I always say things like, “Virtually all NH teachers I’ve talked to with Common Core classroom experience are strong supporters of the new standards.” That’s true. But still, some NH teachers do disagree with the standards. Here are three examples.
Larry Graykin, Barrington Middle School English teacher, has been a vocal opponent of the standards for years, speaking out on Facebook and his own web sites. When he wrote a guest column for the New Hampshire Labor News, I responded and agreed, in March, to publish his response to the points I made. Nothing yet.
Then, after a forum on the Common Core, Hooksett kindergarten teacher Maryann Boucher told me she opposed the Common Core because the standards are developmentally inappropriate for kindergarteners and she does not believe in testing children that small. We agreed that it was difficult to teach to the new standards in a half-day kindergarten program like hers and that, in fact, there is no Common Core testing of kindergarteners. But she still opposed the standards and wrote me an email about it, copy to the other members of the State Board of Education. Ms. Boucher then posted her letter on Facebook and probably elsewhere, leaving off my response and our subsequent exchange. Here it is, including my invitation to meet any time and discuss the standards (and here, a second offer to meet)
And finally, here is Manchester math teacher Natalie Brankin who has testified to the legislature that, unlike most math teachers, she feels there is no need to ask students to explain their math reasoning – all that counts is the right answer. She goes further in a recent blog post, objecting to the multipart real-life problems the Common Core requires:
“The standards being implemented in the Granite State are being sold to schools as necessary to prepare students for careers in math and science. Yet time and experience, as well as common sense, have shown that direct instruction using standard algorithms is the most effective way to teach students mathematics. Elementary school mathematics should consist of problems that are readily understandable to the average student. Elementary aged children should be learning basic skills in math in the most efficient way from an instructor who knows mathematics.”
I believe I testified to the Manchester Board right after Ms. Brankin. I’ll repeat the point I made to the Board. Proof is the language of mathematics. In other words, for a mathematician to be taken seriously, they need to show and explain their work. Similarly, engineers may not have to use mathematical proofs, but they better be able to explain (i.e., show their work) why one bridge design is better than another. Yes, it seems inefficient for students who know the “right answer” to have to stop and show their work, but if the math curriculum appropriately engages students with rigorous mathematics and/or her/his teacher differentiate instruction appropriately, then sooner or later (hopefully) sooner, the child will get to problems where they do not intuitively know the right answer, having to explain their work will allow the teacher to quickly identify and remediate where the student got stuck.
I am an example of someone who loved and could figure out math problems up to a point. I did this through 2nd year algebra. Trigonometry was not offered the year I could have taken it before graduation. I discovered in college Physics that I had no understanding of the concepts at all. The teacher and a student tried to help me. They finally gave up and i switched majors from Zoology to English. My own children benefited from 4 years of math in German schools where they did have to explain what they were doing and even create their own problems from a list of “facts” provided. They came back to US schools 2 years ahead in math.