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Experts: Does Common Core Mean Teachers Should Teach Differently?

Experts: Does Common Core Mean Teachers Should Teach Differently?

The Common Core State Standards have prompted many educators to change how they teach math. Some experts say the standards -- with an emphasis on deeper learning -- will help boost students' understanding of math. Others say instructional strategies also play an important role in improving students' math skills.

The Common Core “wasn’t necessarily supposed to change how math is taught, but in many schools that’s exactly what’s happening,” according to an article on HechingerReport.org.

“Many – some might argue most – American math teachers once followed a simple format: Explain a formula to the class, show an example on the board, then let students practice on worksheets,” the article said. “Now, many of those same teachers are attempting to lead seminar-style discussions on the division of fractions or the Pythagorean Theorem. They’re assigning longer-term projects in which students discover and experiment with math concepts, instead of training students in tricks like the ‘butterfly method’ for adding and subtracting fractions.”

Teachers, the article said, “are trying out these new methods even though Common Core – guidelines, which have been adopted by over 40 states, for what students should know in math and English by the end of each school year – don’t speak directly to how math should be taught.”

“The Common Core is silent about how to teach,” said Phil Daro, one of the lead writers of the math standards. “When we wrote the standards we were prohibited from addressing how to teach, that’s not what standards are supposed to do.”

Daro said that the problem was “with what we were teaching, not how we were teaching."

“Countries have varying levels of teacher quality but are still high performing,” he said. Daro, the article said, also “thinks that the Common Core addresses the main problem of the math classes of yore – that curricula went a mile wide and an inch deep – asking teachers to cover so many topics that none were given appropriate attention.”

Many of the districts and teachers, the article said, "are struggling with juggling the huge project of overhauling both their curricula and their teaching simultaneously.

“Are math standards going to help?” asked David Wees, a former New York City public school teacher and a formative assessment specialist for New Visions for Public Schools, a non-profit that advises 75 New York City public schools. “Yes, but there are the standards as written, there are the standards as practiced by teachers and there are the standards as students will receive them.”

Read the full story and comment below. 

Article by Kassonda Granata, Education World Contributor

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