Year in Review: Common Core Math

2015 was a pivotal year for the Common Core State Standards. Faced with opposition, states weighed the evidence and overwhelmingly continued to implement rigorous, consistent academic expectations. Unable to find success through legislative channels, critics turned to backdoor tactics. Examples of confusing or poorly written math problems went viral. But as educators and experts explain, changes to math instruction under the Common Core are setting students up to succeed. Here’s a look back at some of the most informative coverage over the last year.

Our Favorites from 2015:

Breaking Up with My iPhone Calculator, and Other Math Thoughts
Collaborative for Student Success
Many parents are unfamiliar with the changes to math instruction happening in schools and they have laid their frustrations at the door of Common Core. But, as Jim Cowen writes, this transition helps student understand the why behind math. “Common Core aims to ensure that our children have a solid understanding of these basics, so that they’re better prepared to conquer math in the future. Not only that, this type of foundation helps foster analytical skills that will help children sort out all sorts of situations that life may throw their way. As we shift to these new approaches in math, we’re going to need to get comfortable with the uncomfortable – of embracing a type of learning that is wholly unfamiliar.”

Yes to Common Core, No to Math Wars
Raleigh News & Observer
Strong math skills requires both number fluency and conceptual understanding, and Common Core State Standards strike a balance between the two, writes Paola Sztajn, a professor of education at North Carolina State University. “To replace [the Common Core framework] with new guidelines that once again prevent us from coming closer to an approach to mathematics that builds on both understanding and fluency – is just unfair to our children.” Fordham Institute President Mike Petrilli explains that it’s impossible to draft college- and career-ready standards that look nothing like Common Core State Standards, because the Common Core incorporates the best evidence of what students need to know and be able to do.

Math Nights Aim for Teachers to Instruct Parents on Common Core
Los Angeles Times
In California, schools are hosting information nights to inform parents about changes to instruction happening as schools implement Common Core State Standards. “This is absolutely a response to our next steps to do whatever we can to support parents and students,” says Lynn Marso, an assistant superintendent in Glendale. There, 49 percent of students met or exceeded proficiency benchmarks in math, compared to the state average of 39 percent. Across the country, educators are engaging parents familiarize themselves with new approaches to math through the Common Core.

District Offers an Aspirin for Common Core Math Homework Headache
Modesto Bee
At Sisk Elementary School in California, math specialists like Viji Sundar are offering parents and the public help to better understand changes to instruction under Common Core State Standards. “No matter how many people say the old way was best… something in the old system was not working,” the article notes. “Getting back to understanding math basics – even with wonky phrasing and counterintuitive methods – might be a good place to start.”

Milburn Parents Get Math Lessons
Educators in New Jersey hosted “Parent University” nights in September to help them get up to speed with changes happening to math instruction through Common Core State Standards. “This session is designed to present an overview of the Math in Focus program that has been implemented in grades K-5,” said Assistant Superintendent Michael Ryan. “In addition, we’re hoping to provide some instant tips that families can use to support their children at home.”

The Surprising Way Parents are Helping Their Children with Homework
The Herald News
Changes to math instruction may leave some parents “baffled,” but many are “going back to school, taking classes or practicing math online” to help with their children’s homework. Suffolk County Community College in New York has “started a multiple week course for parents” focusing on “math strategies” that are very different for parents but are designed to “help children make math more applicable to their lives.” “The reality is that if they understand how it is applied to the real world…then perhaps it’s not so ancillary,” says Nina Leonhardt, a local educator.

Helping Families Adapt to Common Core Math
Go Local Providence
Schools are providing support to teachers and parents to help them understand classroom changes during the transition to Common Core State Standards, explains Audra McPhillips, a math specialist in Rhode Island. “Math concepts [used to be] taught as a checklist of isolated topics…By contrast, the CCSS include a focus on three or four major concepts each year. This allows teachers and students to focus deeply on these areas in order to develop understanding and make meaningful connections between concepts…When we strengthen that partnership between school and home, it is the students who benefit.”

Idaho Teacher Shares Her Love for Common Core Math on Facebook
Collaborative for Student Success
“Dang I love Common Core!” middle school teacher Meg Rowe shared on Facebook earlier this year, in a post that went viral. “We whipped through this in a day because they were able to conceptually understand the idea of splitting the area of a rectangle into easier to compute pieces, and then finding the sum of the pieces. Is this method the most efficient for multiplying simple two digit numbers? Probably not. But is there a PURPOSE for exposing students to this kind of thinking early on? Totally!…I just love seeing Common Core working!” Rowe’s support reminds readers that Common Core State Standards are helping students develop strong fundamental math skills that will serve them well at high levels of learning.

Common Core Math Check: Why Different Approaches Are a Good Thing
Collaborative for Student Success
While they may be unfamiliar to parents who grew up under old models of education, Common Core State Standards’ emphasis on multiple problem-solving techniques helps students develop a strong conceptual understanding of numbers and functions. Citing two experts’ explanations of why these changes are important, the blog adds: “It’s important for kids to learn multiple approaches to solving math problems so that they can choose the approach that works best for them and so that they develop a full understanding of the concepts before they move on to more challenging levels.”