Elementary Teachers Struggle With Common Core Math

Photo credit: Brandon Grasley (CC-By-2.0)
Photo credit: Brandon Grasley (CC-By-2.0)

As I was reading the Fordham Institute’s survey of K-8 math teachers over Common Core last week I wondered, “what K-4th grade math teachers?” That’s not to say some school districts don’t have specialists, but most elementary schools, especially early grades in elementary schools, are comprised mainly of generalists not specialists.

The elementary school “generalists” are having a problem with Common Core math according to an article in The Hechinger Report.

Depth of understanding was hailed by its architects as a cornerstone of the Common Core, a set of educational guidelines for what students need to know in each grade in English and math that have been adopted in 43 states and the District of Columbia. The problem is that most elementary school teachers did not learn math that way, and many now struggle to teach to the new standards.

An April 2016 study of a large urban school in Georgia reported the frustration of many elementary level teachers. Only two out of ten teachers there said they were very familiar with the standards and one out of four reported no training on how to teach to them. If the Common Core is to improve the math education of U.S. students as intended, experts agree that teachers who are meant to get students excited about math and become proficient in its basic concepts need more help and support. Yet the exact nature of that support and how to provide it are debated.

…“Elementary school teachers are generalists,” said John Ewing, president of Math for America, a non-profit that offers fellowships to teachers. “Their content knowledge is less than what a specialist would have so they don’t understand math in a broad way. Preparatory programs have to be more attentive and have a way to develop teacher expertise.”

So the onerous is on college elementary education programs to suddenly turn these teachers into specialists and learn math in a way they didn’t experience growing up.

This is the same reason parents struggle with Common Core math as well. The whole idea is completely asinine. For starters the math standards for elementary-aged students are not age-appropriate. Now they want teachers (and with some school districts – parents) to go back and learn all of these new methods when there was really nothing wrong with the way elementary school teachers and parents were taught.

We sent a man to the moon before Common Core, all of American innovation happened pre-Common Core. Now suddenly our kids need Common Core’s asinine approach to math in order to succeed?

The article also notes:

Susan Lee Swars, co-author of the April 2016 study of a Georgia urban school and a professor of math education at Georgia State University, said she was called in to provide professional development for the school and ran the study to see what kind of help the teachers would need. It was the school’s second year of Common Core instruction, and only 7 percent of the teachers surveyed strongly agreed that they were prepared to teach the standards and many voiced the sentiment that they needed to “unlearn” math and relearn it again. Other teachers spoke of encountering a lot of resistance in the classroom when they tried to modify math class to be more about the process than the solution.

Of course there is going to be rebellion when you focus more on the process than the solution. In real life the solution is what matters and using the fastest method to reach that solution. With all the talk of trying to prepare students for STEM they are using an approach that is the furthest from what is done on the job.

It’s ludicrous.

Then this:

“I used to be against specialists because in time of budget cuts, they’re the first to go,” Ewing said. “But if you want to teach Common Core properly, we’ll probably move to a country of specialists. I’ve come around on this.”

Yeah, let’s just totally restructure school faculty to make way for unproven standards, more nonsense!

2 thoughts on “Elementary Teachers Struggle With Common Core Math

  1. As a math and physics major (back in the day when content was important!) who also has extensive math tutoring experience, I can only agree totally with the conclusions of this article. Thank you for continuing to expose the false pretensions of C. C.

  2. I grew up in the space age. I feel we did not teach math properly. Most people I know have difficulty with even elementary problems when not in a simple classroom form.

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