News from Mathnasium of St. Peter's North
Are You a Parent Frustrated with Common Core Math Standards?
Aug 11, 2017
You aren’t alone. Lately, many parents in St Peters have been scratching their head in confusion as they looked at their child’s math work. Common core standards are shifting math education. Parents are frustrated by not understanding what their child is being asked to do in math.
Even some teachers and educators are baffled by some of the changes in the way they have to teach math. Children just starting school don’t know math instruction any other way, but children in older grades are being asked to do longer and more complex problems than they ever had to do before. A lot of parents have asked us at Mathnasium, “What are Common Core Math Standards?” and “Why is math suddenly being taught differently?”
Common Core State Standards set guidelines and criteria to help educators know what lessons to include in the curriculum. As an example, a 4th grade math standard is “Use the four operations with whole numbers to solve problems.” It is up to the school district and educators to decide how to teach fourth graders to add, subtract, multiply and divide to solve problems.
Change is the Source of Frustration
Think of it as a parent. Let’s pretend the state created life skills standards for parents to follow. A standard would go something like this, “A 5 year old will learn to dress herself independently.” The parent would know to include ways to fasten shoes and clothes on the curriculum. Finally lessons would be created and taught on buttoning, zipping, snapping, tying, buckling, and straps.
But what if the standards changed? The new standards said 5 year old children have to know how to dress themselves independently AND explain why they chose certain clothes AND describe their approach to fastening. Your lessons would have to change to so your child can meet the new standards. You would have to include lessons you didn’t have to include before. That is exactly what is happening in math education. Teachers must change their lessons and teaching style so children can meet the new standards.
Let’s say your child has been successfully meeting the standards for 5 years before the standards change. Now they are being asked to explain and describe tasks when before they just had to do the tasks.
So What Changed with the New Common Core Math Standards?
The standards aim to teach deep mathematical thinking and to prepare children for the jobs of tomorrow. From Kindergarten to 12th grade there were 3 key shifts in the math standards.
- Each concept will be taught in more depth to build a solid understanding. Students must be able apply math skills to solve complex problems.
- Math concepts build on each other in progression and new learning must be integrated with previous learning.
- Students will understand key concepts and procedural skills and be able to apply their procedural skills and conceptual understanding to a variety of problems.
In short, children will have a deeper understanding of all math and not just follow a series of steps to arrive at an answer. The problem is learning how to achieve the goals. This is difficult and switching a paradigm of thinking is even more difficult. After years of teaching and learning under one set of standards, expect some struggles as everyone adapts to the new criteria.
What Does that Mean for My Child?
Children who entered kindergarten in the last few years, started their schooling with the new standards and will probably be better prepared for future grades. Middle school and high school children will have to shift the way they think about math. And parents who help their children will have to shift the way they help their children. Parents can’t rely on just showing a child the tricks they learned in school. Today’s children must think on a deeper level, apply math differently, and explain their thinking.
Since mathematical thinking builds from one grade to another, tenth graders are now struggling to meet standards because they lack the mathematical foundation for achieving them. Even fifth graders lack the vocabulary and higher order thinking skills in math needed to transition to the current rigorous standards. Many students in St Peters are struggling to adapt. Right answers aren’t enough if they can’t explain how they got it or why they approached it a certain way. Parents don’t have the tools to help them.
What Can Parents in St Peters Do to Help Their Children Succeed with the Common Core?
After conferences and report cards, parents are often dismayed to learn their child needs math remediation. Parents can look at the new standards and ask the teachers for help. Sometimes the school district, or the school, has parent education nights explaining topics in math. Those are valuable opportunities to learn. Unfortunately, few parents have time to learn the new standards.
How Mathnasium Helps
At Mathnasium of St Peters we understand the standards. We know what typically frustrates children in different grade levels as they attempt to transition to the new standards. Our extensive, no-risk assessment uncovers any gaps in their mathematical foundation. Then we take the time to explain to the parent and child exactly where a child is struggling.
If you come to us for instruction, we address each gap in conceptual understanding and number sense. We use many approaches to replace misconceptions with solid understanding. We go at the pace of each individual child. The child’s confidence and ability to perform high-level tasks sky rockets. After getting instruction at Mathnasium, 89% of parents report that their children’s attitude towards math improved (and 6% said their children already loved it prior to coming to Mathnasium).
Children learn math in different ways and at different speeds. Some children have a learning style that doesn’t fit well with the traditional classroom. Some children need more repetition or kinesthetic experiences than the school offers. At Mathnasiusm of St Peters North, we teach each child using the approach that makes sense to the individual. We go at the pace of each student, so they experience success not frustration.
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