April 17 2014
Vicki E. Alger
The many problems with Common Core math are real and serious—but you know a policy is soon to be doomed for failure once it becomes a punch line instead of a headline.
In recent weeks Common Core national standards have been ridiculed on TV and online. Odes to its academic idiocy are multiplying—and they’re worth a look if you’re becoming disheartened about the growing encroachment of government into education.
First up is Steven Colbert. Listen up, Nation. Colbert’s coming around to Common Core because it prepares kids for the real world, which he defines as “pointless stress and confusion.” Specifically, Colbert is convinced that Common Core teaches essential practical workplace skills, like “passive aggressive note-writing” and math.
Well…maybe not that second part. In case you missed Cobert’s hilarious segment earlier this month on Common Core math, see it here at the Daily Caller. All you need to nail the new assessments is to brush up on your number lines, number sentences, word equations and formula paragraphs. Duh…
And are there any adults out there who are at least functional, if not successful, at using math in their daily lives only to be told by an eye-rolling nine-year-old that they’re doing basic arithmetic “ALL wrong”? I sure am. (I’ll admit that I do feel a wee bit better when our resident fourth-grade know-it-all says the same thing to my husband—a computer engineer who’s coded the guidance system for a satellite…that’s still in orbit…decades after launch.)
You’re not alone.
Common Core actually pushes something akin to new math version 2.0 (because apparently we don’t have enough children below basic numeracy levels thanks to new math version 1.0).
But don’t worry. Satirist-turned mathematics and music theater teacher Tom Lehrer is here to help. In his delightful public service video Lehrer reviews subtraction. After watching it, you’ll see how solving 342 – 173 isn’t limited to the actual answer, 169.
Lehrer unlocks a host of possible other answers all thanks to new math because as he explains, “[I]n the NEW approach, as you know, the important thing is to understand what you’re doing, rather than to get the right answer.” With that in mind Lehrer explains that in subtraction we also use addition, which of course is commutative. That means 342 – 173 = 159 because “the IDEA is the important thing.”
But has anyone out there been tortured when a child you know has to solve a problem using Base 8? Yikes! I thought Base 10 was bad. My husband assures me that Base 8 really is used by computer programmers, but for the rest of us Lehrer says, “Don’t panic…Base 8 is just like Base 10, really…if you’re missing two fingers.” Using this method 342 – 173 = 147.
“Hooray for new math,” concludes Lehrer, because “it’s so simple, only a child can do it!”
Yes, and hooray for Common Core national standards and federal agendas like it. In just the next generation or so, the country will be really broke, and we won’t be able to calculate by how much. But we’ll still feel good about ourselves.