Shut the Hell Up, Dept.

Another in a long line of stories about how parents need to be taught the inefficient, non-standard methods for simple math, so they can help their children “understand” .  And of course no such story would be complete without this trope of a quote:

“The important thing is explaining how you know what you know,” Timm told the class. That’s what he wants their kids to leave school with — a deeper understanding of math, beyond rote memorization.

It might be nice to interpret Common Core in an alternative way; the one that allows standard algorithms to be taught prior to 4th grade.  The one that allows students to gain proficiency in the (shudder) procedure before being shown alternative methods that then serve to spotlight the underlying concepts.  The way it used to be done when Brownell, (reformer of his day in the 40’s through 60’s and receives steady praise from today’s reformers including Alfie Kohn) wrote the textbooks that I used.  Distinguishing main dish from side dish would be such a welcome change.

It might also be nice to not require “explanations” from K-6 students

Maybe they wouldn’t need to have parents make up the slack–or have students enrolled in learning centers.


One thought on “Shut the Hell Up, Dept.

  1. “We ask parents to be involved, but if we don’t give them the tools to be involved, it’s unfair,”

    What’s unfair is to expect parents to be involved for success in education. I remember reading that parents have to show interest and to make an environment that supports education. That means turning off the TV and making sure kids get to school on time each day ready to go. When did education change into having parents work on “math facts” at home and to go to math open houses? When did education turn into something that is academically age-tracked and where kids will only learn math skills when they are ready and can explain them in words? When did schools force tracking and real educational “involvement” (do the parts of their jobs they don’t like) home? When they “flip” a classroom, why not do the skills at school and have them watch the engaging videos at home online? That would work better than the other way around. K-6 educators are trying to avoid taking responsibility for pushing and ensuring skills. They want to abdicate their responsibility to the kids and parents by telling them that they have to become life-long learners – not as a result of a proper education, but as a responsibility they have to figure out themselves with what, grit and struggle? Full inclusion and “learn when they are ready” do not develop grit.

    “The important thing is explaining how you know what you know,”

    Why is time 60-based versus money that is 100-based? Why do we have 12 in a dozen and 12 inches in a foot? Why do we have pounds that are 16 ounces? Do kids understand what it means to live in a 1500 square foot house? Why are there 7 days in a week and 52 weeks in a year? Do they teach understanding first to kids when it comes to telling time and counting money? What does understanding mean and what are the different levels? Can understanding happen without parroting back their words to make them feel all warm and fuzzy? If students can do problems without words, that is meaningless and rote? It’s all rubbish. There are too many skills to learn and understanding first is clearly not necessary or sufficient. Duh! However, true understanding is not possible without mastery of skills. Conceptual understanding (what they are talking about) is at best only the motivating baby steps of proper understanding.

    Something else is going on here. I think all of this talk of understanding is to cover for full-inclusion with kids at so many different levels of skills. They can’t say that what they are doing is fundamentally wrong and they can’t say why K-6 has to be fundamentally different that the upper grades, so they came up with the idea that understanding comes first and that pushing and ensuring mastery of skills is NOT their job requirement. “Kids will learn when they are ready.” I was told that so many times, but then I went home and practiced “math facts” with my son, and now they want parents to be “involved.”

    Understanding is a cover for not pushing and ensuring grade-level skills, especially STEM-level skills. They want to claim the high ground of understanding while we STEM parents push and ensure mastery of skills. We do not teach understanding first for time and money and we don’t do that for math. Understanding is many layered and true understanding can ONLY be built on mastery of skills.

    Understanding is a cover for a fundamentally flawed system that expects parents to push and track at home to get anything more than a low slope to CCSS no remediation in college. They are thrilled if little Suzie is the first in her family to get to the community college (not necessarily graduate) even though she might have been able to get into Harvard. I got into calculus in high school with absolutely no help from my parents, but that was not possible with my son in K-8.


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