Remember the check a father supposedly wrote out in “Common Core” math symbols?

You may have seen the check to a school supposedly written out in Common Core number boxes.

Speaking as a retired math teacher, I agree that the check-writer indeed does not know what he is talking about. I mean, he didn’t even bother to try to make sense of his kid’s math worksheet – it’s really not that hard [i previously wrote”simple” – my bad] ; it’s aimed at something like 1st – 3rd graders (I hope) to help them be able to do math in their heads. The methods are a bit on the heavy – handed side, but they are not inherently evil. Read the article to see some of the errors that the check-writer made.

The correct criticism, in my opinion, is to force kids to write out stuff that they should be doing mentally. IN. THEIR. HEADS. That’s the point, it’s supposed to be done mentally, not written down. Kids should learn a bunch of methods for mental math, but just as you don’t learn basketball or canoeing primarily by writing sentences and reading books, you do it by dribbling or shooting a ball or getting out on the water with a paddle and a canoe. That’s the correct criticism of this stuff, and the idea that kids aren’t given a range of choices of methods to pick from. Many methods work. Why be forced to use just one?

Also as a retired math teacher, let me go further and say that there are aspects of, the Common Core math standards that do have some real merit, especially the parts that ask students to explain why and how what they are doing makes sense. HOWEVER, in most public school systems, the linkage of the CCSS and the ever-increasing testing regime means that all students do is fill out zillions of worksheets. Some of the worksheets are from sources older than me, and some are incoherent pastiches of gobbledy-gook filled with mathematical errors, and some, I assume, may be OK. However, I haven’t seen very many of the last type as I have recently been tutoring students or volunteering or mentoring in DC public schools over the past few years.

And now speaking as a long-term student of history, I would also say that there are some similarities between what we are doing in education today and the extreme nuttiness that occurred under Stalin and Mao. Here is the similarity I see: A lot of the ideas in the ‘process’ section of the math CC are lovely.The idea of “from each according to their ability, and to each according to their needs” is lovely. (By contrast, there is NOTHING in Mein Kampf that is lovely, or not in the first 85 pages that I could stomach. He is all about lies, racism, German nationalism, mass murder.) But when it comes to practice, while Stalin and his closest confidants waxed lyrical about building a classless society of plenty, they were in fact randomly arresting and sending to the Gulag and executing or beating to death or starving to death hundreds or thousands or millions of people, almost randomly chosen, because any logic to those mass murders escaped even the people it happened to or their friends or relatives — i.e., everybody. No, I’m not going to claim that the perversion that is happening with public education today, as a direct result of people like Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, the Walton family, the Broad family, and a bunch of other billionaires and acolytes, is causing mass murder. No. However, the education that is being imposed on our poorest kids, attending some of these “No Excuses” charter schools, is such a violation of kids’ rights that it’s nothing that Nazis, Fascists, or Communists of any stripe would tolerate except in their own concentration camps. Where does any civilization require their youngsters to be utterly and continuously silent, from about 7:00 am to 4:00 pm, even during breakfast and lunch and when moving from one room to the next? Only (a) here in certain types of No Excuses charter schools or (b) in concentration camps – but in (b) there, the overlords don’t care about their charges’ lives. But wait a sec….

So we have those who want to liberate poor and underprivileged kids of color from the tyrranny of their zip code and the evil teachers’ unions – and what do they do? Put those kids under an education that consists of all-force-feed mindrot, all the time, no talking permitted, ever. As one commentator remarked, Stalin would have been appalled.

Published in: on September 24, 2015 at 7:21 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. I am not a math teacher, but I was a special ed teacher who ended up teaching remedial math to middle school students. As they fell behind in school they were apparently handed calculators and a never ending stream of things to memorize, little of which they really understood. Fortunately, at the time I was teaching, everyone pretty much left me alone. They didn’t know what to do and dealt with it by letting me do what I felt was necessary. We went back and pulled apart concepts that they had never fully mastered. I did a lot of studying to figure out various methods to help them grasp years of math that had mystified them. Boy did I learn a lot, and the kids did too. Were they up to grade level at the end of the year? Of course not! Only an idiot or a CC zealot would even consider such a goal. After all, why else would you require that these students be tested with the same standardized instruments as every other student? Even if the tests had been field tested and had reliability and validity stats, they would still be inappropriate for these students. I applaud the goal of actually understanding the math concepts rather than just memorizing algorithms. Perhaps it is a shortcoming of the once again “new math” that someone felt the need to invent a new vocabulary for terms and procedures that frequently just needed better definition.


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