Common Core Standards

A reader asked: “The Common Core–I’d love to hear your opinion on it if you feel like you want to share it; how will affect my children–will it be a difficult transition?  Anything I can do to help them with the transition?”

common-core

Yes!  I would like to share my thoughts on the Common Core standards!  Here is a good overview and history on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).   Here is the official website if you want to take a look.   If you don’t want to go to look at those sites, but aren’t familiar with the CCSS, they are essentially new educational standards that the US is urging all states to adopt.  All but about 13 states have fully implemented them (with most of those 13 looking to implement them fully within the next couple years).  Arizona—which is where I live—has adopted them.  They had them in place for grades K-2 last year, and fully starting this year.  They are math and reading standards for kindergarten through 12th grade.  The goal is to:

  •  Help standards be more uniform across the nation (and closer to the standards in other parts of the world).
  • Help students thing deeper and explain their thinking and reasoning.
  • Ensure that student who graduate are prepared to enter college or the workforce.

There are lots of people out there who are passionately against these new standards.  There are also lots of people who strong advocates.  I fall in the middle of the spectrum.  I feel like some of the changes are really good for children.  I also feel like some of the expectations are unrealistic and overly rigorous (at least for a second grader [which is where my experience lies]).

You asked how it will affect your child and if it will be a difficult transition.  The biggest change I see is that students are required to think deeper.   Here’s an example—the following mathematical practices are for all grade levels:

  1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
  3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
  4. Model with mathematics.
  5. Use appropriate tools strategically.
  6. Attend to precision.
  7. Look for and make use of structure.
  8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

The biggest change for your child will be that they will need to explain how they got an answer or how they reached a conclusion.  In the past in education the answer has been what really matters.  Now, what matters even more than the answer is explaining HOW they got there and why it makes sense.  They will also be asked to have lots of discussions with peers.  In these conversations and discussions they will have the chance to agree or disagree (respectfully) with others’ thinking, share their ideas, teach and explain to others, work together, and come up with questions of their own.  A lot of these things will be new or challenging for your child in the beginning.   That leads to the next piece of the question asked.

How can you help?  Here are a few ideas:

When they say “this is hard” have a response ready.  Something like “Oh yeah?  That means it’s really helping strengthen your brain and making you smarter!” or “I understand that feeling like something is tricky is not the best feeling, but when you work through it you are going to feel so proud of yourself!” or “You’re right!  I’m glad you have the tools to accomplish this, even if it’s tough”.

Let them be the teacher and explain what they’re doing to you when they are working on their homework.

– Be patient with your child.

– Use LOTS of pictures, visuals, and tools when working through things together.   This could include drawings, tables, counters (beans, buttons, pennies, etc.), rulers or base 10 blocks.

Remember that there is more than one way to solve a problem (This is another idea that is emphasized with common core.)  Every way to solve a problem is great as long as it can be explained and justified.

The CCSS are new and different: that means that they’ll take some getting used to. Teachers, so you have any ideas to add?  Parents, what have you done to support your child with the changes?

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