Cyndi Edgington: Common Core will work

March 7, 2014 

Common Core will work

As an educator, I have spent a lot of time studying the Common Core State Standards for mathematics. I support our state’s decision to adopt and implement the standards. I believe they are rigorous, appropriate and achievable.

Common Core standards are often confused with assessments and have sometimes been confounded with a directive to teach certain topics at certain times or in a prescribed way. A quick read of the introduction ( http://www.corestandards.org/Math) explains the intention and purpose of the math standards.

A recent article in The Cary News and Southwest Wake News cites a mechanical engineer and the parent of a second grader who doesn’t understand why his child is learning multiple steps for solving multi-digit addition and subtraction problems, instead of learning to “borrow and carry.”

The perspective is that, in the first three years, students should build number sense, including counting strategies and place value ideas. They should develop a strong understanding of what it means to add and subtract in real-world contexts. “Borrow and carry” has no mathematical meaning. Someone who is an engineer surely understands the meaning behind the algorithm he uses.

We now know, after years of research, that this understanding takes several years to develop given the appropriate instructional activities.

Perhaps our focus should be on supporting teachers as they learn the new standards and give them time to adequately implement them. As Woodrow Wilson said, “It is easier to change the location of a cemetery, than to change the school curriculum.”

Cyndi Edgington

Apex

Edgington is a researcher and instructor of elementary education at North Carolina State University.

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