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Why Parents Are Heading Back to the Classroom to Help Teach Their Kids Math

If you’re a parent of a grade school kid, then you’ve had the recent pleasure of sitting down to help out with some math homework, only to find that…well, you can’t. With the adoption of new curriculum standards across the country, many parents are finding that of all things math, yes MATH, has changed. And according to a recent article in the Washington Post, that’s led to a new trend of parents now making the effort to relearn math so that they can help teach it at home.

Okay, so a little explanation. Common Core (or its full name the “Common Core State Standard Initiative”) is an educational initiative that’s been adopted as the standard in 43 states and the District of Columbia. It’s focused on creating new benchmarks and learning method in two main subjects: English language arts and mathematics. It was developed by a bi-partisan group of policy and education experts with the intention of better equipping students for higher education down the line, as well as creating a more globally completive, future American workforce.

Now, the big issue that most people, particularly parents and conservatives, have with Common Core is its approach to teaching math. It seems that education experts want kids to think about math differently than previous generations. Instead of forcing students to memorize math functions, like that 6 x 6 = 36, Common Core emphasizes a more visual understanding of value and thorough comprehension of math functions with a tilt to real world applications.

“The new math standards are encouraging students to think deeper,” a Michigan Principal told the Post. “Part of that deeper understanding is to take what you’ve learned and apply it to what you’re doing in real life.”

That means the approach is heavily focused on word problems, visual components, and questions more interested in requiring the students to fully explain their methods for solving a problem than the actual solution. The whole thing has led critics to decry the lessons and problems as overly convoluted and complicated, especially when they could be solved far more easily by simply using traditional math approaches.

And the fact that Common Core doesn't have a universal curriculum only creates more problems. The system merely outlines the skills and knowledge students are meant to have at the end of each grade. So schools are left to work out how best to teach the materials themselves — with varying degrees of success. A good example of this was earlier this year when one frustrated parent, with a degree in engineering, wrote a hilarious response to his second-grade son’s math homework and posted it on Facebook, where it then spread and became a bit of a viral hit.

So considering how pervasive Common Core math has become in our nation’s educational systems, with its novel methods and techniques (as well as hit-or-miss curriculum) parents were left with two options: get with the program, or be completely lost come homework time.

Many moms and dads are now actively trying to work with educators to understand Common Core, and how best to aid their children with that terrifying specter of homework. Some parents are sitting in on classes with their children, learning alongside their progeny. Others are getting crash courses in Common Core math via special seminars. Some schools are going a step further, sending home “cheat sheets” so parents can continue to give the illusion that they know all the answers (even when it comes to complicated math problems). And for the truly stumped adult, there are now Common Core hotlines in some areas that allow puzzled parents to speak with math teachers about homework.

Parents taking a more active approach in their childrens’ education is great and all, but it still doesn't solve the fundamental issue presented by Common Core. If this new math system is so difficult that even grown adults are having trouble understanding it, what are the benefits of teaching it to a whole generation of children? Common Core was rushed out in a few short years, leaving educational publishers scrambling to get the necessary materials out in time. All of this has added to a confusing and often frustrating program that leaves parents stumped and kids confused. If Common Core is to be the national average for how we teach math, there needs to be some universal curriculum and a streamlining of the concepts.

After all, math homework is hard enough as it is; there's no need to make it any worse.

[Pic via Flickr - Jimmie Quick]

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