Sunday, November 24, 2013

My Thoughts on Education and Common Core Math

I remembering thinking this in 9th grade
Ever since school started in September, I’ve been trying to help my daughter with math. Keep in mind she has a learning disability. Her school now has The Core Curriculum for math in 7th grade and the format is much different than what they were doing last year. It’s mostly story problems, and a lot of kids are doing poorly. There was no review at the beginning of the year. They simply jumped into doing unit conversions. I’m decent in math, but this curriculum tends to use the most difficult or abstract way of doing the problems, which makes it difficult for any parent to help. I find myself staring at the examples, and I know that if I’m staring…7th graders are going to have a hard time with it.

I feel sorry for teachers these days. They have become nothing more than a tool to deliver a set curriculum. Sort of like a robot. All their creative teaching ability taken away…just as it’s taken away from the students - then flogged when their students fail.

The funny thing is that in one of my son’s college classes he has this book called “What the Best Students Do.” One chapter talks about two different types of students.

1. This student is focused on their test scores and grades. The biggest problem for these types of students is that they are more prone to panic during a test and score lower than they could simply because they can’t relax. Then if they score poorly on a test it can be devastating because their whole sense of worthiness is based on testing. Unfortunately, this type of student has the highest suicide rate as well. As I read this, it occurred to me that this is exactly the mindset that is promoted in public schools.

2. The other type of student studies because they are interested in the subject and they don’t worry about their grade. This type isn’t afraid to fail. They are free to discover their talents because despite all the stress over tests they are determined to do their own thing. These types love to learn and they don’t give up when they fail. These students are the ones that tend to go onto great careers.

Of course there are students who are in between these two extremes. However, these days public schools are trying turn everyone into type one. Test scores are the priority and schools compete against each other for those scores. Sure we have some great public schools, but more emphasis is put on how the United States is falling behind other countries no matter what we do. In an effort to improve scores, the government is taking more control of public schools. So in comes Core Curriculum and let me tell you, it’s not very good. In fact, it’s about as good as the Obamacare website. When will people realize that there is no magic curriculum that can fix everything?

Meanwhile they are sucking every ounce of motivation and creativity out of the children. This is combined with the problem that all high school students are now required to pass Algebra 2 to graduate, however, only a small percentage of American workers even use Algebra 2 in their jobs. Take a look at all the college programs that don’t require math, yet in high school everyone has to pass Algebra 2? How will this not increase the dropout rate?

Anyone does better if the motivation comes from within, rather than being forced to take required classes.

A lot of people place a great value on test scores as if the future of country hinges on it. But does it really? If you look back on some of the greatest scientists and inventors, you will find that they had problems in school. Einstein for example didn’t like how ridged school was in Germany. He didn’t do well in every subject - most likely because he didn’t care about every subject. Thomas Edison ended up being home schooled because he was ADHD, although diagnosed at the time. For most gifted students, formal education is mostly in their way.

A lot of students (and me) have the ability to study for a test, ace the test, and then in a few weeks forget it all. I had an 8 week statistics class that I remember nothing from because it went by too fast. So what do tests really measure? They measure the ability of a student to memorize and take the test. Why can’t we focus on individual talent and strive to motivate students to pursue those strengths? Not everyone is going to be a scientist, an engineer or a doctor, and we need people to fill all kinds of jobs. 

For more thoughts on Common Core, here are some links:

Why Young Kids are Struggling with Common Core Math

Common Core Massive Risky Experiment on your Kids

College and Work Ready

What's in Common Core

Lastly (after some research) I bought my own math curriculum and I have been doing it with daughter.   


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The ability to memorize and pass the test - you nailed it there.
School is actually the opposite of life. With school, it's the lesson and then the test, which as you stated, is the ultimate and they must pass. Life throws the test at you first (which you often fail) and then the lesson is learned.
And we wonder why so many kids today can't handle reality...

Julia Hones said...

I'm glad you wrote this.
I wrote something related to this subject on my blog.
When I was nine years old I was very stressed over maths because I did not have the maturity to understand certain mathematical activities/ concepts. Later in life, when I was seventeen I began to love maths.
Schools systems are short-sighted and narrow-minded. They don't understand the real purpose of education. Each kid has a unique set of talents and each kid has his/her own time to learn something. The system works like a fast food chain. It is obsolete.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

I sympathize with the problems you've exposed here. Educational quality is dropping fast in the United States. It does worry me, and math is one of those subjects that's exceedingly more important with each passing year. All the careers of the future will depend on math. Creativity and design are skills that practically everyone possesses and therefore, they are treated much like a penny stock is (without value). I hope that for your child's sake (and those of countless generations to follow) that the issue gets addressed or the United States is done for as a world leader and might as well resign itself to the same fate as Britain.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

I thought I commented on this post once. Hmm. Without math, you don't get very far in this world.