Evolving and changing keeps us moving forward. Traditions sometimes make way for new and more effective innovations. Parents in the U.S. however, are wondering if the new way schools are teaching math to students is more of a step back than a step forward.
Many schools in the U.S. are now using a set of fixed standards called the Common Core. These standards must be attained by the students by the time they graduate high school to help them be college and career-ready. It was drafted by experts and teachers to develop the “critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills students will need to be successful.”
The Common Core comes with new ways of teaching as well. Take multiplication for example. The Common Core sees multiplication not as a table to be memorized (repeated over and over again and drilled into heads) but as an abbreviated repeated addition. Common Core multiplication breaks down the equation to addition. Following this, 4 x 4 would be 4 + 4 + 4 + 4.
So, back to the story. Here’s a Common Core multiplication worksheet given to students that was uploaded to Imgur. It has now been viewed over 3.4 million times.
The first item on the worksheet asked to “Use the repeated addition strategy to solve: 5 X 3” The student answered “5 + 5 + 5” but is marked wrong. According to Common Core, the equation 5 x 3 means five groups of three, that’s why the answer should be 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3. Following the standard, 5 x 3 is not the same as 3 x 5 (which is the equation to the student’s answer) even though they yield the same product. The same goes for the second question. 4 x 6 is not six rows of four, but four rows (or groups) of six.
For parents, students from an older generation, it’s definitely an odd way of solving multiplication. How important is it that 5 x 3 is not the same as 3 x 5? According to the Common Core, it’s very important.
Whatever other might say however, Common Core has touched on something that’s important when studying math: that numbers and symbols are not abstract; break them down and they start making more sense.
Math makes the most sense to students if they can see the logic behind it, says Virgie Gayda Esteves, a math subject coordinator at the Ateneo Grade School which has adapted the Singapore method of math into its curriculum. When they undestand math theories concretely, it's easier to apply and use in everyday life. 5 x 3 is not just symbols on a paper. It’s a boy with 15 pens because he has 3 blue ones, 3 yellow ones, 3 green ones, 3 red ones and 3 black ones.