Tuesday, April 29, 2014

An Excellent Explanation of Why Common Core Won't Work

As always, Ace takes a topic and absolutely breaks it down wonderfully. Today, he did a great breakdown of Common Core, and why it's not a great way of teaching. I'm going to do a big block-quote here, but go read the whole thing.

Common Core needlessly complicates the simple. They complicate the simple, supposedly, to impart "number sense" to kids, to get them to understand not just that 9 +3 = 12, but why 9 + 3 =12.

That's a very ambitious goal.

I suppose we should ask this question, however: Given that teachers are currently failing in the less-ambitious goal of simply teaching that 9+3= 12, why do we believe they'll be better at the more-ambitious goal of teaching why 9+3 =12.

You guys see Stand and Deliver, the story (IIRC) of Jamie Escalante, some kind of aerospace engineer (IIRC) who decided to try his hand at teaching math at a poor, underpeforming majority-Hispanic school?

Well, he has a class of higher-level students. He drills them to say "zero times six is zero, zero times seven is zero, zero times eight is zero," and so on, and then, in what the movie industry calls a "Button" (an exit-line designed to end a scene on a dangling, interesting question that either leads organically to the next scene or suggests unfilmed activity going on beyond the filmed scene), he says to the class:

"Good (that you understand that zero times any number is zero).

Now: Why?"

The "Why?" is an interesting question. But note the order in which he introduced it: First he drilled the basics. Then, with his higher-performing students only, he introduced the Why?, not as the foundationof mathematical exploration (the foundation being rote memorization and drilling), but as the apex of it.

The last step, not the first, and not even the fifth.

I have previously written of this, calling it Cargo Cult. Previously uncontacted aboriginal populations would see the great planes flying in the sky, and would see them land and discharge various cargoes, including, say, cans of Coca-Cola.

The aboriginals wanted their own Sky God Chariots, and wrongly believed that Coca-Cola had something to do with aerospace technology; they'd collect empty cans of Coca-Cola and arrange them in red-and-white shrines in the belief that mastery of the Coca-Cola would lead to mastery of the power of flight.

They confuse the end result of a highly technological civilization (standardized cans of mass-produced, globally-sold beverages) with the necessary prerequisites for that civilization.
Go read the whole thing.

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