Freaked out by common core math?
Here’s how you can drop the fear and support your child:
Just mention “common core math” to any parent of school-aged kids in the US and chances are you’ll hear a strong opinion. Parents often say things like: “Why is common core so confusing?” or “Shouldn’t finding the right answer be enough?” Some parents see value in the newer approach while many others are left unsure or incredibly frustrated.
If you find yourself as one of the reluctant parents, you have valid concerns! But Common Core is likely here to stay.
After almost a decade of growing pains, Common Core Math standards are used in the vast majority of US. Even amongst states that have technically “moved away” from the Common Core, most of them have replaced it with local standards that are extremely similar to the national model. Our kids will most likely be taught math with Common Core curriculum, so our goal is to help you support your child’s educational development and success.
So how can you as a parent get comfortable with Common Core and encourage your child in her math education? Here are some ideas:
- Talk positively about math. (Pst: this means no complaints about Common Core within earshot of your child).
Try to be positive of the Common Core approach when you speak with your child. Avoid undermining your child’s learning process by saying “that’s a silly way to do it!” or “Here’s how I learned to solve this problem.” Remember: Your kid loves you and looks up to you. If you undermine the Common Core learning process, there is a good chance she won’t trust it either.
What about when you can’t figure out how to help your 4th grader with his homework? Try using phrases that acknowledge the challenge without bashing Common Core. “I learned this differently so I’m not quite sure how to help, but we can figure this out together.” By being open about your own unpracticed skill you are helping your child develop a growth mindset. You are sending her the message that even if you aren’t “good” at something right away, she can work at it, learn, improve, and succeed.
- Look through your child’s homework notebook.
So many parents rely on their child’s words to learn about their day in the classroom. Not always the most reliable source! Try flipping through their folder or notebook and see what memories come up for you. Do you remember learning multiplication tables, too? Tell them about it! Connect with them in positive ways using your own math experiences.
Didn’t have positive math experiences? That’s okay! You can still share with them how cool it is that THEY are learning these new things. And you may just learn more about what’s going on for them at school while you peruse.
- Remember that different is just different.
The way students learn in math classes today is different from how you learned in school, but different does not equal “bad.” In fact compared to more traditional methods, curriculums based on Common Core standards are more effective at developing critical thinking skills and preparing students for advanced mathematics.
Coincidentally, much of what makes Common Core so great for kids is also what makes it so scary for you: it’s comprehensive and requires more steps.
Although Common Core standards still focus on knowing formulas and solving math problems, there is an added focus on understanding math concepts. Conceptualizing math seems weird or foreign to those of us that were not taught that way, but it is a powerful and important tool that will make future learning easier for our kids.
- Recognize there is power in the process
One of the main goals of Common Core math is to help students understand WHY formulas work.
Before Common Core, many math programs focused on students memorizing formulas and getting the right answer. Sure kids may get the correct number at the end of the problem, but really understanding math is much more than “getting the problem right.” It’s about asking “What do I see?”, finding patterns, making connections, finding a way in, and realizing WHY you have successfully solved a problem.
Trying to solve a math equation without understanding why and how it works can be incredibly frustrating if you don’t get the right answer. Many times, if the formula “didn’t work,” kids had no idea where it went wrong or how to approach it next time.
Common Core math fixes this. It teaches kids the how and why behind math formulas in small steps, so they can know exactly where they went wrong and how to do it right next time.
- Try and appreciate how Common Core links math to real-world learning with world problems and cross-subject content.
Well, Common Core rocks at applying math to life through word problems and other real-world applications. Not only does this make the process of learning math more interesting to your student, but it ties mathematics in with other subjects. Solving math problems with Common Core methodology can involve drawing, writing, and using numbers to help kids answer questions in new ways.
This may sound overly complicated, but really it takes into account that kids learn differently and can approach a problem from many angles. Kids who learn via Common Core are going to be more prepared for the interdisciplinary models of high school and college learning. There’s pay off in the long run!
Want to support this real world learning? Talk to your child about math concepts when you are cooking (ratios), at the grocery store (pricing per unit, shapes, division, multiplication), or playing board games as a family (statistics, logic, visual spatial reasoning). All of these things can help you connect to your child and support their math learning in ways that feel “fun” and apply Common Core principles.
Common Core standards have forever changed the way educators approach math. Many of the changes come with undeniable benefits to help our develop critical thinking and reasoning. So getting on board with Common Core and supporting their learning at home will only help! (And hey, you may just learn a few things about math in the process!)