers and since we are studying multiplication, I multiplied.”

So now, lets talk about that subtraction problem, the method that Jack used to solve it and why it makes sense to a student just starting to learn about subtraction. However, I’m going to change the numbers.  Right now, Frustrated Parent is right that putting the larger number on top and subtracting down is easier.  Kids would grasp that very easily.  Instead, let’s try the problem:  Subtraction-problemThink about what you do and what you have to know to solve this problem.  You would probably do something like this:

subtraction-problem-solvedSuddenly, its not so simple.  Here is where kids get confused.  When they are told to “borrow” (preferably called “regroup” now because you aren’t “borrowing” anything) from the digit to the left, most have no clue what they are actually doing.  Especially confusing, is how  that “10”  appears in the middle.

Don’t get me wrong.  Students eventually learn how to do this and what regrouping means with Common Core. They just learn how to do it after they grasp the concept of large number subtraction using a method that makes more sense logically from a kid point of view.  Watch as I solve this using the number line approach that “Jack” used above:

With this method, the child learns to subtract groups of 100 and groups of 10.  It’s meant to work as a strategy, meaning that the student does not have to follow a list of steps to get the answer.  They can use it flexibly while they are making sense of math and how our number system works.  It is definitely different than how I was taught math and as a teacher it took a shift in thinking.  Once I saw it in action though, I loved it.

My hope is that others will love it, too.

What are your thoughts?  For or Against Common Core?  Or Undecided?

JoAnn Crohn

CEO/Founder at No Guilt Mom
JoAnn Crohn, M. Ed is a parenting educator and life coach who helps moms feel confident in raising empowered, self-sufficient kid while pursuing their own goals & passions.

She’s an accomplished writer, author, podcast host of the No Guilt Mom podcast, and speaker who appears in national media. Work with her personally in Balance VIP

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  1. Ugh I so agree with this! I used to work in an elementary school and some of the 4th and 5th graders would ask me for help on their homework and I would get to frustrated sometimes!

  2. I grew up outside of the public school system, and I currently live in a state that’s repealing the common core, so I don’t really have a dog in this fight. However, while I’m generally against sweeping federal mandates for education, I do like that common core seems to be offering multiple ways to teach students the same material. I wasn’t a “math person” because I think very concretely and I need visual/ tactic example to learn math and science. This approach to math may have helped me as a child.

    1. In Arizona, the Common Core standards are at a higher level than the current AZ standards. I’m all for them. And they are just standards – they describe what kids should be able to do, not how to teach them.

  3. Kids are doing all kids of weird things in school today that are just tricks and ways to make things look complication. Can we please just teach them the basics and then move on to the important stuff. Why make subtraction difficult?

    1. This approach is more basic than the current way that subtraction is taught in school. This one standard is saying that kids should be able to subtract based on a solid knowledge of our base-10 number system (100’s, 10’s, 1’s, etc). Think of it like knowing how to count backwards on your fingers using larger numbers.

  4. Oh lordy, thankfully I don’t have children and don’t have to deal with this, I have never actually heard of this and it is completely fascinating!

  5. OMG MATH! The last time I dealt with math was freshman year of college! I count on my hands, I write math equations DOWN ON PAPER and solve them that way if I need to … OR… I GET MY PHONE and use the calculator!! Sad truth! LOL! I am a WORD girl, not a NUMBERS girl!

  6. You just completely lost me on the explanation. But you’re so right – no one does this in regular everyday life as an adult. Math used to frustrate (probably still does if I were in school) me to no end.

  7. Wow, I just had a little one start Kindergarten and I am actually terrified for the moment they bring home homework for me to help with. I learned it one way and not knowing this new Common Core curriculum might have me doing homework alongside my kids. Urgh…interesting.

    1. Ya, I think it will be a big adjustment for parents because you have never seen it done this way before. We teachers are trained by our districts. They need to create a parent’s online Common Core website with awesome instructional videos. I think that is where the disconnect lies and all of the animosity towards Common Core begins. Parents don’t know how to do it because they have never been taught this way.

  8. With a kiddo in 2nd grade I totally appreciate this blog post! I was irritated at first until explaining it to my mom and then it clicked, I said something along the lines of: “Essentially he’s learning to think of math more intuitively as opposed to just memorizing facts to regurgitate” As someone who has struggled with math my WHOLE life (and now is facing down a math class at 33, as I finish my Bachelor’s degree finally) being taught to understand the why’s and the intuitiveness of numbers would have gone a long way in helping me deal with my arithmetic fears!

  9. Seeing as how I don’t have children and haven’t been in a public school since I graduated high school in 2002, I had no idea what is going with the education system. I hope it’s challenging and competitive enough for the US to compete with other countries. It sure wasn’t as hard as it should’ve been in Utah when I was a teenager.

  10. Although I am not a fan of common core, I do believe everyone learns in their own way… and that just throwing out one method and expecting each student to understand is silly. I think it’s great there are other options!

    1. I think that it is one of the big misconceptions about Common Core on the internet right now. The old way is not thrown at all. Students learn it in a later grade after they build in firm foundation in number sense. The Common Core standards delve more into how our number system works so that students will find problem solving easier in the future.

  11. Ugh maths, my enemy when I was in school. I’m still waiting to use all that algebra, geometry and other useless information they tried to teach us. Thankfully I can about manage to add, subtract, multiply and divide!

  12. I definitely do not want to get into a back and forth but I am not a fan of the Common Core. I live in NYS where Regents has and is above standard for education. Further, there is no research that supports the validity and credibility of common core. How do I know? Because I tried to research it for a class and could not find anything! 🙁 I”m just not a fan

    1. Totally get you. In NY, your standards are at a higher level of rigor than the current common core requires. I can understand your frustration. Just know, that Common Core is based on research, but you won’t find anything if you simply search for validity of common core. For math, you can look up “cognitively guided instruction”. That has been around for years and a lot of concepts from there appear in common core.

  13. Wow. It finally makes so much sense to me. I have never read much about the topic other than skimming through the constant displeasure with common corr appearig in my feed. The way you described it, it actually makes a lot of sense. That’s exactly the method you’d use in your head and not write down, so what’s the problem with having it illustrated? For someone who is learning math for the first time, this may definitely work as an aid. Nice post.

  14. It is so interesting to hear everyone’s take on common core. I don’t have kids, but I am interested to see where this goes for when I finally do.

  15. Good teachers Care! I’ll have to remember “regroup” as apposed to borrowing LOL. I was the kid that always had to understand the why to totally get something. I benefited from teachers who could give you the why and math and struggled with teachers that only wanted me to focus on the facts! Great post!

    1. And then so many kids start to think that Math is only about the facts and struggle when it doesn’t make sense. Thank you!

  16. Ok, I literally held my breathe when I saw this post and then quickly scrolled and patiently tried to go back up and understand.

    Seriously though, I have a completely irrational fear of Maths. 🙁

    Katie <3

  17. For, for for!!!! I can not STAND when I see 50 year olds whining because they can’t “help” their kids with homework. Of course you can’t, you’re busy trying to teach them something they didn’t learn yet. My son is autistic and working visually helps him understand how to do his math better. He has a hard time with “process” math work, because sometimes the process is so long it’s overwhelming for him. He’s also in 5th grade now and on the cusp of common core. My 2.5 year old will learn common core and I’m excited to observe how it all plans out.

    1. I was a fifth grade teacher 2 years ago when we were first starting Common Core. Many kids who thought they weren’t good at math before, finally started to grasp some of the concepts because of this new way of teaching.

  18. This takes me back to elementary school and my 3rd grade teacher Mrs. Bariss who totally ruined mathematics for me by being impatient and unkind. I’m a total right brained person so this is all foreign to me. I read a book by Malcolm Gladwell called “Outliers” where he was able to connect why certain people had successes where others do not. In it he talks about the Asian culture and mathematics. He connected their language and how they pronounce their words with the reasons why they are good with math. It was truly fascinating and I could totally see his point. You should check it out!

    1. It’s a little different than we are used to teaching. However, the kids who had a hard time with math, grasped this pretty easily.

  19. I will have to find out how they teach it in my sons school so I can start practicing… I was never good at any kind of math!

  20. Math confuses me to begin with. Add Common Core to it, and I’m completely lost. I just want it to be kept as it was. But I respect other’s opinions!

    1. The thinking behind Common Core is to make it less confusing and show how math makes sense. However, it really depends on the school and teacher if it is implemented correctly.

  21. I admit, common core scares me. My kids are in kindergarten now and I think the scary part is that I don’t know how I’m supposed to learn this to be able to help them when they get math homework. YIKES!

    1. That is a hard thing. I always thought they should make a common core site for parents. Something with instructional videos on how to do the different strategies 🙂 Would be so helpful. Thanks for stopping by our site!

  22. I think that many people got wrapped up in the CC, and did not realize that it was and is a set of Standards. That every school district has the choice as to how to teach those standards. I was very incensed at first as I too had seen your first example and knew that if that was the way our math class was going to go my second child did not stand a chance.

    My 17 y/o is the last generation to not be touched by this CC. My 12 y/o is being submerged.

    My only comment about CC, and this goes to any teaching standard.

    If my child understands a certain way, let them use that way. She is very intelligent, even though she has dyslexia. Do not muddy the waters with 6 other ways to achieve the answer!

    Each year I fight for this on her IEP, and boy is that a battle!!! I win though!


    1. I too think that is the disconnect, that people don’t realize it is a set of standards. I’m a big believer of tailoring education to the student. I want my students to have a strategy that works for them and helps them both get and understand the correct answer.

      1. Could not agree with you more. One of my biggest pet peeves is the math home work. Don’t give out 40 questions a night and give a grade for completion. I did not believe my child when she said thatvis how they do it. So she one night wrote in any old number. She got an A. Give 5 questions. Take those and look at it. Show them where they went wrong. Give feedback. Feedback is not a dirty word….. my opinion anyway.

  23. I work with kids and sometimes they ask for homework help and I look at their stuff and I just don’t get the random things they make them do these days. They don’t make sense, are somewhat time consuming, etc.etc. not a fan!

    1. Ya, it depends. There is different thinking behind some strategies and they can be very useful. I can’t defend anything though without seeing it. Some schools are implementing common core right and some have no idea what they are doing.

  24. My child is autistic and is in sixth this year. He has excellent rote memorization & spatial skills but struggles with comprehension and common core exercises. Prior to this year he made mostly A’s in math to now C’s and some D’s. I will be meeting for an IEP discussion in the morning. I look to address what will best to accommodation his needs at this time but I will say the new way of teaching math has not benefited my son personally. It has been quite discouraging in his case and I’m a former lead high school math & science teacher who believes in educating within the home.

    1. I don’t believe in a one size fits all education. The child is the most important factor whenever we teach 🙂 I like that common core gives some options other than rote memorization but I also agree that those options are not best for everyone. I hope that your IEP discussion goes well 🙂

  25. I love this! My kids are doing Common Core and I’ve been hearing everyone say how awful it is for years, but never found anyone else until now who agrees with me that it’s awesome! It requires you to learn a lot of funky (and sometimes unnecessary) terminology, but I feel like it lays a foundation for good number sense, getting what place value really means, and actually understanding what you are doing by multiplying or dividing numbers… much more than the way I learned it as a kid.

    Thank you for making me feel that I’m not crazy for loving Common Core!

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