Hey Parents, New Common Core Math Is Worth the Trouble

After reading Lyndsey Layton’s weekend piece in the Washington Post on parents and Common Core math, I was relieved to know I’m not alone. I have three elementary-age boys all attending a school that is fully aligned to the Common Core. I adore their school and their teachers but am often stuck feeling a bit inadequate when it comes to my inability to help with math. When dinner is bubbling on the stove and three kids are working to get homework done before basketball or baseball practice, the last thing anyone can handle is Mom saying, “Ummm, I have no idea. I can’t help you.”

Parents Can Learn Too

The good news is that as I’ve learned the math strategies along with my boys, a surprising and very cool thing has happened. In addition to being more competent at helping them with number bonds or Ten Frames, I have noticed an improvement in my own math automaticity. I’ve never been great at computing quickly in my head (and am even guilty of joking about not being a “math person”), but now, using some of the Common Core strategies, I am improving. Whether calculating a tip or totaling up prices in a store, I’m faster now than before. As with anything new, it’s normal to be wary and skeptical. Doctors are when new treatments become the norm. All of us, especially our parents and grandparents, feel it with regard to technology and how quickly every human transaction has come to depend on it. It’s certainly easy to listen to comedians and political candidates and doubt what and how our children are learning. It’s easy to read a parent blog that’s gone viral and want to put our foot down about how frustrating and unnecessary this all seems. But neither the commentators on TV nor the parent bloggers are basing their opinions (or stand-up routines) on results. And the results suggest Common Core, implemented well, can positively impact learning.

Keep Calm and Carry On

Our children are being asked to think more critically to apply knowledge and that is a good thing. If we want our children, America’s children, to have the skills they need to succeed and compete in our ever-changing world, a few mild growing pains are worth it. I guess my advice to my fellow Moms (and Dads) is to hang in there and try to be patient. Take advantage of opportunities to learn about the newer ways of learning and doing math. If your school isn’t offering any, ask for them! And try having your children teach you. As much as we may wish it weren’t so, our schools are not preparing our children for the world in which we grew up; they are charged with the duty of preparing them for the world that awaits. It is in our best interest, and our children’s best interest, to get on board and enjoy the ride.  
Erika Sanzi
Erika Sanzi is a mother of three sons and taught in public schools in Massachusetts, California and Rhode Island. She has served on her local school board in Cumberland, Rhode Island, advocated for fair school funding at the state level, and worked on campaigns of candidates she considers to be champions for kids and true supporters of great schools. She is currently a Fordham senior visiting ...

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