Betty Barrett is a friend, colleague, and master teacher. With 40+ years work as a math teacher, director, and professional developer, she has a perspective and historical knowledge of math instruction few can claim. Enjoy.
How I See the Math Common Core
By Betty Barrett
Remodeling my kitchen was a cataclysmic upheaval of my life, especially considering that all during the restructuring time I had to continue to prepare meals and clean up afterward. But, once the stressful period was over, the end result was a modern, more efficient kitchen that made my food-preparing experience much easier and more productive.
At the present time there is a cataclysmic upheaval occurring in our educational system with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. In the classrooms where I have spent my 40-plus years of teaching mathematics, conducting effective teaching workshops, and coaching teachers, there are necessary, albeit stressful, restructurings taking place.
I have been living with the K-12 Common Core Math Standards 24/7 for the past 30 months. All the educational research on how teachers effectively deliver instruction and how the Brain learns, along with the mathematics necessary for students entering the world of the 21st century went into creating the new Standards.
In my workshops and in-school training, I hear teachers discussing mathematics as never before. I hear them telling stories of elementary students who can think more clearly, demonstrate more understanding, who have become more fluent in their number sense, and who have more strategies available for them to solve abstract, novel problems involving real-life situations.
I spend numerous hours observing the Common Core Math Standards being taught in classrooms. In the past two years I have seen many positive changes.
I see students spending more time practicing the “Core” operations to become Fluent in basic mathematical skills, freeing their brain’s working memory to concentrate on more complex application processes.
I see students learning more than “how to get the answer”; I see them understanding the “why” of mathematics.
I see students being taught number bonds, tape diagrams, area diagrams – strategies by which to “picture” a mathematical situation.
I see students being asked to extensively apply their learning to problem-solving. We are taking mathematics out of the classroom laboratory and into real-life. Students are immediately knowing when they are “going to use this.”
During the reconstruction, my kitchen was a stressful mess. Workers did not do all they were asked; materials did not arrive on time. The finishing backsplash was brought in before the wallboard had gone up. The cost was more than projected. My family wondered if eating would ever get back to normal. But, eventually, it did; and it is now so much better.
Yes, right now, during the process of implementing the Common Core Standards, there IS an educational mess. We are all absorbing new curricula, changing instructional styles, adjusting to new assessments with higher expectations; and all this under the stress of being evaluated on the finished product before it is completed.
Education is being changed one student, one teacher, one administrator, one parent at a time. The final result of this restructuring is going to be students who possess a far better understanding of the concepts of mathematics and who have a greater ability to analyze problems and make better decisions. We will see improvements in education that will be well worth the wait.