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The focus of Common Core math

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2014 10:40 AM

The Common Core State Standards, which are now fully implemented by participating states, have changed the way schools teach math. While certain aspects of math education may confuse or frustrate some parents and students, Common Core math is designed to address issues surrounding old teaching methods. Past state standards have been criticized for their "mile wide and inch deep" approach to math, wherein students learned a variety of content at an introductory level. However, the Common Core hopes to turn that around.

Refocusing in math
Rather than introduce kids to numerous topics every year, then revisit those concepts over and over throughout their entire K-12 experience, teachers will focus on only a handful of ideas at a time. For instance, students in grades one and two learn primarily about addition and subtraction. Once they reach grade three, they learn multiplication and division. By saving the more challenging concepts for later, students have the chance to internalize and master basic math skills. 

Students may not be ready to learn more difficult content at a young age, and the Common Core approach helps ensure students have the foundation they need before throwing advanced concepts at them. 

Preparing students for the future
Ensuring students are ready for college or a career when they graduate high school is one of the leading goals of the Common Core. Some educators worry that by giving students an in-depth look at math concepts each year, students won't learn everything they need to before graduation. For instance, some colleges like to see calculus on students' high school transcripts, but not all students will get that far in math during high school. 

Other educators respond to that worry by noting that not all students want a career in math. Even if they won't be studying advanced math concepts in college, students will still have built a solid foundation of math skills. That is better than the alternative: completing calculus, but not knowing the basics inside and out. 

Following suit
According to The Daily Caller, the idea of going in-depth and teaching fewer concepts is not new. Bill McCallum, a mathematics professor at the University of Arizona who chaired the writing committee for the math Standards, told the source that the Common Core takes educational ideas from other countries. When it comes to math, many other nations teach their students by focusing on core concepts and making sure students master them. Teaching students to grasp basic math allows them to apply those ideas abstractly to more complex concepts as they progress.