A Math Problem That Will Make Kindergarteners Cry

This was posted to the page of a school board member in suburban Atlanta and was emailed to me today.


Now this is not necessarily a Common Core math problem, but it is an interpretation of the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice for kindergarteners.  Do you think this is appropriate?

Originally posted at FightCommonCore.com.

15 thoughts on “A Math Problem That Will Make Kindergarteners Cry

  1. I started seeing problems like this one for my 9 year old son (who just completed third grade) when he was in first grade. I didn’t think they were age appropriate (developmentally appropriate) for him then, nor did I think they were much better during his third grade year. When I mentioned those types of problems to his 2nd grade teacher, who was a veteran teacher retiring at the end of that year, she agreed they were difficult and the children hated them, but the kids would just hve to get used to doing them. It doesn’t just make me sad for the children, teachers and parents; it makes me angry. I want my children to love math, and these kinds of problems are working against that goal.

    So, short answer, no.

  2. I don’t see anything in appropriate. I was adding, subtracting, and writing in cursive in kindergarten. We did multiplication and division in 1st grade.

    1. That may have been fine for you, and maybe you were happy to be challenged; but many children are NOT **READY** for that at 5 years old (no matter how much you think you can expose them to at even younger ages), and they become overwhelmed. (Of my own two kids, one was reading before she was 3, and the other one didn’t know all her letters going into kindergarten–same environment and exposure to things, same AMAZING preschool; different kids. They are now in high school. Guess which one is my reader…??? The late starter–she is *addicted* to reading; I have to tell her to put the book down and get other things done…)

      There is NO REASON for this. People think that if they accelerate the kids very early, they will continue to make strides going forward and be miles ahead down the road. BUT it does not work out that way. Research has shown that, more often than not, children who are pushed academically when they are very young lose the edge by upper elementary. (Study Vygotsky’s work.) You can see the results from the WHOLE COUNTRY of FINLAND where they have universal pre-school but don’t start academic work until the children turn 7 (SEVEN). And they are considered to have (one of) the best school systems in the world.

      Personally, I hail from the dinosaur era. When I was in kindergarten, we sang songs, learned to get along, and took naps. And I took calculus in high school, took the AP exam, and got a year’s worth of college credit–and, BTW, we didn’t have calculators, and the EOY tests in math (NYS Regents’ exams) make today’s look like child’s play–you can look them up on the Internet.

      Young children are developing a sense of who they are and what they are capable of; so it ends up BACKFIRING; and you end up having to do damage control down the road, which is harder. Once the student has developed the firm idea that s/he is not “good at” math (or any other subject) (when in reality, it was a matter of not being ready when it was pushed on him/her), it is REALLY hard to undo that damage, and it becomes a giant obstacle when the automatic answer to every problem / question is “I stink at math.”

      Trust me–I have been tutoring my now-high-school age daughter in math for a number of years. And when that message finally gets through (that she needs to stop thinking about whether she is “good at math” or not and concentrate on understanding the material and doing the problems, she has gotten A’s. But as soon as there is anything she doesn’t get right away / gets wrong, it’s because she “stinks at math.”

      In a rich kindergarten environment, there is no reason for accelerated kids to be bored, and there is no reason to force children who are not ready to jump through hoops like the stuff on this page. There is plenty that ALL children can do in a differentiated classroom to learn incredible amounts at a pace that is developmentally appropriate for each one. The policy makers need to listen to the child development experts. The problem is that the people forcing this stuff on all children have an agenda which doesn’t have to do with what is good for children…

      1. ^ THIS! Entirely, this! I have four children: one each in college, high school, middle school, and elementary. We have utilized public school extensively, and we’ve also homeschooled for ten years. I couldn’t agree more with your post.

  3. Just checked with what Singapore Math does for Kindergarten. For subtraction, they show something like five balloons and then say “1 is broken, how many are left?” There are a few such problems–sometimes two things are taken away, then 3, then 4. So they learn, incrementally, about subtraction. They are not asked to write a problem, and the English is very very simple. The problem above pre-supposes that all Kindergartners can read. Not all can, I’m sorry to say, and certainly nothing that complex.

  4. My son’s Common Core compliant math with a virtual kindergarten had many problems like the above. As I paged through his math workbook, most pages were filled with written instructions with only a few numbers. It took us 2 hours to do some of his assignments as written. Some word problems were so lengthy, even I didn’t know what they wanted us to do! This is not kindergarten math and certainly not the kind of math that any elementary schooler enjoys. I am now happily home schooling my son using Singapore Math. We are so much happier!

  5. If it is from page 244 wouldn’t that suggest that the students are near the end of the year and close to first grade? Additionally, a good teacher will differentiate his/her instruction and support students in their learning and understanding. Before a student is asked to complete a math problem, the teacher will model and remodel the method and task.

  6. I taught kindergarten and with the teacher reading the problem and modeling similar problems, it’s amazing what they can do. The modeling is the most important part, but this is so much more appropriate than memorizing basic facts that have no meaning to them. It’s all about how it is presented. This type of problem was presented in kindergarten long before common core was adopted.

  7. Nothing wrong with the problem, but totally wrong delivery to reach the intended audience.

  8. What happened to 4-2=2 and just showing on a board how you took two away? Geez…do we really need to make the simple so complex?

  9. How are they expected to do this and do it well if they haven’t learned to read or write yet? I worked with kg for a while. We worked on learning the numbers and values, and by the end of the year they were able to do simple addition and subtraction. But word problems???????? Come on! Are we trying to burn them out before they get started?

  10. We homeschool through a charter and as such, we use a math curriculum which contains similar problem as the one featured above. What I’ve noticed is that my kids can engage and stay interested…*until* they are asked to do things like “draw a picture sentence to show how you solved the problem”. SO dull! Now, if I they have a container of manipulatives in front of them and I ask how we would show the math with the manipulatives (or go outside and act out the word problem with actual flowers…), they are happy to comply and most importantly, STILL INTERESTED in doing so! If I’ve learned one thing from homeschooling three children for the past ten years, it’s that if they are forced to work on a math concept in a way that is miserable to them, they get frustrated and angry – and then they don’t RETAIN the concept! It’s simply wasted time. And then it becomes this maddening cycle of: they hate it – we do it, anyway – they don’t retain it – repeat. Any person who has ever actually *cared* whether a child is learning in a healthy way (ie: one that nurtures a love of learning) would know the same.

  11. “trace and write” to complete? what? trace what? Tell a different subtraction problem about the flowers. HUH? “Kristen’s friend was allergic to the flowers and went into anaphylactic shock. If the ambulance travels 15 miles at 90 mph will it arrive in time?” Draw a picture of Kristen’s friend in the ambulance. Tell a friend about the story. Have you ever been in an ambulance? Did you give your mother flowers on Mother’s Day? What color flowers were they? Do you think dandelions are pretty?

    My point is; I’ve had enough teaching experience with young children to know where these word problems go: off into the weeds.

  12. My first grader has just gone through the first year of CC “implementation” and I am already sick and tired of the teacher telling me “not to help her because i am old school.” I have a degree, and am sure my Calculus background entitles me to say i know something about math. And the reading material!!! What in the world do we need with “How to make paper airplanes” ” Living with trees” and the like. Throw into it all the gobbledegook about being a “good citizen” (after last couple of weeks especially…..) and the BLAME BLAME BLAME your parents rhetoric thats behind every single page of their history and social studies lessons – they can forget it. I have always been a “hands on” parent (I am parenting seven kids) and this year my high school son, and middle school daughter began telling me that they were not :”allowed” to show me their work? Whaaaaaaaaattttttttt? Turns out they had been told that the material (which is online) is copywrited and they were threatened and told not to give parents passwords to the online curriculum. Well I took care of that and FORCED my kids to give me their passwords, and what garbage they are learning. I could write a book about the monstrosity that Common Core poison is. Implementation is not the word, Indoctrination is more like it. Its obvious that this “curriculum” that has been secretly pushed into the ENTIRE US, without any REVIEW, COMMENT PERIOD etc. is garbage, and the sooner we all band together to get rid of it the better.

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