We’ve heard it a number of times before. Americans rank low when it comes to math scores and numeracy. As a general rule, we are not “math people.”
This week the New York Times article “Why Do Americans Stink at Math” by Elizabeth Green explored how the U.S. has repeatedly tried and failed to implement more effective and innovative methods to teach math skills to American students.
Our most recent effort, the Common Core, is facing a great deal of push back from all sides. The Common Core’s math standards are incredibly ambitious. Instead of simply showing students methods to find a problem’s answer, they seek to allow students to visualize mathematical concepts in a meaningful way, setting them up to workout problems when they encounter them outside the classroom. However, the implementation has not been successful. Says Green,
With the Common Core, teachers are once more being asked to unlearn an old approach and learn an entirely new one, essentially on their own. Training is still weak and infrequent, and principals — who are no more skilled at math than their teachers — remain unprepared to offer support. Textbooks, once again, have received only surface adjustments, despite the shiny Common Core labels that decorate their covers.
Parents trying to help their kids with their math homework are even less prepared to tackle the Common Core. It’s no wonder then, that so many are pushing to repeal the Common Core in their states.
But many educators aren’t willing to throw in the towel on the Common Core just yet. In schools that have carefully adopted new math programs, both student achievement and teacher understanding of concepts have improved. Success does not come overnight and state assessments should not expect it to. But there is a better way to teach math, and we owe it to our students to do better.
Math educator and author Lisa Arias, remains enthusiastic about the scope of the new standards. “Instead of rote computation without representation, the Common Core Mathematics initiative provides students with the opportunity to synthesize mathematical operations through problem solving, comparing, modeling, explaining and decomposing.”
Arias’s new series of math books Got Math supports students learning various math concepts called out in the Common Core. By providing the visual elements that will help learners internalize these concepts, Arias believes more of her students will become “math people.”