# Kids Experience Testing Success When They Grasp Basic Math

Filed in CCSS Content on January 10, 2013

An interesting story at Education News:

A study recently published in The Journal of Neuroscience finds that a strong grasp of basic mathematical skills can serve as a good predictor of student success on the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test. The PSAT is an exam designed to gauge student preparedness for the SAT and is typically administered to kids in ninth and tenth grade.

To reach these conclusions, Daniel Ansari, Associate Professor in Western’s Department of Psychology and a principal investigator at the Brain and Mind Institute, used functional magnetic resonance imaging machines to monitor the brain activity of high school seniors. The MRI highlighted certain areas being utilized by students who were doing simple math exercise, and activity in those regions correlated strongly with their PSAT scores.

Now, how does the Common Core Math Standards help this?

With the Common Core State Standards teachers are moved to the role of a facilitator.  Barry Garelick wrote late last year that not only will the Common Core Math Standards actually complicate math for kids.

With 100 pages of explicit instruction about what should be taught and when, one would expect the Common Core Standards to make problem-solving easier. Instead, one father quoted in the aforementioned article complains, “For the first time, I have three children who are struggling in math.” Why?

Let’s look first at the 97 pages of what are called “Content Standards.” Many of these standards require that students to be able to explain why a particular procedure works. It’s not enough for a student to be able to divide one fraction by another. He or she must also “use the relationship between multiplication and division to explain that (2/3) ÷ (3/4) = 8/9, because 3/4 of 8/9 is 2/3.”

It’s an odd pedagogical agenda, based on a belief that conceptual understanding must come before practical skills can be mastered. As this thinking goes, students must be able to explain the “why” of a procedure. Otherwise, solving a math problem becomes a “mere calculation” and the student is viewed as not having true understanding.

This approach not only complicates the simplest of math problems; it also leads to delays. Under the Common Core Standards, students will not learn traditional methods of adding and subtracting double and triple digit numbers until fourth grade. (Currently, most schools teach these skills two years earlier.) The standard method for two and three digit multiplication is delayed until fifth grade; the standard method for long division until sixth. In the meantime, the students learn alternative strategies that are far less efficient, but that presumably help them “understand” the conceptual underpinnings.

I’d be interested as these are implemented if we see a rise in kids needing math tutoring away from school.

### About the Author (Author Profile)

Shane Vander Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Caffeinated Thoughts, a popular Christian conservative blog in Iowa. He is also the President of 4:15 Communications, a social media & communications consulting/management firm, along with serving as the communications director for American Principles Project’s Preserve Innocence Initiative.  Prior to this Shane spent 20 years in youth ministry serving in church, parachurch, and school settings.  He has taught Jr. High History along with being the Dean of Students for Christian school in Indiana.  Shane and his wife home school their three teenage children and have done so since the beginning.   He has recently been recognized by Campaigns & Elections Magazine as one of the top political influencers in Iowa. Shane and his family reside near Des Moines, IA.  You can connect with Shane on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or connect with him on Google +.
• http://www.dangerouslyirrelevant.org Scott McLeod

Hi Shane,

Would you agree that no one cares what graduates know, they care what graduates can do with what they know? Deeper conceptual understanding of why and how something works – not rote recall – is necessary to take knowledge and skills and apply them to new contexts, problems, etc. In other words, you have to know stuff to think critically about it but mere factual and procedural knowledge (which dominate 80%-85% of day-to-day instruction) are insufficient in and of themselves. This higher-level thinking is the intended focus of the Core (and the PISA assessments, and …) and it’s being driven largely by concerns of employers and policymakers that in a hypercompetitive global information economy, graduates don’t know how to think critically and collaborate and problem solve and do all of that other higher-order thinking stuff that justifies an expensive Western worker.

Thoughts on this?

• http://shanevanderhart.com/ Shane Vander Hart

Why does it have to be either or?

• http://www.dangerouslyirrelevant.org Scott McLeod

It doesn’t. I think that’s what both I and the Common Core are saying. Pay attention to foundational knowledge and skills but ALSO pay more attention to higher-level thinking concerns. The Core doesn’t diminish the former (although it does get rid of the exhaustive content laundry list); it’s a plea for the latter…

• http://shanevanderhart.com/ Shane Vander Hart

Unfortunately that’s not what I’m hearing from the trenches.

• http://www.dangerouslyirrelevant.org Scott McLeod

I think there is a lot of confusion about the Core. I do know many educators who see this as an EITHER/OR, not an AND. We’ve got lots of work to do on this front…