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.