Changes and Challenges Brought by Common Core (2): Math

11/1/2013

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(2) Math

Previously, Math taught at American schools used to cover multiple topics in the course of the grade with frequent reviews. The Common Core has reduced the number of topics covered, so that students move through arithmetic, subtraction and other concepts more slowly but with less review. Traditional math classes focused on memorization of formulas and practice, but now students are required to develop deeper understanding of math concepts and apply formulas in new ways besides memorizing formulas. Another significant change is Algebra 1, which has been taught in the 8th grade, now will be postponed to high school, though some algebraic concepts are introduced earlier.


Quite a number of students, parents and even teachers are against the new math standards for the simple reason that they are more difficult that before. Jason Zimba, a leading writer of the math standards, says that the notion of rigor in the Common Core involves equal interesting about conceptual understanding, procedural skills, and fluency and application.


Most experts agree that math classes in the past attempted to include too many stuff, and as a result of it, students often failed to catch critical concepts for their advanced math study. In this way, the Common Core standards which reduce the number of topics covered do improve the situation. Another new change in the standards that is even praised by critics is the Common Core's emphasis on fraction.


Nonetheless, new standards for Geometry in secondary-level education have aroused much concern: in the standards, Geometry starts with transformation (such as figure transposing and generating mirror shapes). Some mathematicians consider such arrangement is actually a college-level advanced style, and it might make it tough for secondary students to study geometry without focusing on the rules and formulas of Geometry.


The most-railed change is the late start of Algebra 1. Some scholars argue that this subject is taught in Grade 8 in many other countries, so what the Common Core is doing is to pull the US students behind from their peers. For math teachers who have been used to teaching the "do-the-math" subject, one major challenge is that they will have to have a deeper understanding of what Math is all about from now on.


45 states in the US have adopted the Common Core State Standards. (Photo:  www.corestandards.org)

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