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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Milo and the Park Slope Parents group meet Common Core; everybody loses (except Bill Gates and Big Pharma)

Milo has finally met the Common Core, that brilliant new basis of our education system that will kill traditional schooling better than anything I could propose.

Take a look at the math vocabulary words Milo and his third grade comrades had to memorize last week.

rectilinear figure
square unit
standard form
unit fraction
number line
Order of Operations
place value
area model
arithmetic patterns
Associative Property of Addition
customary system
Distributive Property
expanded form
fact family
Identity Property of Addition
line plot

Before I start getting upset here, let me just point out that vocabulary tests are not mathematics education. Now for the part where I get upset. 

My daughter sent this list to me because the Park Slope Parents group (this is an upscale part of Brooklyn, so parents are generally well off and well educated) was extremely upset by all this. It seems very few of the parents knew any of these mathematical terms. Now, I have to admit, I do know them (not sure what “expanded form” is though) because I majored in mathematics in college. That is where this stuff comes up. Even in that context, I never found any of it useful in my actual life. 

So, parents in Park Slope are busy learning math vocabulary to help their kids who have been confounded by Common Core. What the point of all this I am not sure. But here is something I am sure of. There is big money behind all this.

Today the New York Times printed the following:

I tweeted that article to my followers and one of them (the head of a Day School in New York) tweeted her favorite line from that article:

@rogerschank "A.D.H.D. diagnosis increased by 22 percent in the first four years after NCLB was implemented."

This is hardly a surprise for those of us who have been following the ADHD thing for years now. ADHD is a convenient diagnosis because it sells a lot of Ritalin and Big Pharma is happy; it quiets down unruly kids so the school is happy; and, it makes everyone much more focussed on testing so the big testing companies are happy. More Ritalin better test prep sales.

Common Core will surely help everyone make more money. But poor Milo. Milo suffers, big business wins.

Who cares about any of this mathematics anyway? Who needs it? 

Here is a homework question from Common Core that he had to do last week (among many others):


  1. Fred has 10 pears. He puts 2 pears in each basket.

  1. Draw an array where each column represents a basket of pears.
  2. Redraw the pears in each basket as a unit in the tape diagram. Label the diagram with known and unknown information from the problem.

2.Ms Meyer organizes 15 clipboards equally into 3 boxes. How many clipboards are in each box? Model the problem with both an array and a labeled tape diagram. Show each column as the number of clipboards in each box.

My daughter said that parents were watching you tube videos in order to figure out what any of this meant. Of course, it is now the parents who are doing the homework (as well as teaching mathematics that they themselves do not understand.)

Just in time for all this I read a good interview with a mathematician from Berkeley here:

This is his answer to one of the interviewer’s questions:
What is wrong with the way most of us are introduced to math?

The way mathematics is taught is akin to an art class in which students are only taught how to paint a fence and are never shown the paintings of the great masters. When, later on in life, the subject of mathematics comes up, most people wave their hands and say, "Oh no, I don't want to hear about this,
I was so bad at math." What they are really saying is, "I was bad at painting the fence."

So, Bill Gates, you have succeeded. At what or why you did it I do not know. But you will make every child and their parents miserable. You will create students who hate school (even more than they do now.) 
Bill and I, as it happens, have a mutual friend. My friend asked me if I wanted to meet Bill. I said “would he listen?” 
My friend said “no.”
My advice to parents: Fight Back. Refuse to drug your kids and refuse to have them take common core. As they used to say in the old days: “In Union there is Strength.”


Holly Christensen said...

This is a great post, Roger. It's so frustrating. I have a 5th grader really getting into a lot of nonsense core content and tons of testing. Luckily he's a bright kid, but he's coming home with a lot of homework - at times, it rivals the amount of homework I had taking AP classes in high school.

I just worked with him for over an hour last night memorizing all of the states and capitols. He commented that even if he did well on the test, he probably won't remember them all when he's an adult. I told him he won't, and he'll survive just fine.

Tammy Berman said...

Yeah. Roger knows well I'm just livid about the common core. Even the vice principal said of my child - well, he's good at the parts we actually care about, he's just struggling on the tests; but we have this common core. Oy veh. My kid just learned the word, "mnemonic," from his learning helper. That's a good sign. Not.