[News] A new project

Back in the spring when the Letter to Jack was a hot item, I took to Twitter to wonder why there was no Common Core Math for Dummies. One thing led to another, I proposed it to Wiley and now you can expect it in the spring.

Audience is parents, and this may appear in the title (Common Core Math for Parents For Dummies is the working title). It goes for the big picture in each of the grade levels, K—8.

The For Dummies format is pretty rigid but there will be no mistaking authorship. A few sample section headings (and the grades where they will appear) to whet your appetite:

1st grade. Saying bye-bye to key words

1st grade. Understanding the importance of ten

2nd grade. Why units matter

2nd grade. Place value

2nd grade. More about place value

2nd grade. Seriously. Place value.

4th grade. Multiplication: What is it and why not just memorize the facts?

5th grade. Standard algorithms: Doing things “the old-fashioned way”?

6th grade. Dividing fractions—More fun than you’d think!

6th grade. Area: It all goes back to rectangles

8th grade. Congruence and similarity: Two kinds of sameness

Catch you all later. I have some writing to do!

I’ll keep you posted.

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22 responses to “[News] A new project”

1. Brilliant, and you’ll probably make enough money to retire on.

2. I like grade 8. The CCSS makes such a meal of congruence, it’s unbelievable. See my post on this
http://howardat58.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/congruence-and-rigid-transformations/

3. Mary Daunis

What happened to third grade?

• Christopher

Same thing that happened to seventh, Mary. “A few sample section headings” not “Comprehensive table of contents”. Have patience, my friend! You’ll get your copy soon enough.

4. Dan Kearney

Somehow, the public needs to see that in addition to content standards, a huge change for math is the significant focus on the Standards of Mathematical PRACTICE. How this is applied throughout the curriculum, K(?)-12. I think that this could be tremendous.

• Christopher

Yup. That’s in there, Dan! There will be a chapter on the Standards for Mathematical Practice, and the ideas will suffuse the writing throughout.

5. oh boy, start working on your media training now so you can get ready to do the morning talk shows, talking head segments on CNN, and Op-Eds! 😉 i hope they get you a great publicist, because you are the perfect man for this job and it’s such a huge opportunity to really make an impact on the national discourse.

6. Awesome, awesome, cool cool cool! Hoping for culture-shift inducing…

7. Markus

My money is already taped to the computer monitor.
As the father of two girls starting Common Core, I will buy this book on day 1. Side bonus: I can correct CCSS antagonists on the internets.

8. Awesome! I look forward to reading it.

9. Best of luck to you! Sounds very cool!

10. kmorrowleong

That’s an awesome idea! Glad you thought of it!
Grade 7 – Getting rid of “butterflies” (See slide 17 and 18 of http://chicagogearup.org/archives/imath/2013-2014imath/docs/diane-briars-keynote/essential-actions.pdf)

11. Sorely needed! Thanks for taking the challenge!

12. Fantastic idea. Can’t wait to see the outcome. This is a gift I can’t wait to give to folks…

13. As long as it isn’t titled “Common Core Math for Parents OF Dummies”

14. Pro-CCSSM Teacher

I object to the title “Overthinking my Teaching.” Are you suggesting that such a thing is possible? If teaching isn’t arduous, you’re not doing it right.

• Christopher

Don’t worry, Pro-CCSSM Teacher! I have no intention of stopping my overthinking anytime soon.

15. Mike

My homeschool kids would wear out your students in math…. I taught Atomic Physics and nuclear engineering at the national engineering laboratory in Idaho, though. I take no real issue with common core itself, I take issue with standardized curriculum in a world that is not filled with standardized people.

16. Common Core Math for Parents Who Give Dummies a Bad Name
Because… Math fact.

17. Posted on Facebook where someone posted a link to this blog piece:

I keep saying: try to separate a number of things, because there will be a future post-Common Core.

1) There is no such thing as “Common Core Math.” There is just math and various ways of explaining, representing, and teaching it.

2) Very little of what we’re seeing in the latest textbooks, if anything, is new; neither is it the “invention” of some entity that embodies a new take on mathematics content or pedagogy.

3) Where there are differences between what some teachers are used to and what was being done before Common Core generally has more to do with when something is taught rather than what or how. And in some cases, there are legitimate questions as to developmental appropriateness, though that is hardly a simple matter to sort out or settle definitively, given the enormous diversity in socio-economic background and preparation that students bring to school when it comes to mathematics, literacy, and “schooling” in general.

4) Most of the complaints I’ve heard leveled at “Common Core Math” (an imaginary entity, in my view), though not all of them, are old news, holdovers and renewals of old gripes from the “Math Wars” of the 1990s.

5) A vast percentage of the attacks on “Common Core Math” I encounter on FB and elsewhere are either incredibly ignorant or incredibly cynical in that there is a non-stop conflation between pedagogical models of math procedures and concepts with official algorithms that students are taught and expected to use.

Part of the problem is that there is a rigidity in how some publishers and some state or local departments of education (or individual administrators or teachers) are interpreting what is ACTUALLY in either the Content or Practice Standards for Mathematics. As a result, there actually are grounds for the claims that models are being taught in unreasonable ways: kids are forced to do things painstakingly when they may already have mastered the procedure in question. When parents see this, many go ballistic, since their own math education (regardless of how much or little they like or get mathematics) tells them that as long as a child can come up with “the right answer,” regardless of how or why, and regardless of whether s/he can interpret the answer in a context or explain why the answer makes sense or describe the method(s) s/he used, all is well (and the question is solved and, hence, closed).

In reality, real mathematical problems are NOT over when someone arrives at a numerical solution to them (see George Polya’s work on heuristics, specifically his landmark book, HOW TO SOLVE IT, for the best explanation of mathematical problem solving and how it should be taught and done); rather, that is when it is time for reflection, questioning, and the creation of new problems. I’m not blaming parents for their narrow understanding of this issue, since few of them, if any, were ever given the opportunity to view mathematics from this more sophisticated perspective. However, it is vital to ANY attempt to deepen American mathematics education as a whole that we help everyone get this point at least to some extent. And right now, we are seeing the fallout from the abject failure of even the best people involved with Common Core Mathematics for the best of reasons to make any headway at all in educating the general public on what it would mean for the US to make meaningful strides forward in math education.

One result of the deep hostility many citizens bring to looking at “Common Core Mathematics” is an absolute intolerance towards anything that departs from “the basics,” with a strong emphasis on automatic recall of “facts.” There is a huge outcry against what is perceived as widespread failure to teach those “facts” adequately (usually accompanied with complaints about any use of calculators – replete with the same tired anecdotes about clerks who can’t make change when electronic cash registers are on the fritz – or other technology, with the overriding assumption that math = calculation = arithmetic, and of story.

I repeatedly bump into comments online where a video of any teacher or professional development person explaining why a particular math procedure works, or especially where there is an attempt to explain any alternative way of doing or thinking about a basic procedure from arithmetic that essentially say, “What was wrong with the old way? In my day, we just knew what 9 + 6 equalled. We didn’t have to decompose (actually, I see the word “deconstruct” used instead, which to me is quite ironic) 6 as 1 + 5 so we can make 10 and then 15,” and so forth. People complain that “it took the teacher 3 minutes to “do that simple problem,” when in fact, what takes 3 minutes is EXPLAINING in detail what is being taught and why it’s being taught that way, which has NOTHING to do with how long it would take anyone to solve the computation. NOTHING. Reading that sort of thing is terrifically frustrating, since it reflects either incredible ignorance or shameless intellectual dishonesty. No one, no teacher, is asking kids to take 3 minutes to solve 9 + 6 (though frankly, if a student has never done single digit addition that results in sums greater than 9 before, it would be quite unsurprising if it took several minutes for the student to come up with an answer – but adults have a very hard time recalling a point where they didn’t know the answer on demand). In any event, no sane teacher is expecting students to spend that long on arithmetic calculations once they have mastered the process and meaning of what they’re doing.

I could continue to analyze these issues, but enough for now. I just hope that fair-minded people will reflect on the possibility that when the Common Core dust settles, these issues and many related to them will not disappear, and we will continue to be doing a serious disservice to kids if we just throw the baby out with the bathwater. I find NCTM and other professional organizations very guilty of professional misconduct in not having learned anything from recent failed attempts at math ed reform when it comes to educating the public and instead endorsing Common Core blindly and unequivocally. But that is NOT an excuse for others, particularly those of a right-wing political orientation, to lie so baldly about what is going on. Sure, dismantle the high-stakes testing nonsense, the VAM and other insane and useless attacks on teachers, and the rest of the apparatus of the Common Core Initiative machinery. But don’t make the error of thinking that we’re anywhere close to being better off in math classrooms if we succeed in bringing this juggernaut to a halt.

18. Someone Somewhere

“Moral of the story: You may not want to look to an electrical engineer as your primary resource for the current state of math teaching.” => “1. CREDENTIALS ARE NOT A TRUMP CARD.” Unless you are a teacher, of course.