America’s kids don’t need Common Core or its convoluted methods for solving simple math problems. Kids need Real Math Standards that work, and that is what school board member, math tutor, and teacher Steve Roberts is busy developing.
Introducing Draft Real Math Standards
The state board upon which I am privileged to serve essentially adopted Common Core in 2010, calling them “Kansas College and Career Ready Standards.” I was elected to the board in 2012 and sworn in to serve in January 2013.
At the January 2015 meeting of the Kansas State Board of Education I told my fellow board members that I would write new math standards. I think they were surprised. I mean, how can an individual actually write academic standards? Well, I had help. Over the course of a year I cobbled together a group of educators (primary, secondary, and post-secondary) as well as business leaders and technically minded folks including computer scientists and engineers. There were nurses, doctors, office managers, a variety of “blue collar” folks, and even a corporate vice-president involved in writing the standards. We spoke with legislators, judges, and government regulators and bureaucrats. We talked to dozens of parents and hundreds of students. I assembled a few hundred pieces of paper while I lived next to the Kickapoo Indian reservation in northern Kansas, where I taught secondary math and physical science for a year. The results of this effort comprise our Draft Standards from Real Math Standards.
We employed three professional writers, each of whom took three traditional grades to develop.
Most of all, we relied on fellow math teachers.
Those of us who love and teach the language of numbers understand the successive and sequential nature of mathematics. While we certainly disagreed on occasion and enjoyed numerous lively discussions about a wide variety of topics within the language of math, a few solid consequences and convictions emerged:
- Calculators are inherently bad for the practice of arithmetic in both early primary and primary grades.
- Not every student should be expected to matriculate through traditional Algebra II.
- Virtually every student should learn some basics of both geometry and algebra and (virtually) all should master arithmetic.
- The chronological age of a student is less important in learning the language of numbers than having instructors who can effectively instill a love of learning and a respect for numbers. To that end, the innovation from Real Math Standards is to combine two “traditional years” of work into a single year to facilitate the more rapid movement forward of students who are quick to learn the language.
It is with genuine humility that we are privileged to offer standards in the language of basic mathematics to replace the insipid and overly prescriptive tenets of “Common Core” math standards.
Technology for Math Study Should Begin Around Third Grade
Our recommendations for the use of calculators in math class are contained in our draft standards:
K-2 Early Primary – We recommend no calculator use in the practice of arithmetic skills. Admittedly, we “never say never.” For example, some kids on the autism spectrum or with certain degrees of Asperger’s Syndrome actually respond better to tablets and inanimate electronic devices than to people. We are just learning about this very interesting phenomenon. Genuinely gifted or talented youngsters should not be discouraged from calculator use, at any age. However, most kids should simply push a pencil across a page and think and read while they do it. Widespread data reinforces time-tested approaches to learning the tenets of numbers; holding a pencil and writing while thinking about numbers works very, very well for most students. Kids learn the language of numbers with practice.
3-5 Primary – We recommend limited use of calculators in the practice of arithmetic skills. Examples for the limited use would include calculations for long division with more than two digits in the divisor, and for discussions of the distinctions between rational and irrational real numbers. The language of numbers is enhanced with practice as much as it is with adventure and exploration. It is toward the end of these primary years that most children begin to approach competency with abstract ideas.
6-8 Intermediate – Calculator use should be monitored; arithmetic skills must be practiced through primary and intermediate grades. Reliance on calculators for basic computations is discouraged. Certain arithmetic facts should be committed to memory. We still practice arithmetic.
H.S. Secondary – Unlimited calculator use. By now students should have mastered arithmetic.
Not every child, obviously, crosses from primary-to-secondary in the progression from eighth grade to high school. Our systems need to put kids first, not the “system” itself.
Please read our reasons and leave a comment in our Talking Real Education Reform blog.