Why My Son Needs Common Core
I know that there is a debate regarding the “new” math common core state standards. I understand parents are frustrated with children having to learn “new” ways to add, subtract, multiply, or divide. I understand that parents are frustrated with children having to show work and defend an answer, even when the answer is correct. I understand your frustration as a parent. I have a child who is off the charts in math. He consistently scores in the 90th percentile and above on all standardized assessments. He just “gets” math. (His mom is a math educator.) He is always frustrated when I ask him to defend his answer. His typical response is, “because I know it’s right.” I used to think common core was not written for children like him. He does not need to draw a picture or learn a “new” way to divide. I was wrong! My son needs common core.
A few weeks ago we sat down and worked several TCAP (Tennesse State Assessment) type problems for math homework. They were all division problems similar to the one below:
John has 12 apples. He wants to share them with 3 friends. How many apples does each person receive if John gets the same amount as all his friends?
My son was flying through these problems. After a few moments of watching him, I realized he wasn’t even reading them. I stopped him and asked him what he was doing. This was his explanation:
“Mom, the lesson is on problems with division. I just divide. The bigger number always comes first, so I take the bigger number divided by the smaller number.”
Something inside my math teacher heart died. I wanted to scream, “The bigger number doesn’t always come first!” and “What if the problem was multiplication and you assumed wrong?” and then I realized that our curriculum and check list standards have reduced real life mathematics to this.
A week later my son’s need for Common Core became evident. We were at Publix grocery shopping and we came to the juice aisle. Orange juice was on sale, 3 for $6.00. At Publix, you do not have to buy all 3 to receive the sale price. My son started to put three juice cartons in the cart. I stopped him and explained we only had to buy one. I then asked him, “If they are on sale for 3 for $6.00, how much is one carton of juice?” Remember, my son was in the 98th percentile last year in math and he “gets” it. His response, “$2.50? $3.00?” What?! We stopped in the grocery store and got out paper and pencil and I made him show me how he arrived at his answer. He drew a picture. Through this process, he realized his mistake. He told me he didn’t realize it was a division problem. He said, “Mom, I know 6 divided by 3 is 2, but I didn’t realize this was a division problem.” So yes, my third grade son sometimes needs to draw pictures. Memorizing his math facts is not enough. He needs to understand the situations that necessitate the memorized facts. He needs to be taught strategies to solve problems when they seem unfamiliar. He needs Common Core.