Yesterday I read an op/ed by Jonathan Ellis, a political reporter for *the Sioux Falls Argus Leader*, expressing concern about the Common Core State Standards because of the way his daughter was being taught math. Here are a couple of excerpts:

There will be a great battle in the Legislature this session that I’ll be paying careful attention to. It involves the fact that I no longer can perform fourth-grade math.

Earlier this year, my daughter needed help with her math homework. I read the problem. Reread the problem. And reread the problem.

The words were in English, sure enough. But they might as well have been in Swahili.

Welcome to the Common Core State Standards…

Later on he writes…

…Common Core emphasizes critical-thinking skills and problem solving over memorization and other traditional aspects of education. I memorized the multiplication table in grade school, and I’m uneasy that my daughter is not doing the same.

From what I could gather of her homework assignment, she was supposed to solve the problems grouping numbers and drawing pictures. In other words, working on different concepts to solve the problem.

When I suggested that she stack the two numbers and solve the problem that way, I got a blank look. That is not, apparently, how they teach students to solve math problems under Common Core. So much for the simple algorithm.

So, as a parent, it seems reasonable to me to be concerned. Is Common Core just another doomed fad in the education reform movement, or is it the long-promised panacea?

BradfordPOV says

You always see these examples of the lattice method multiplying two two digit numbers like 12X36=. It makes it look very simple and almost understandable. I would like to see someone show 12.325X108.992=. If you can’t do this problem using the lattice method, why teach it?

Jason Van Bemmel says

The Common Core Standards state: “Illustrate and explain the calculation by using equations, rectangular arrays, and/or area models.” The “and/or” allows for flexibility in the methods used for implementation of the standard. Different methods will work better to help different students really understand what they’re doing. Nothing in the standards precludes fact memorization, but I have seen so many students who have memorized the facts and don’t really understand what they’re doing. The use of various illustrative methods is to force students to demonstrate that they understand what they’re doing. Not all teaches or schools will do this equally well, but that is hardly the fault of the standards themselves, which simply requires that students “illustrate and explain [their] calculation.” That makes sense to me.

kls says

This cumbersome way of doing math does not help students understand what they are doing…it just makes them frustrated. The old way was working just fine. I agree with BradfordPOV!

Jason Van Bemmel says

As I said, and as the standards say, this is just one way of illustrating the concept. It is NOT specifically required by the Common Core. It is an option. Students should be taught ways to demonstrate that they understand the math concept. This is just one method, and not my favorite either. As to the old ways working just fine, we have 40-50 years of recent history that would argue otherwise. Every year, children who have memorized their math facts and who can “plug and chug” math drills hit a wall in Algebra because they never understood what they were doing, never learned to think mathematically about place values.