Friday, November 13, 2015

Mental math and common core

Let me preface by saying, I don't get common core math. Or, at least I didn't. I was one of those kids who never questioned that 7x9=63. It just was; learn it and move on. 

But there are kids who can't just accept that it is the right answer, kids who will ask why and deserve to know the answer  to why. These are big thinkers, abstract thinkers. These are the kids common core addresses. 

I saw a post on Facebook, reposted many times, showing that we need to get back to "old math".

Allow me to show you "old math".

This comes from Milne's Mathematics book copyrighted 1897. The preface states, "There are many who believe that Mental Arithmetic is one of the most valuable studies in a school curriculum. There can be no doubt that if the subject is properly taught it develops a habit if concentration of mind, which is one of the most desirable ends to be attained by and scheme of education."

This idea of mental arithmetic is what common core is trying to rejuvenate. 

Let me test the way we were taught. Below are some pages from this textbook. Keep in mind, you should be able to do all of these without a pencil, paper, or calculator:

Too easy for you? How about these:

These math problems aren't impossible, but we would need a pencil and paper. You don't always have a pencil and paper in the field or at the construction site when you are calculating angles and cuts, or in the grocery store when you are figuring the best bargain.

And the calculator argument? I heard an exchange student explain to a crowd last week that, in Japan, they are not allowed calculators in the classroom. Can you imagine the revolt if we took away student calculators! Why are we making it American kids so technology dependent!

Common core may not make a difference to all our kids. But for some, it will be the light bulb they need to "get it". It may not last; it may just be a passing trend we have to endure.

But trust me when I say, our way is not the old way.