Common Core workbooks for my elementary school student


It is hard to believe that after centuries of teaching arithmetic it hasn’t been near perfected yet. Have there been any studies comparing these new methods of teaching against others?



PS- I’m not trying to instigate a pie-fight - a great feature of BB is the countervailing opinions.


Well, yes… But is it Math?


The implementation of Common Core has been tainted by high stakes testing and “Race to the Top.” Non Native speakers face greater challenges in Common Core math with the emphasis on word problems. Many math concepts are taught before they are developmentally ready.


As a parent, I’m beginning to think the fight over Common Core is a complete red herring. Some very powerful people are working very hard to destroy the teaching profession and public education, and replace them with a pay-as-you-can system which might include some vouchers for the very poor, which is more and more families. If they have their way, in a generation or two, literacy in America will be rare.

So no, I don’t particularly care my son learned multiplication in a weird way.


common core originated in practices that were developed in japan from studies that looked at the interaction between cognitive development in children and the acquisition of math skills. the foundations of the practices at the heart of common core have been heavily studied. one of the problems with the common core implementation of these practices is that while in japan there was a great deal of time and attention spent on training teachers in how to teach math in a new way, here in the states teachers have just been thrown into it without much training and without much explanation for how the methods work. another problem is in the intersection between common core and the pre-existing high stakes testing going on.

it really doesn’t matter much to me since texas passed laws forbidding its use and turned down a billion or so rather than use it.


There are many different learners, and many different styles. From seeing my 3 kids, I’d say that there are at least 4 styles that are effective, some of them overlap with common core, some don’t.

I really don’t like some of the ‘strategies’ that common core requires in math (~2nd grade level), since my second grader is far past ‘counting up’ and ‘numberline’ to the point where he looks at 2+1 digit addition and just knows it. But the tests require methods, and at his level, internalizing it to the point of core knowledge isn’t a method.

(never mind that his curriculum explicitly avoided counting up and numberline methods for recognizing number groupings and other ways that are less related to counting on fingers)

CC is (likely) a useful base for students that aren’t at the level yet, and possibly as a guide for what’s the minimum for a district. But as an upper limit, or speed bump for faster classes, it’s a problem.

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Seems like the complaint is more about testing for the standards, rather than about the standards themselves.

Too late. They’re already dead.


There’s quite a bit of criticism about the curriculum, generally. I just recalled the previous posting here focused on the Cons, while this one seems, if not Pro, then at least in the middle.

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As someone who is not an expert on this, but will have an interest in a few years…

How much of this is things going in and out of fashion?

I’m thinking teaching phonetics for language learning, or new math (sic).

Common Core sounds a lot like the National Curriculum and Key Stages in the UK - which I don’t completely object to as an idea, but from what I remember seemed to lead to teaching to the test, rather than covering a subject more broadly.

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I think that’s got some validity. Particularly when you see how criticism of Common Core has been embraced by certain political movements , and the frankly vitriolic nature of a lot of it. Its been heavily politicized now.

Which misses the point that it is a good idea a base. I just think the way its been implemented is incredibly poor. I’ve seen kids in my family who loved math and got great grades in that subject suddenly start hating math and not do so well once they start getting the current Common Core approach.

My cousin in particular. All her math homework is handled through a website that is frankly broken. It frequently hangs or crashes, and has a host of other problems. The base structure of it is you go though a series of multiple choice questions, you can’t move on till you get a question right. If you get too many wrong the website “remediates” you, which means it makes you redo past home work assignments (it also tends to do this everytime the website borks itself). Now the questions on this math homework mostly seem to not revolve around math or the teaching there-of. A lot of them seem to be questions about Common Core concepts and how they function, dressed up with numbers to make them look more mathy. All of them are so badly worded its often difficult for her to figure out what the question is asking. If there is a clear mathematical question involved she has no problem solving them, but has a great deal of trouble figuring out how the website wants the question answered or structured as its often not straight forward. All the confusion leads to her re-doing weeks of homework assignments in a given night (the more times you’re “remediated” the further it throws you back). Once she spent a solid 8 hours on a Sunday working on her math homework just to get one short assignment done (10 questions). 8 hours. This is a (mostly) A student in the most advanced math class her school offers at her grade level. Her brother is a professional mathematician, and while he can help her with the math he has to find it first. That usually takes both of them and a lot of goggling to figure out. Usually what she does these days is work through her assignments using trial and error. Noting down the correct answers for each assignment and keeping them on hand so she can blow through “remediations” in a reasonable amount of time. Which means she’s not learning math from it. The english/reading assignments I’ve seen from her are better but depressingly similar. And at least their on paper worksheets (photo copies from a work book). There doesn’t seem to be much actual reading or writing involved, though the questions are usually built around whatever little assigned reading they have. But they still seem to be asking about concepts unique to common core, there’s no analysis or instruction on the meaning or mechanics of the written word. Most of the questions read something like “Explain [X common core concept] using a character from [Insert book we read].” Though the ‘book’ is usually an excerpt from a work that’s below their expected reading level. She’s at a grade level where she should be starting to write essays, but she’s had very little instruction in it. Most of her assignments have her at most writing a few sentences, mostly about concepts that only exist in Common Core. When they do eventually assign a more complex essay she’s graded very harshly using concepts and standard she doesn’t appear to have been taught.

That’s all a very stupid way to do this. She tells me the science subjects are better though. But many of her teachers complain of not being adequately trained to teach via these methods. Apparently most of them rely on reading and working directly from textbooks, workbooks, and prepared materials. Which ratchets up the stupid even further. From my vantage point (not having kids, ‘cool’ cousin who helps with homework, lots of friends who are teachers) it looks a lot like its focused teaching about common core rather the subjects common core is intended to teach.


I seem to remember reading that the Japanese actually got these ideas on how to teach math from the US.


I’ve haven’t had to deal with the common core (yet) but talking with some teacher friends I get the sense that it is a step in the right direction, and actually moving away from teaching to the test in favor of teaching higher level cognitive skills. I too feel like the response to it has been mostly political,and it also seems like a large part of the negative reaction by parents is based on how challenging it is for them to wrap their heads around. We need to ask ourselves, do we really want our educational decisions being made by the kind of people who regularly go on a show like “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader” and lose?


No where have I offered any judgement of common core. Common core is what is being taught in the public schools my daughter will attend, I need workbooks to help me help her with it.

I don’t think Common Core is any different than my parents generation feelings about how we did long division, etc when I was in the California public system, aside from the politicized lines that have somehow been drawn around it.


It is rather unfortunate that this article, while criticizing the rigid structure of a standardized school curriculum (applicable not just to the Common Core), fails to provide a coherent alternative.

The broad argument that education should be individual, while correct, is not particularly useful when the goal is global policy. Maybe individualized education would be achievable if class sizes were smaller and if teachers were better trained/better paid/better qualified and if public schools got more funding, but all of that is wishful thinking. We might as well ask for effective national health care.

Fundamentally, Common Core is a realistic solution. A more fanciful one would require, at the very least, a completely different set of priorities for the US government.


Common Core is just another way of saying what schools have always been telling students: “We know what you need to know, along with how and when you need to know it. And if you don’t know what we say you should know, when and how we say you should know it, you will be penalized in one way or another. We don’t care if you’ll never really need to know as an adult what we say you need to know as a child, because we are the experts on what people should know. Sit down. Be quiet. Get to studying so you can have the kind of a life we think you should have.”

That might be your goal, and more power to you. Nobody should be telling another person or another family what their goal in education should be. Education and learning are inherently personal things. Judging on the scale of millions (or thousands or dozens) is not as useful as sitting down with each student and helping them to create a learning experience which they find personally satisfying.

I think your pessimism is misplaced. Individualized, democratic education is inherently much less expensive than the kind of education that wastes millions of dollars forcing kids to temporarily memorize information that they’ll never remember and/or use again in their lives. And our public schools already spend more per-pupil than all but 2 or 3 other countries.

College is individualized education (imperfect as it is). There’s no reason that the model in which students and families choose what, when, and how they will learn can’t be used for young kids, as well.

But even if you disagree with me (a likely scenario!), I really like this list by Alfie Kohn on things we probably can agree on.

I have spent a fair amount of time familiarizing myself with Common Core science standards, and I don’t recall those phrases showing up anywhere.

Instead I find things like “Analyze the structure of the relationships among concepts in a text, including relationships among key terms (e.g., force, friction, reaction force, energy).” Or: “Compare and contrast findings presented in a text to those from other sources (including their own experiments), noting when the findings support or contradict previous explanations or accounts.”

If anything, I was shocked by how nebulous many of these standards are. They are not dictating a lock-step educational regimen, but instead are describing core competencies and literacies.

Unless of course you happen to hate critical thinking skills and scientific literacy :wink:


I don’t doubt that somewhere its being applied well. And like I said the base idea is a solid one. And while a lot of the noise is down to exactly that sort of “well when I was a kid” consternation. I think there is a real problem in the way its being carried out in most states or school districts. So you need a work book (good on you for getting involved), that’s because parents who weren’t instructed by the methods your school is using don’t understand them. Which is unavoidable. Unfortunately in many districts the teachers are in the same boat. They haven’t given adequate training, support, or time to learn these new methods of teaching, and there really isn’t funding to do it in most places. So your kid’s teacher likely needs to use a workbook too, for the same reason you do. My aunt buys workbooks to help her kid too, she just buys the same ones the teachers are reading/working from in class.

Beyond that most of the materials I’ve seen from family and friends in multiple states (Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia mostly) have been of really low quality. The language is poorly written, so even when you understand the subject being taught, or the methods being used, it can be really hard to figure out what the hell they’re trying to say. And I’m not just talking about handouts, but the text books and teacher materials. I’ve seen history materials from my cousins where base facts are wrong, and entire sections make no sense. A lot of it has a disturbing lack of content, with a focus on the various new teaching methods rather than the subject at hand. We don’t send our kids to school to learn what a “number sentence” is. We send them so they can use things like “number sentences” to do math. And these are all professionally produced (and expensive) materials designed specifically for this purpose by companies who are supposedly at the forefront of education.

Then there’s all these new methods of teaching subjects. Some of them are probably pretty good, some of them are probably pretty bad. I’ve seen some pretty wonky, and even pseudo-sciencey stuff as part of this push for new methods as well. There doesn’t seem to be much effort to identify, or test, how well they work, and apply the best options. Boing Boing has already pointed out that some of the more common math approaches are cribbed from New Math, which I recognized as well (it had a brief resurgence in my area during the 80’s, my brother was instructed this way in early Elementary school). A lot of the English/reading materials I see (where there’s actual content) look an awful lot like the specific Phonics curriculum that was used in my school during my Elementary schooling. IIRC correctly New Math was considered a massive failure not just because there was difficulty implementing it and people didn’t like it. But, at least in the localized resurgence here in NY, it didn’t work. It was very good at doing what it intended. Teaching kids to do relatively complex math in their heads. But where it failed was at dealing with the most complex math (like calculus and algebra), and more specifically in teaching standard practices and notations of math. So for any given practical, professional, application of math students were either incapable of using their New Math skills or had to relearn it all the regular way. Can’t publish a scientific paper written in New Math after all, and noone cares if you did your analysis in your head and wrote the results down context free. Similar thing with the Phonics approach. Apparently it lead to a huge drop in literacy and reading level. It taught you all about the bits and pieces of words, how they worked together, building up to grammar and sentence structure etc. But it didn’t at any point attempt to teach anything about understanding or interpreting what you were reading. So you had a bunch of students who could structure a sentence fairly well, and could read out loud without struggle, but could in no way tell you what the hell Shakespeare was getting at.

But those things seem to be back, and they haven’t necessarily, from what I’ve seen, been integrated with other approaches that make up for their short fallings.