Common Core and Why I’m going Gray…

Filed in Uncategorized by on November 26, 2014 2 Comments

Last week at my son’s basketball game I was sitting next to another mother chuckling at our boys as they ran by.  They were pretty cute.

We struck up a conversation that turned to Common Core.  Rani started to tell me about the math her son was doing.   She has been gracious enough to let me share her blog post about her experience.

Common Core and Why I’m going Gray…By Rani Child

The math problem:

There are 90 fingers and 58 legs in a park. How many people and how many dogs are in the park?

Fairly easily we figure out there are 9 people, making Calvin use his ding dang arrow language since they don’t know division yet. When I say fairly easily…I mean not as easy if I could just divide 90 by 10, instead we have to do something like this:


So from there I’m trying to help Calvin figure out how many dogs are in the park.

Me: Calvin, so first we need to figure out how many of those 58 legs are human legs. If there are 9 people how many human legs are in the park? (Again, no multiplying allowed).
Calvin: 90
Me: No. There are NINE PEOPLE who each have how many legs???
Calvin: 9
Me: No, how many legs does one person have?
Calvin: 2
Me: Good, now how many legs does 9 people have?
Calvin holds up his fingers and starts counting: One, two, one, two, one two…
Me (frustration rising): Uh, hold up what are you doing? You are trying to count one, two nine times on your fingers??? Calvin, if there are 9 people and they each have 2 legs…oh nevermind, just do 9 plus 9.
Calvin: oh ok
Me: So what’s 9 plus 9?
Me: Great! So now we have to figure out how many dog legs, so what do we do?
Calvin: I don’t know I don’t get it.
Me: Well there are 18 human legs and a total of 58 legs, so what would you do?
Calvin: I don’t know this is too hard.
Me: Well if we subtract 18 from 58 do you think we would know how many dog legs?
Calvin: Yes (But you know that yes means nothing to him, he’s just trying to get through the problem as I am at this point).
Me: Ok so what is 58 minus 18
Calvin: 72
Calvin: Oh, uhmm 52
Me: Calvin…um ok lets do your tree language thing (yet another method of core curriculum). How can we break up 18.
Calvin: huh?
Me: Show me on paper, do your tree thing and break up 18. (He really likes tree language, and at least understands this one. He proceeds to show me that 18 can break up into 10 and 8.
Me: Ok great so what’s 58 minus 10?
Calvin: 47
Calvin: ohhh 48
Me: ok, what is 48 minus 8?
Calvin: 52

I then excuse myself to bang my head into the wall.

Calvin: Takes his fingers and says…58,57,56..
Me: “Stop what are you doing and why are you starting with 58?FFFFOOOURTY EIGHT MINUS EIGHT
Calvin: oh 40
Me: Ok, so we now know there are 40 dog legs. So, how many legs does each dog have?
Calvin: 40
Me: Calvin, each dog does not have 40 legs, how many legs does a dog have?
Calvin: oh 4.
Me: Good, so if each dog has 4 legs, how can we know how many dogs there are?
Calvin: I don’t get it.

I have left again to bang my head into another wall.

Me: Ok there are 40 legs left, each dog has 4 legs, using your arrow language since nobody wants to teach you multiplication or division and have you do dumb math problems like this…how can you solve this.
Calvin: I don’t know.
Me: Ok just do the arrow thing and start with 40 and subtract 4 over and over again till you get to 0.
Calvin: I don’t get it…

And here is what the entire problems looks like vs. how we used to do it.

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Comments (2)

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  1. Mary Margaret says:

    Readers, please spread this blog around. Many comments about Common Core math show an image of a paper and a comment pointing out a publisher’s mistake or a ridiculous problem. Rani illustrates the process. This is important because we all need to know the process used to teach math before criticizing it.

    I’m not a math teacher but as a science teacher, I have taught a lot of math. In addition I helped each of my three daughters with math as they were growing up. What I learned is that young children learn and understand when math is concrete. That is counting real objects and cutting objects into pieces (fractions). Two older math programs, Family Math and Math, their way, were wonderful at promoting understanding. However when kids get to elementary school it is time to work on number facts.

    Should problems be drawn out so students can visualize? Of course. But this does not have to be done for every problem as it becomes tedious. Imagine having to go through the process outlined by Rani for 20 problems! Approaches to problems vary. I’ve learned that it is best to focus on one or two for students to learn well before incorporating more. When novice learners are faced with multiple approaches, it confuses and frustrates many of them.

    Given what I am hearing about CCSS mathematics, I wonder if the unintended consequence will be more young people lacking confidence and skills in math. I say this because I have yet to find peer reviewed research showing the method described by Rani results in improved student achievement.

  2. Linda Dowe Kingman says:

    Common core math reminds me of “new math” taught years ago. My stepson had to figure out 9 x 9 by adding a column of 9 nines! I taught him his multiplication tables and voila, his math problems were solved. Let’s teach basics, like the multiplication tables (which also helps with division by the way). As they get older if they want to know “why” it works they can learn it then. Get back to basics, reading, writing and, yes, old-fashioned, ‘rithmetic!

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