Parents and teachers across the country are freaking out over the new Common Core education standards, which encourage a different way of teaching maths.
Teachers are now told to focus on comprehension and theory rather than rote learning and memorizing formulas.
Critical thinking is a major goal of the Common Core, which was created in 2009 to even the playing field by giving every state a universal set of standards to measure learning. It’s an admirable goal, but it’s become a headache for parents who don’t understand the new teaching methods and find themselves unable to help their kids with their homework.
But these maths methods aren’t really new. Americans have been trying to reform maths education for decades, according to an article in The New York Times.
The Times writes:
The same pattern played out in the 1960s, when schools gripped by a post-Sputnik inferiority complex unveiled an ambitious “new maths,” only to find, a few years later, that nothing actually changed. In fact, efforts to introduce a better way of teaching maths stretch back to the 1800s. The story is the same every time: a big, excited push, followed by mass confusion and then a return to conventional practices.
The problem is, according to The Times, that teachers aren’t given the right tools to implement the new methods.
The Common Core standards are even more ambitious than previous attempted maths reforms, yet teachers reportedly spend only a few days in training on how to implement the new methods in their classrooms.
And many teachers grew up learning maths by memorizing formulas and multiplication tables, which means they might have hard time understanding the new methods of learning maths themselves. If they don’t understand it well, they won’t be very effective at teaching it. As a result, students will be confused by the new methods.
Further compounding the problem, the old ways of learning maths might be ingrained in American teachers’ minds. Sociologist Dan Lortie theorizes that teachers learn to teach by recalling how they were taught.
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