What Happened to Teaching Math so Kids Actually Learn it?

What Happened to Teaching Math so Kids Actually Learn it?

Math.  Ugh.  What used to be the bane of most students’ existence is now becoming the bane of most parents’ existence.  Why?  Common Core.  

I’m sure you’ve heard the debate about common core, but unless you have a child experiencing it, I doubt you have a full grasp of the ridiculousness that is Common Core mathematics.  The focus has become not on getting the correct answer but on the process of getting to that answer.  Now, usually, I’m all for process over product, but the thing about math is: There is only 1 right answer.  2+2 will never be anything other than 4!  And the problem with Common Core mathematics is there is no TIME to teach the math facts like 2+2=4.  (And I’m not making that up, I heard it from the mouth of a teacher at Honeybun’s school that they do not have TIME in their day to teach the math facts, that is the responsibility of the parent to do at home!) 

But the problem with that is, I don’t have the TIME at home to teach Honeybun the fact because I have to do the ridiculous Common Core workbook for homework.  Case in point:  yesterday, it took us 15 minutes of arguing, struggling and getting frustrated with each other (and the work) to answer ONE question.  Here it is: 

Teni has 16 berries. She has a number of berries two greater than Marta. Use cubes to model the sets of berries. Compare the sets. Which set is larger? Draw the cubes. Write how many in each set. Circle the greater number. Tell a friend how you compared the numbers. 

Umm, ok.  My brain automatically knows that Marta has 14.  But Honeybun’s 5 year old brain doesn’t know that because she hasn’t learned her addition/subtraction facts.  So because we don’t have cubes (note: nearly every question in her math HOMEWORK book requires the use of counters, cubes or tiles, none of which we own) we use legos.  I have her count out 16 legos and we lay them out in a “ten frame” (a modeling method the book uses to show 10s: 5 on top, 5 underneath).  I reread her the question and ask her how she would model with the blocks how many Marta has.  She adds 2.  I explain that 14 (the original blocks) is how many TENI had and Teni has MORE than Marta, so how would she show how many Marta has?  She tells me she needs to take away.  Ok, cool.  We’ve got it.  Nope, 10 minutes later and she still won’t move two blocks away despite me reasking, rephrasing and rereading the question multiple times!  I refuse to just give her the answer or tell her exactly what to do.  FINALLY, she gets it and knows Marta has 14.  

Now the drawing part.  She’s supposed to draw 16 “cubes” for Teni and 14 “cubes” for Marta.  I know about these “cubes” (Unifix cubes, actually), they’re about ¾” square (I looked it up!) and this is the space she was given to draw 30 cubes!: 


 So, I’m pretty good at math and a quick mental calculation told me there is NO WAY she can get 16  cubes and 14 cubes in that box!  So, as you can see we opted for “berries” instead since that’s what the question asked anyways. 

This is just one example of the Kindergarten math ridiculousness I’ve been putting up with this year.  This is what her math homework book looks like: 


 Most pages only have 2 or 3 questions and the focus is always on modeling the problem. She is required to count cubes and airplanes or draw counters and birds.  And the back of almost every single page is 3 questions which are all fill in the bubble questions.  Yes, I totally see how Common Core is reducing the problem of “teaching to the test”… 

This is how I remember learning basic addition and subtraction (though my pages weren’t nearly as colorful and didn’t have princesses on them!  This is a Basic Addition and Subtraction workbook I bought Honeybun at the dollar store to help her learn her facts which  I then placed in  page protectors so she can use a dry erase marker and do it over and over again): 


 I know rote memorization is not the best way to teach most things, but one something like addition and subtraction facts, a certain about of memorization is necessary.  Because I was forced to learn my facts, I was easily able to learn and excel as trickier math.  I didn’t have to sit there and count on my fingers or use counters and cube trains.  I knew that 2+2 is 4 so I could easily figure out that 12+2 is 14.  I didn’t need a ten frame to do basic addition. 

My frustration with the Common Core Mathematics curriculum comes from a concern for what my child is learning—or more specifically, not learning.  If I (a person who gets math and is good at math and in the right circumstances actually even likes math) am struggling with helping my child with this work, how is a parent who maybe isn’t so confident in math going to help their child?