Math specialist Nick Freathy began Monday’s parent meeting on Common Core state math standards by asking: What is 75% of 16?
Parents arrived at the answer in different ways:
1) .75 x 16 = 12.
2) 16 ÷ 4 x 3 = 12
3) 75% is ¾ of 100%, so if 16 represents 100%, then the answer to the question must be ¾ of 16 = 12.
Freathy’s point was that there are numerous ways of approaching a mathematics question, and Common Core standards focus not only on reaching the correct answer, a number that doesn’t change, but on how students tackle problems by grouping numbers.
The old days of memorizing flash cards are being replaced by Common Core math standards that encourage analysis, critical thinking, strategies and skills to keep students from getting intimidated or lost as they progress into higher-level math.
“It’s not just about the math, it’s about the standards of practice, which say, we want to develop thinkers as well,” Freathy said.
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” he said of Common Core. “Sometimes parents think that the math is supposed to be more confusing when, in actuality, we’re asking kids to make more sense of the mathematics. It should start to make sense to them.”
The goal is to challenge math students with rigorous curriculum, not dumb it down, but to give students the tools to arrive at answers without memorization. Critical thinking and analysis are key life lessons regardless whether students become mathematicians or social workers, Freathy noted.
“We want you to construct viable arguments, critique the reasoning of others, we want you to make sense of problems in your world and persevere in solving them,” Freathy said of NUSD students.
“Parents can play a role in their kid’s math education by asking thoughtful questions, like ‘How did you get that?’ or ‘Why did you do it that way?’ in order to promote the thinking that we want students to do,” Freathy added.
The math specialist stressed that California need not stress over the change to Common Core mathematics. Nobody expects students – or teachers – to be experts overnight. “We’re all learning,” he said. “So it’s going to take time to transition.”
After Monday’s hour-long meeting, parents interviewed at random said they were less wary of Common Core math now.
Earnest Hill said he looks forward to learning Common Core math with his two children. Monday’s meeting, he said, “helped me to think a little different and opened my mind to new ideas.”
“Now I have a better understanding about why it’s so detailed and how he’s going to benefit from that in the future,” added another mother, Melissa August.
“What I gather from it is that it’s really a bigger thinking of math, it’s not just multiplying numbers, you’re trying to conceptualize it,” said Tamara Broman, mother of a 3rd grader. “I’m glad I came. I feel better about Common Core.”
Monday’s meeting was the first in a district-wide series of parent meetings about Common Core math. Click here for a schedule of dates and times.