Common Core Clarity

I have a headache! My hands were actually trembling a few minutes ago. Over and over I keep hearing people complain about the Common Core Standards. I know nothing about the Language Arts Standards; I haven’t even read them, so guess what? I’m not going to say anything about them! Undoubtedly there are numerous people ‘out there’ who do not follow the same ‘rule of thumb’.

I came across a post on facebook today. Here is the link: In this video a woman is talking about the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics to some people in her state. (I think they were the state school board, but again I will admit that I really do not know.) She claims that the standards are “not rigorous…not college ready…[and] not preparing our students to compete in a global economy.” She also states that the statements to the contrary are “empty sales pitches from corporations and government agencies to profit from our kids and sell them downriver at the name of saving education.” Below is the following 4th grade example she provided.

Mr. [X’s] class has 18 students. If the class counts around by a number and ends with 90 what number did they count by?

She claimed that the students were “expected to draw 18 circles with 90 hash marks solving this problem in exactly 108 steps.”

In her defense she only had 3 minutes to make her point; however, she did not read the standard from which this problem probably was derived. I will include it here for my readers (the notation is included for educators who should be familiar with the format).  

CCSS.Math.4NBT6 – Find whole-number quotients and remainders with up to 4-digit dividends and one-digit divisors, using strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationships between multiplication and division. Illustrate and explain the calculation by using equations, rectangular arrays and/or area models.

No where in the Common Core standards would 4th graders be expected to solve this problem in the manner she described. The standard simply states that students should use strategies based on… A student could solve this problem

* using their understanding of doubles: 18 + 18 is 36 (that’s 2), 36 and 36 is 72 (that’s 4) and 72 + 18 is 90 (that’s 5). They counted by 5’s. 

* using their understanding of divisibility rules: I know that the only way an 8 in the one’s place will give me a 0 in the one’s place is if I multiply it by 10 or 5. 10 groups of 18 is 180 (that’s too much). Since 90 is half of 180, I know that I need half as many groups. So they counted by 5’s.

The Common Core Standards do not say that students should never learn how to use a traditional algorithm for computation. The standards simply encourage that students develop a conceptual understanding of the operation before being taught the traditional algorithm. Parents (and teachers) are doing their students an injustice when teaching the traditional algorithms too soon. For many children being shown the algorithm too soon hinders their development of conceptually understanding the operation.

Please READ the Common Core Standards before sharing an “uninformed” opinion. I have provided links below to help make this reading more accessible.

(Note: I am creating an additional blog site where I will discuss my thoughts on just about anything. It will be titled “Robynisms On Things”

Lattice Multiplication

When I started teaching 6th grade 22 years ago (Oh my goodness that was a long time ago!) I came across this cute little trick to multiplication. It was called Lattice Multiplication. If you are unfamiliar with the trick, you can google it. Yes, I taught it to my students for a couple of years. Yes, it was nice to finally have a way for some students to always get a multiplication problem correct. But that was back when I thought that correct answers was all that mattered.

After reading research and books regarding mathematical understanding I have a different opinion about Lattice Multiplication. John Van de Walle stated in one of his books that “Correct answers do not mean understanding”.

Does Lattice Multiplication teach anything about place value? No. Does it involve place value? Of course it does; that’s what makes it work. But unfortunately very few students can explain mathematically why it works. Therefore, let’s just not show it to students.