This message, sent to me and another colleague by my boss, was a late afternoon cry for help. Her son, a second grader, was stumped by the question and she wanted to support him as much as possible. She didn't run to Facebook to commiserate about the convoluted Common Core-ification of elementary math, nor did she throw down a rant thread on Twitter. Instead, she came to two trusted colleagues who are former math teachers, both of whom hold degrees in math. Surely we could help.
I would regroup 8 hundreds as 7 hundreds 10 tens.
I would regroup 10 tens 2 ones as 9 tens 12 ones.
I would subtract 6 tens from 10 tens.
Wait... what? Is that right?
Truth be told, I wouldn't do any of those. Here's how I would do it:
Add 36 to 364 to get 400.
Add 36 to 802 to get 838.
Subtract 400 from 838.
Smile and write 438.
But that wasn't the question, and by the looks of it, I would be marked wrong.
This is not the fault of Common Core.
This is not the fault of a bad teacher.
This is not the fault of a parent who casts negative opinions about math.
To me, this is the fault of broken communication about what gets sent home and how we are supporting parents who are trying to support their children. Yes, Common Core has changed the way that a lot of ways in which students are learning the foundational mathematics. By and large, it is great. However, when we send something home to a group of individuals not trained on the methods, a disconnect is evident and a wedge is driven.
Rather than driving a wedge between our classrooms and the home, we need to be working to maintain a smooth pathway.
To do so, parents need to be more involved in the process. How was this student being instructed to break down a three-digit subtraction problem while at school? What are some strategies that students worked through during class? Are there online resources to send so that parents have a better ideas? Perhaps a blog post or two?
This time, it was me trying to help a co-worker help her son. Next time, it will probably be my own son coming home with work that I don't know how to navigate. Sure, I can show him my way, but I also want to support you, the teacher I trust with my genetic pride and joy, and need to know how. I'll know the solution, but I may not know the steps you're looking for.
Many of you are doing something about maintaining a smooth pathway. If so, I would love to hear how. What are you sending home? What access do your parents have?
One way I'm trying to do this is by sending out a weekly newsletter to share ideas and conversation starters. Take a look at the tabletalkmath.com newsletter and let me know what you think. Oh yeah, and the book should be out soon!
Happy "Smooth Pathways" Fishing