Jumping on the “common core” disgust bandwagon


When I was teaching, I found it odd that each state had it’s own standards with which they taught kids. They could be very different, slightly similar, or exactly the same. I was of the impression that it would be best if we were all teaching the same thing because kids might move, go to college in a different state, etc. Plus, we all took/take the same standardized tests.

So, when I started hearing about “common core” and “common curriculum” honestly, I didn’t do much research. I very wrongly assumed it would be what I thought would be ideal (stupid of me, I know this). And, it never dawned on me that I wouldn’t really know where these standards were coming from and who was deciding these things. Let alone that things would be taught so differently.

I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Every week, I check our first grader’s homework. I know I’m lucky, she does it in one sitting, sometimes two if she gets bored. And, then I stare at some of the questions because I have no freaking idea what the answer is. I would try to work them out, rationalize them, etc. And then they would come home wrong. Dude. I have a BS and MS in chemistry/math. I shouldn’t be getting 1st grade math assignments wrong. And if I am, how can I help my 1st grader.

So, then I relinquished the “tricky” ones to the husband. Now both of us are looking over 1st grade homework, and both of us (him also with a BA and MS) are stumped. What am I going to do when these problems actually involve addition and subtraction? I’ve seen these “funny” math problems already and I’m terrified.

Here’s just one little example I posted to Facebook this week. I know it’s a terrible picture. Every week there is at least one like this on there. And every week, I can rationalize that any one of the three is the correct answer. (Yes, the 1st grader always answers first and she tells her reason. So, as long as she has a reason and I think it holds water, we just discuss and move on).

But, when the replies started coming in on both Facebook and Instagram and everybody else was just as puzzled or perplexed, I was concerned. I thought this was typical first grade problems. But a couple people started mentioning common core and common curriculum. I decided I’d better dig around a little more.

Sad doesn’t even describe what I’ve found. I realize I’m super late on this and everybody is probably like “duh, Krystyn, get out from under that rock.” But, this common core stuff? I don’t see any advantages of it. If I have to learn new math and not carry numbers and use 10-frames, what will happen to our kids in a couple years when they decide to go back to normal math? (Mr. Serious participates in a buddy program every other week mentoring a kid in 4th grade. The little boy needed help with his math homework. Mr. Serious could do the problem, but he couldn’t fill in the strange boxes that were supposed to help with the problem solving.)

This is me, jumping on the “I hate common core bandwagon.”

Unfortunately, I don’t know what to do from here, or how to help? Right now, private school isn’t an option for us. Homeschooling isn’t really an option for me that I would like to yet pursue.

*And the answer the teacher provided to the problem via her answer sheet. It’s the first one, because it doesn’t have two groups of 5. I argue however, if you go across horizontally, it does have two groups of 5. Just like the second one does, with lines going vertically and horizontally. And, technically, the third one has four groups of 5. Two white and two black. The 1st grader said that it was the third one because the dots were touching and weren’t touching in the other two. 

 Is there anything I can do, or are we just stuck riding out this nonsense? 

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  1. Math was taught so differently when I was in elementary school about 15 years ago. I never needed help from my parents, everything was very straight forward. Now when I see my nieces and nephews coming over and doing their math homework, I can’t even help them because I don’t understand! The curriculum has changed so much and it’s sad when you don’t even know what to do about it!

  2. Math definitely wasn’t my strong point, I’m so glad my son it better at it than I am!

  3. I would have gone with the first one for the same reason that your teacher gave. But it’s a poor example, really.

    We’re in the Common Core nightmare down here in the Sunshine State, too. I have a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grader, and I have terminal degrees in advanced subjects, and this new way of doing math throws me for a loop! Ugh!

  4. What in the world!? I thought my son’s math homework was bad! But that is even worse! We aren’t full scale common core yet. They still use some of the old math stuff; but I can definitely tell when the Common core stuff comes home because no one can figure out what the heck anyone is talking about on the problems.

    I also struggle, because I can help my 4th grader do his math problems; but we get them wrong because we didn’t use the Common core “method” of solving 72 + 46 =
    We didn’t use the graph, or boxes or use crazy shapes and X’s to figure it out in some method that doesn’t even make sense and actually makes the entire math problem 3 times as difficult!

    I’ve always hated Common core…and I’m nervous I will need to take a serious look at Homeschooling in the next year or two.

  5. That’s definitely different than what I remember, but I think I got it right? LOL!

  6. Oh man. I feel like I need to be researching this crap too! I have heard stories from other mothers about schools teaching kids to spell words how they sound… and not actually how they’re spelled. And for their homework they had to actually spell the words wrong. What kind of crap is that?!

    I’m in the same boat as you, private schools and homeschool really isn’t an option right now but I seriously dread sending my girls to public schools. I have 2 more years to decide!

  7. It’s so frustrating, isn’t it?

    My third grader’s math teacher was explaining subtraction with regrouping(not a new concept for my son) BUT he told them that they don’t have to go from right to left. They could start subtracting anywhere and then borrow from the answer instead of up top, like usual. (and yes, this is what he was taught- I know b/c my son also does all of his math lessons via video for homework- which is a separate issue from common core- and just his teacher jumping on the “flipped classroom” bandwagon).

    Now, doing subtraction that way can still get you the right answer. But WHY would you teach kids that? It’s so much more confusing and messy. Sometimes kids just need to be taught that THIS is the way to do something. There’s room for creativity and different approaches in other areas, but for the basics, why not just keep them basic?

  8. I had such a hard time with math when I was in school, and honestly, I wasn’t much help when my daughter went to school. I would be of NO help at all if she had to do common core, it looks ridiculous!

  9. https://www.facebook.com/StopCommonCoreInGeorgia

    We can get active! With common core there is no parental influence or control of what their kids are learning….there will be no need for PTA organizations. Teachers and principals loose their influence, elected school superintendents will be pointless and totally ineffective, they will all become regurgitaters of some think tank’s unproven curriculum. Or as they like to call it standards, but those who write the standardized tests are on board so the tests will change, therefore the content of what is taught in the classrooms will change to conform to the tests=curriculum.

  10. I’m late to the party too. I didn’t pay any attention to Common Core – until now, that my daughter will be starting Kindergarten in the fall and I find how much I hate the new teaching methods!

  11. I have children in middle and high school and I am worried about how common core will affect them. I don’t understand the foolishness, and I even heard some of the writers of common core will not endorse it. I am all kid of confused. At least I have one in college and almost through with his one and only math class.

  12. I hate this. 🙁 It’s pretty bad when I don’t get Kindergarten homework also. Plus, each kid is not alike so it’s hard to tailor this individually!

  13. Common Core is not the answer to fixing our school system. The way they are teaching children – is not going to help and it’s def not good that parents don’t understand it. If parents don’t, how will the children? We need to look back in history = back when a farmer could read the Federalist/Anti-Federalist papers and read them. Today, many with a PhD can’t understand them. So, what was different then? Let’s find out and stop placing band aids on our schools.

  14. We don’t use common core that I am aware of. So far what my 1st grader is learning in math seems straight up old school math. I only hope it stays that way!

  15. I remember helping my teenie bopper with algebra homework once and being upset she did not turn it in the next day after I spent an hour on Algebra.

  16. I’m fairly sure that Common Core might be the worst thing to have happened to our education system this decade. I personally would have guessed #3 was different, because it didn’t have the same kind of defining border.

  17. common core is making me nuts too as a mom!! and i can’t understand any of the kids’ homework!!

  18. Wow, so glad you wrote this post. I thought I was just going crazy… we are often dumbstruck at our son’s math homework and assignments as well!

  19. this is horrible. I ‘m going to have to research this. What happened to regular math? Geez, we learned it that way and we turned out ok didn’t we??

  20. Hmm throwing a curve. My best friend is a math teacher and she says, that Math never changes. The rules stay the same.. i beg to differ now. LOL

  21. With myself part-time teaching at Lovett, I’m hoping Red can attend starting in 1st grade – we’ll have to see where finances and financial aid stand at that point – we’re already looking at other districts!

  22. Hey, I have an MBA and I also find my first grader’s homework questions confusing! The way those workbook questions are worded is maybe college-appropriate, NOT elementary school.

  23. It is really hard. My daughter comes home with work some days and I feel so bad that I can’t help her. Sometimes she even teaches ME something!

  24. Not having a school-aged child yet, I didn’t know they had changed up the way things are done with math. No more carrying over or 10 frames?? Craziness!

    My husband and I have been mulling over the idea of homeschooling, and plan to do start preschool with our 3 year old in September (just as he turns 4). I hope it works because I just don’t like how school systems are doing things these days!

  25. I gotta say, this is one of the main reasons I moved my kids to the small private school that they go to now. I’ve heard similar stories and seen similar examples here too. I hate this for our kids, really.

  26. I definitely have a hard time helping my kids out in certain areas. I am not sure that private schools are any better, typically only cost more still using the county’s same curriculum. I think you just have to do a lot of research when going private.

  27. My son is finished with school, so I wasn’t really familiar with this. It sounds like someone had the klout or the bucks to push through a very bad teaching agenda.

  28. ugh
    i AM SO LOST ….
    really nervous about him starting school

  29. It’s crazy how difficult your child’s math problems are! I definitely woud have said the third one was the one out of place because the dots weren’t in a rectangle shape like the first two.

  30. I’m a homeschool mom. Two of my kids have graduated and my baby is a senior this year, so I admit when I began to hear a lot of fuss about Common Core, I didn’t really pay attention. When many of my friends began to share their disgust (also on FB), I began to pay attention and I can’t believe or imagine that CC is going to help anyone. I’m appalled. And unfortunately, some popular, wonderful homeschool curriculums that I used in the past with my children are adapting to the Common Core standards as well.

  31. This might get long as curriculum discussions have been a thorn in my side for almost 1 year. I have to start this with 2 disclosures: 1) I am NOT defending common core; 2) We decided to stick with private schools.

    My son recently tested into a magnet program, and we struggled with enrolling him, or sticking with a private school. This particular magnet school is the first in our area to adopt common core. The rest of the local schools do not have to transition curriculums until the next school year. I am not sure about the standards or rankings in your state, but the public schools in this have been consistently 2 years behind the national average (TWO FREAKING YEARS!). Some would argue that the national average is pretty pathetic in comparison to other nations, but the truth remains that we needed to do *something* to improve how kids are learning, progressing & testing. The results in many states were downright pathetic.

    I don’t see that common core is the miracle magic that many want us to believe it to be…just as no child left behind was not as perfectly productive and successful as projected.

    Whether the math curriculum is Singapore Math, Everyday Math, or whatever, all of the textbooks have a manual. There are times when the parents have to consult the manual – online or hardcopy – to verify how the information is being presented to the students. This way, we are better prepared to check and help with homework. I understand that many parents do not have the option to pursue private schools or homeschooling, but we can all take the time to make sure that our kids are reading and calculating well, learning about other cultures, growing into critical thinkers, and unfortunately, prepared to regurgitate the correct answers for those goofball standardized tests.

  32. Ugh, I loathe common core. It is just a big mess and I have no idea what the end goal is. How is that problem teaching them anything?

  33. Wait, it just gets worse the older they get. My husband has his degree in applied mathematics and when my oldest was in high school he would help him with his homework and it would be wrong and some total whacked out answer or some such nonsense. They have the h.s. kids completely reliant on calculators. They can’t do anything without them.

  34. We just started Common Core at my kids’ parochial school this year. Just the math though. And it seems it is easier for the kids to understand, though the transition period was rough. I’m still keeping my eye on it though. However, being in a parochial school the teachers are still VERY much involved in the whole process and there is no questionable material as I’ve seen from other parents. Some of the questions are bizarre, though we haven’t had any like the one you posted above, but the teachers are easy going and not so strict on it.
    I don’t know. I really don’t like Common Core in general but I don’t think I have the full impact of it because of the school my kids go to. It seems like there is such discontent that it will fall to the wayside as “No Child” did and we will go back to the old school ways of teaching. Hopefully.

  35. This isn’t something exactly new in my son’s school. The way they do things are very advanced, even in kindergarten (my son’s now in the 2nd), and I’m always appalled by what they’re learning. I think they try to cram too much in their heads. I’m afraid things like this will cause some to lose interest in school down the road. If I had the lessons that kids have now, I probably wouldn’t have made it far in school. 🙁

  36. I am still on the fence with common core… but I must disclose that my kids aren’t in 1st grade yet. I’ve read many articles like this, and reviewed the common core teaching guide.

    If common core no longer teaches kids how to do “stacked” addition or long division, then I have huge concerns. However, some of my teacher friends say that they still teach both of those. On the other hand, teaching kids some short cuts or secondary verification doesn’t seem like a bad idea. The truth is that a couple of things I’ve seen people complain about are actually techniques that I use… techniques that I figured out on my own in an effort to make it easier to do math in my head.

    I am also a bit curious to know if anyone has investigated the “male brain” vs. “female brain” philosophy. I’m not trying to say one is better than the other – but my husband has a Bachelor’s in Math, and he gets every problem right without giving it a second thought, and it all makes perfect sense to him. He automatically got the problem above correct – within seconds. However, he explained his reasoning better than the teacher.

    According to his reasoning, the asymmetry and vertical line on the domino (first picture) clearly define the two groupings as one on the left and one on the right. However, the groupings on the other two are symmetrical, therefore, you can easily see that the two groupings (top and bottom on the second) and left and right (on the last one) are the equal.

    1. After reading my previous comment, I do feel the need to clarify (or plain old change) my comments about male brain vs. female brain. Instead of using those terms, I should have just said that different people process information differently (regardless of gender). Unfortunately, I was just reading a study talking about the differences in they way that male brains and female brains work, and I carried it through into my comment without thinking it through.

      To be more clear: If, as some of my teacher friends have said, they are able to teach the old methods in addition to common core, I think that could be a good thing. Showing that there are different ways to “skin a cat,” is beneficial. If, however, they are still only teaching ONE way to think it through (the common core way), then they haven’t solved any problem at all. Some kids will be able to process the information more clearly using the methods that I learned as a kid… on the other hand, some may find the newer methods much easier to understand.

      I hope this clarifies – I wasn’t trying to turn this into a gender war. I think all people can be good at math.

  37. I am SO glad that our daughter is a senior in high school and that we homeschool, because I’d be guaranteed to be going ballistic if common core entered my walls 😉 All the power to you Mama as you slug through this mess.

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