Three school maths problems have thousands of people on Facebook and Reddit talking.
The reason? Even though the student’s answers appear to be totally correct, they were still marked wrong and the student lost points.
Here’s one of the problems, a question about estimation from a third-grade maths test. The problem was posted on Facebook by a parent last Thursday and has already been shared over 17,000 times.
“I can’t not call out the complete insanity of this Common Core Maths. Please explain to me in what CRAZY, BACKWARDS, MAKE BELIEVE WORLD this makes sense??” writes the parent in the caption.
In case you’re not familiar with it, the Common Core is a controversial set of curricular standards required for every student in the United States in maths and English.
Some people began commenting that they found the estimation problem ridiculous and a prime example of why the Common Core is ineffective.
“If all the parents make sure their kids write the problem out and not give in to the madness hopefully the teachers will grasp what is wrong with Common Core,” writes one commenter.
“Exact answer are ALWAYS better that estimation. So we penalise for exact answers. This is exactly why our country is losing so much ground on so many levels,” write another.
Of course, the photo does not include the instructions for the assignment, so there could be information missing that would better explain how the kids were supposed to answer the question.
On Reddit, a similar debate arose on Wednesday over two maths questions about repeated addition strategy, which is used to explain multiplication problems through addition.
“If that’s true,” wrote one commenter. “I’d be having a talk with my kids teacher.”
We talked to a New York high school maths and physics teacher, Frank Noschese, to get to the bottom of these questions.
For the estimation question, Noschese explained that while the answer is technically correct, the teacher was probably looking for an answer involving rounding, such as 100-25=75, rather than the exact calculation the student provided.
“These questions make for poor paper and pencil questions because we want the kids to do the estimating in their heads,” Noschese told TI. “They’re more suited for discussion in class.”
And for the repeated addition question, Noschese explained that the students had most likely been taught a specific method to use.
“If the teacher specifically said ‘5×3 means five groups of three and 4×6 means four groups of six’ these answers are wrong because of the teacher’s forced interpretation,” Noschese told TI. “But mathematically, what the kid did is also valid. Kids likely know that five groups of three is equal to three groups of five.”
While both topics, estimation and repeated addition, are part of the Common Core standards, Common Core does not have a standardised way teachers are supposed to teach them.
“The standards just lay out what kids should know and be able to do, not actual lessons,” Noschese said. “Nothing in Common Core forces the specific interpretation these teachers used.”
Stephen Sigmund, the executive director of High Achievement New York and Common Core supporter, told Tech Insider something similar.
“The Common Core is not a curriculum, it’s a set of standards student are expected to meet to help close achievement gaps and prepare them for college and the workforce,” Sigmund told TI. “The way the teachers put in place curriculum and meet those standards is entirely there own.”
Though Common Core standards remain hotly debated, it seems, at least with these questions, the issue isn’t with Common Core, but with the teachers implementing it.
“Nobody is saying kids shouldn’t learn about estimation, ” Christopher Danielson, author of “Common Core Maths for Parents For Dummies” told TI. “That’s an important concept to learn, it’s just being taught poorly in some schools.”
And, as Noschese pointed out on Twitter, it seems like the larger complaint here might not be the curriculum, but rather, those all-important A’s.
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