Are Common Core Standards really going to promote a better standard of education among American students or is it simply watering down the curriculum? The debate is ongoing.
Fiction: The Common Core Curriculum is reducing the rigor of math.
Fact: The Common Core Curriculum is a new way of introducing math concepts into the classroom that not only encourages students to know their number facts, but inspires students to problem solve, discover new solutions, and gain a deeper understanding of the math concepts being studied.
Example: CCSS.Math.Content.K.OA.A.1 Represent addition and subtraction with objects, fingers, mental images, drawings, sounds (e.g., claps), acting out situations, verbal explanations, expressions, or equations.
In this standard, students are not simply asked to memorize addition and subtraction facts, they are encouraged to draw, verbally explain, or act out solutions to these problems. There is a difference between a student who can simply memorize an addition or subtraction fact and a student who can explain how she or he obtained a solution to the stated problem. A student who can understand and explain a mathematical concept has a better chance at succeeding when faced with more difficult problems in the future.
Fiction: Students are taking more time to solve math problems with the Common Core methodology, creating a slower and more cumbersome process for students.
Fact: Math problems take longer to solve, but that is because students are now investigating different avenues to solve one problem rather than simply memorizing one formula to be applied to all similar problems. These new skills cultivate better number sense rather than speed of calculation.
Example: CCSS.Math.Content.K.G.A.1 Describe objects in the environment using names of shapes, and describe the relative positions of these objects using terms such as above, below, beside, in front of, behind, and next to.
In this standard, students are not only studying the names and attributes of two-dimensional shapes, but they are investigating shapes found in their natural environment. Rather than simply understanding that a square has four equal sides, they are finding squares in their environment, measuring the sides to ensure they are equal, comparing different sized squares in their environment, and creating new squares using hands-on manipulatives. These activities will cultivate forward thinkers who will become tomorrow’s structural engineers, builders, and architects.
The Common Core Standards allow math to come alive in today’s American classrooms. These new math standards focus heavily on communication with a big emphasis on students’ ability to convey solutions to math problems and concepts clearly and precisely. Students will be able to compute problems, reason abstractly, construct viable arguments about math concepts, and debate with their classmates. By implementing the Common Core Standards into the classroom, students will become more successful mathematicians, scientists, engineers, and problem solvers in the future.
Josie Fixler is an elementary school teacher who currently designs Common Core math content for Edcite. She received her undergraduate degree in Sociology and Education from York University and her master’s degree in Elementary Education from the Teachers College at Columbia University. After teaching at elementary schools in the greater New York area, Josie began working with curriculum developers to design elementary school content. We’re honored to have Josie’s expertise and contributions on Edcite!