Thursday, May 21, 2015

Common Misconceptions About the Common Core

It's come to my attention lately, that there are many misconceptions about the Common Core. Well, actually I've been aware of this since the beginning, but there have been a few conversations I've had lately that have led me to this post.

Before I address three misconceptions about the Common Core, I will first give you some background about me. I taught elementary school (grades 3-5) for six years. I worked hard in many different committees and took a lot of extra classes during those six years. I was able to work with committees within my school, district, and even had opportunities outside of my district to dissect the Common Core, learn about it, and find out how to apply it to teaching. In addition, I enrolled in graduate school in 2012. I have five classes remaining before I  obtain my degree. The plan (was/is/I don't know right now) for me to obtain a Master's in Curriculum and Instruction with a Mathematics Consulting Teacher Certificate (that's a mouthful). With the Common Core, districts and schools are highly likely to hire math coaches and my plan was to become one. This is all to say that I have a relatively solid understanding of the Common Core mathematics side of things and I'm pretty well-versed in the standards.  

Common Core new math

Some of the common misconceptions about the CCSS include:

1. Common Core is a Curriculum
The Common Core is a set of standards that have been adopted by many different states nationwide. Schools and districts have been operating on their own set of standards for years. The Common Core is a nation-wide set of standards and the standards are much higher than many/most districts have ever seen. The standards require critical thinking and application skills from early on. The bar has been raised for our students.

I often here or see comments like, "This Common Core problem I saw..." and that statement is misleading and inaccurate. Districts adopt or use whatever curriculum they choose that meets their standards--just as they always have. The problem that a person is often referring to was created by a textbook company, a school district, or even the teacher him/herself but was not created by the Common Core. The Common Core tells teachers what they need to cover in their classroom every year, the problems/tasks/lessons they use to cover those standards come from their curriculum or are their own creation. To see and understand these standards (and to see that there is no curriculum or set of problems attached) see here.

2. The Common Core is Introducing "New" Ideas and Pedagogy
This is math specific as I haven't heard anyone yet complain about the "new writing" that they are teaching kids these days. I sure have heard a lot of "new math" comments. The math isn't new. Math is math. It has always been. The approach to teaching math is a new concept and idea for many, but even that isn't new. In fact many of you likely use the approaches and strategies used to teach mathematics conceptually without realizing it. I have sat in on many math classes as teachers are being taught to teach math conceptually and most teachers will say, "Oh! I do that, I just didn't know I could/should/or that I was doing it!" 

Without a full understanding of the scope and sequence of the mathematics Common Core, it's hard to see how it all fits together, but it does. The approach to teaching math allows students to access a problem from a variety of angles and ways. This is something that people in mathematical career fields do inherently anyway.

This math that has been introduced has been used in other countries successfully for years. Countries like Singapore and Finland teach math conceptually and some of the most renowned mathematicians have been constructing mathematical instructional books with specific instruction to lead to conceptual understanding in math for years. This is the first time their approaches have been outright honored by standards, but they should have been taught all along. 

3. The Benefits of the Common Core
This new approach to math was introduced in many states prior to the Common Core. Idaho was actually one of them. All teachers were required to take an updated Developing Mathematical Thinking course that the state paid for. This course addressed this idea of teaching math conceptually to students. Many of these states introduced this approach because state colleges were seeing high declines in students entering science and mathematical fields. We want good jobs in those fields and we want them in the United States. We want our nation to remain competitive and strong, so we have to increase those numbers and we have to help our students gain a more solid understanding of mathematical concepts.

Futhermore, when you pool together the resources and money from many different places to create standards, you're more likely to find quality work. The standards flow well together, they work with one another, and they promote higher level thinking and critical thinking skills. This does not happen with limited resources and professionals working together to create a scope and sequence for grades K-12. 

What are some things you have heard or think about the Common Core? Can I help clear anything up?

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