In Defense of Jason Zimba, Dept.

I was a bit snarky in a previous post about Jason Zimba regarding his remarks about “fluency” vs “memorization”. He has clarified for me that he does draw a distinction despite my characterizing his position as waffling.

While I do not agree with everything Zimba says about Common Core Math Standards (nor do I carry his enthusiasm for the standards), I appreciate what he has done to clarify what the standards mean. In particular, he has said that the standard algorithms can be taught earlier than the year in which they appear. He even recommends starting the teaching of the multidigit addition and subtraction algorithm in first grade–and not waiting until the year in which they appear in the CC standards (Grade 4)

He states: “The Common Core requires the standard algorithm; additional algorithms aren’t named and they aren’t required.”

Fairly strong words, but despite such clarifications as he provided in this earlier column he wrote for Fordham’s “Common Core Watch” word is not getting out.  There are schools in which the standard algorithms are delayed in the belief that standard algorithms eclipse the “why” and instead promote the “how” (as in “rote”) in performing operations.

Teachers are sending home notes to parents with the students advising them: “Do not teach your child the standard algorithm for computation until he or she has learned it in school.”

I have said before that Common Core is the gasoline on the reform math fire that has been burning for the past 25+ years.  Although it is possible to implement some aspects of the CC standards in a sensible manner, the tide of reform math and its bad practices are difficult to turn back.

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