The Common Core State Standards have been around for more than a decade. From the beginning, people have had, well â€¦ thoughts (Iâ€™m looking at you, parents) and itâ€™s never really let up. If I had a nickel for every time I saw a â€śCommon Core Math is stupidâ€ť post on social media, I would easily be able to calculate the total because so-called â€śCommon Core Mathâ€ť (also referred to as â€śnew mathâ€ť and equally derided) is actually great. No, really. From a teacherâ€™s perspective, let me explain why Common Core Math is not the enemy.

## Hereâ€™s whatâ€™s actually in the Common Core Math Standards

The most common complaint I hear is kids coming home with some â€śsillyâ€ť method for a straightforward calculation. You might be surprised to learn that those â€śfunnyâ€ť strategies arenâ€™t mentioned anywhere in the standards. Rather, the standards encourage students to use a variety of models and strategies to solve their problems. According to the standards themselves, â€śMathematically proficient students consider the available tools when solving a mathematical problem.â€ť More specifically, when it comes to multiplication, the fourth-grade standards state, â€śDepending on the numbers and the context, [students] select and accurately apply appropriate methods to estimate or mentally calculate products.â€ť

And believe me, fluency and efficiency *are* the goal. What we need to accept is that the algorithm isnâ€™t always the fastest and best method. Donâ€™t believe me? Watch a kid work on the problem 100-97 and start to *borrow*. We want students who can look at that equation and reason that the answer is three, whether theyâ€™re visualizing how close 97 is to 100 on a number line or hundreds chart or thinking that seven is three away from the next 10.

## We get itâ€”most of us werenâ€™t taught math this way

You know how they say people tend to parent the way they were parented? I think thatâ€™s really true, and I think it extends to the way parents help their kids with their schoolwork. Itâ€™s uncomfortable and stressful to try something in a new way, especially when that something (e.g., math) is already anxiety-inducing for 93% of adults.

The way most of us were taught in the â€śgood old daysâ€ť centered around the application of algorithms. Now, thereâ€™s nothing wrong with algorithms. Theyâ€™re great, and many times they are the most efficient way to find an answer. The problem lies in divorcing them from meaning. (Raise your hand if you learned â€śWhen dividing fractions, donâ€™t ask why. Just invert and multiplyâ€ť?). Algorithm-only approaches are how we get students who canâ€™t determine the reasonableness or their answers. If theyâ€™re doing double-digit multiplication and forget to â€śbring down the zero,â€ť theyâ€™re going to get an incorrect answer. A student who understands the place value of the digits (e.g., in 37 x 45, that four is really a 40!) is much more likely to catch a mistake because they know their answer doesnâ€™t make sense.

My guess is that your math education was also fairly memorization-heavy. Iâ€™m not anti-memorization. No one wants a fifth grader to use repeated addition to solve 7 x 7. They should just know that. I expect weâ€™re all in agreement on that. But I would argue that in the first introduction the concept in the earlier grades, thereâ€™s a benefit to learning, say, arrays. Arrays are a great visual representation of whatâ€™s actually happening when you multiply. Plus, it makes it that much easier to grasp the concept area (as opposed to just learning another formula).

## Weâ€™re not asking you to teach it

Hereâ€™s the thing: If you donâ€™t understand it, we donâ€™t want you trying to teach it to your child. Thatâ€™s *our* job. The work thatâ€™s sent home (if itâ€™s sent home at allâ€”thereâ€™s growing consensus that homework isnâ€™t all that beneficial, especially in the elementary years) is meant to be practice of a skill thatâ€™s already been taught in class. If they canâ€™t do it by themselves, I guarantee your teacher wants to know about it. Write a note explaining what they had trouble with. I promise you your childâ€™s teacher doesnâ€™t want them to have a meltdown over a math strategy. As I tell my own kids, we donâ€™t do tears over homework.

## Chances are your real beef is with a badly written curriculum

If your child is getting homework that requires them to practice a particular â€śweirdâ€ť strategy, youâ€™re probably looking at bad curriculum. The whole idea behind Common Core Math is that, yes, you learn a variety of strategies, but also that you select the ones that work for you and the particular problem youâ€™re trying to solve. Unfortunately, your childâ€™s teachers are often hamstrung by district requirements that they â€śteach with fidelity,â€ť meaning they canâ€™t stray from the curriculum. Now, some teachers will buck the system for stuff thatâ€™s not in the best interests of their students, but thatâ€™s hard, and thatâ€™s where your voice comes in.

Advocate to your school board for a better curriculum. Sign up to be on the math curriculum selection committee. We need all the help we can get in adopting curricula that sets a foundation for future mathematics success. Because a kid that knows whatâ€™s really happening when you â€ścarry the oneâ€ť is going to have a much easier time as the math gets harder, and we all know it gets harder.

## Common Core Math Resources for Parents

- Guide to Common Core Math for Parents
- Common Core Works Parent Roadmaps
- A Teacherâ€™s Guide to Helping Kids with Common Core Math
- New Math: An Explainer for Millennial Parents
- 9 â€śNew Mathâ€ť Problems and Methods