We've all seen those posts on Facebook. Especially around this time of year. Parents complaining about their kids' homework. Math usually gets the brunt of the hate. Poor math. But the problem doesn't lie in "The New Math." It lies in the fact that many parents won't even bother to try to understand the process behind Common Core. I'm going to try my best to help you figure it out.
First off, Common Core is not a way to do things. It is merely a list of standards. Since most of the complaints revolve around elementary school math, that is where I will focus. That example above is a terrible example so I'm going to ignore it. I'm pretty sure that was someone just trying to screw around. Let's look at a better example:
In "The Old Way," you had to carry numbers and remember to add those numbers to the next set of numbers and...it could get really confusing if you didn't have a piece of paper and a pencil in front of you. With "The New Way," you get the original set of numbers into easier to use numbers. Here: 29 becomes 20 + 9 and 17 because 10 + 7. We can easily add the 20 and the 10 to get 30 so we really just have to handle that unwieldy 9 and 7. Because we know basic addition, we can easily figure out that 9 + 7 equals 16. So now we have 30 + 16. We can break that down even farther by saying 10 + 6 equals 16. Add the 30 to the 10 and we're up to 40. Add the 40 to that leftover 6 and it's 46. No carrying at all.
"But," you say, "isn't that a lot of work to get to the simple answer in the old example?" Not really. It just looks that way on paper. See, this "new" way isn't really new at all. This is how a lot of people do math in their head without writing it down. (This is also how people who do "fast math" in their head tend to do it.)
I'm betting you don't believe me. Take an addition or subtraction (this will also work with multiplication and division but we'll keep it simple) problem. Something a little more difficult. Say, 34 + 28. Go through the new process in your head. No writing it down! Isn't it just a little bit easier?
"Common Core" isn't out to get you or ruin your children by teaching them a new way to do things. It is trying to teach your children how to think, period. Rote memorization doesn't work. And that is what most of us did in the olden days. We simply memorized number patterns. When it came time to figure out that 15% tip, we didn't know how to do it without writing it down. The new lessons will teach them the math skills they will need later in life. I know it looks scary. Just have a little patience and give your brain some time to come around. You really can teach an old dog new tricks, you know.