Rotten to the (Common) Core
Rotten to the (Common) Core

Have you seen this %fuck-yer video? Hilarity. Oh, obviously not work safe. Or possibly kid safe if your kids aren’t mine. 

Onto more pressing things. This is turning into a Common Core blog! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to, I swear! This video popped up today and I’ve spent the day in awe of it. I showed it to my dad, who said, in so many words, it’s nuts and math facts are math facts and you memorize them and move on to higher maths. I showed it to my fourteen year old who told me “I would put my middle finger up at the teacher and tell them the answer is 15!” and I was glowing with maternal punk pride, because fuck the man!, and glowing with maternal parental pride because mental math for the win!

I can’t even understand how their “comfort” or “discomfort” with numbers comes into play. It’s a freaking math fact. Not math philosophy where they need existential knowledge to manipulate advanced mathematical theory. We’re not trying to tackle the mysteries of the time-space continuum. We’re just trying to add 9+6. What happens when, using this convoluted system, the child breaks six up into 2+4 or 3+3 instead of 1+5? What happens to base ten when the numbers in question don’t add up to ten? What happens when they are confronted with larger numbers that don’t group easily into tens? 

Tonight my daughter had a grouping of circles (pennies, according to the word problem) in seven lines of thirteen. Not so easily grouped into tens, eh? So, 13*7 to find out “how many pennies in all?”, which, by the way, she insisted was an addition problems because of the words “in all” and she counted them all individually instead of multiplying 13*7. Or 12*7 +7 (because we’re working on our twelve times tables and not thirteens). Don’t even mention calling it (10*7) + (3*7), it just confused her. I don’t think they’re even teaching PEMDAS anyway, which is asinine, because who doesn’t remember Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally and know immediately how to solve a more advanced equation? 

I’m not saying I’m a math genius. I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again. Math made zero sense to me until I was “in the real world” and doing “real world math.” I failed algebra multiple times because I could get the answer right, but I couldn’t show my work. My work was a bunch of unrelated math steps that had no bearing at all on my final answer. I wouldn’t say it’s savant level by any stretch, but math answers just happen for me. I was amazing at chemistry and physics. Applied math baby! Don’t give me arbitrary numbers and tell me they represent imaginary numbers (unless said number symbol is i) because it just doesn’t work for me. But I can do some mental math. I can add 9+6 in the same amount of time it takes to ask what is 9+6. And that’s how it should be. It shouldn’t require four extra steps. 

E had another math problem, 3*157. This got broken up into (3*100)+(3*50)+(3*7). That’s four extra steps and at least four extra places to make sloppy mistakes. Which she did, because in adding the results (300+150+21) she had the columns lined up wrong or something. If she had just multiple 3*157 she wouldn’t have had columns (in this particular math problem anyway) and it would have been right because she was solving the problem to its completion. There would be no need of columns and extra addition. One chance to get it right, not four to get it wrong. That’s a huge difference in odds! I’d jump at having only one opportunity to make a mistake rather than spread it out and have four opportunities. Who wouldn’t? This isn’t the lottery where more chances is better. 

The lack of teaching mental math and breaking it down into “easily manageable steps” (debatable) is what is making twenty minutes of homework, tops!, take over two hours. It’s making it involve tears and whining and shouting. It’s making me want to rip my hair out because if I teach her how to do it quicker (DuckTales has been enjoying an internet revival, remember how Scrooge McDuck filled his money bin? “Work smarter, not harder!”) then it’s marked wrong for not showing all the proper (useless) steps. 

Common Core touts that it wants to do away with rote memorization. I’m down with that, to an extent, because I know it’s hard. Two of my three kids struggled with their multiplication tables. I’m still struggling with the little one because she just doesn’t get it. But *all* the math hinges on just knowing these right away! You can’t tell me one minute that they have to memorize them and they have to be able to do a full set in under two minutes and tell me the next minute that Common Core says they don’t need to memorize this but all the work still depends on them knowing the tables! 

I call our district. I email our district. I email my local and state representatives. I get form letters back. My dad tells me to tell them I don’t need the cockroach letter. 



P.S. – “The cockroach letter” is an old story about a man who had encountered a cockroach in his hotel room. He wrote a letter to the management and received what he felt was a thoughtful reply that strongly stated their regrets and determination to address the problem. Then he noticed a memo in the envelope. It said, “Send this pain in the ass the cockroach letter.” My Zaide tells this story with much more personality. I just copied and pasted it from one of the many sources of the exact same story description floating around the internet. Google “cockroach letter” if you don’t believe me. 


    • I’ve seen that before. Sadly, it makes more sense than what they are teaching my kid right now, and even it has more room for error (IMO) than “old fashioned” multiplication.

      My issue isn’t with Common Core in and of itself, my issue is that it seems to focus *only* on math and science (I haven’t seen any language arts come home, unless reading novels counts, but there seems to be little-to-no writing work involved with those, less than a quarter of the math/science I’ve seen so far this year). The general concept behind CC is a good one (for everyone to be on the same page, but hey, the concept behind “no child left behind” was a good one too, and look what happened there!), however, the implementation stinks.

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