The heated debate in our state over the Common Core State Standards Initiative in math and English could really benefit from clear and accurate information about what the new standards are and what they are not.
Anyone weighing in on them, be it on social media or during school board meetings, and certainly anyone with children, ought to go online and read the standards. And since many Louisiana schools are using Eureka Math, which has won a positive review from the Louisiana Department of Education, parents out to check out these grade-by-grade tip sheets to better understand what their children are doing in school.
A close look at the standards, which describe what students ought to be able to do throughout their school years, reveals that they make good sense —generally encouraging students to think critically, analyze information and apply what they know toward solving problems. While some worry the content is too difficult for our kids, we must remember that children rise to the expectations we set for them, and our teachers can teach to this level of rigor.
In math, both the standards and Eureka encourage skills that help children become fluent in math rather than becoming calculator-dependent as in past school years.
Consider this second-grade example: Find the sum of 197+54. Rather than using the vertically aligned system and possibly a calculator, students are taught to use number relations to find the sum. So, students first determine how close 197 is to the nearest 100. It is three numbers away from 200. The next step is to rewrite 54 as 3+51. This is followed with (197+3)+51 or 200+51. This has a sum of 251.
I know, some people would say, “Why not just add the numbers?” Well, this method helps students gain a deeper understanding of math and numbers and solve problems quickly and accurately. Kids don’t develop this skill overnight, but with a little persistence and practice, it does come, and it will serve them well throughout life.
Louisiana needs to stay the course and continue with Common Core and the use of appropriate curriculum. In addition to supporting students, the state needs to continue to support teachers in their knowledge and understanding of the standards and curricula so they are effective in the classroom.
I urge parents, legislators, and influential community leaders to learn more about the standards and Eureka Math. If your local school system is using another curriculum, then learn as much as possible about that, so all of us involved in the academic lives of our students can help them succeed.
assistant professor of education at Northwestern State University, veteran math instructor