I didn’t think it would happen this soon. It’s a moment that I knew would one day arrive, but like so much else in the past six years was completely unprepared for when it did. I really thought that my daughter would be further along in her academic career before I would have to admit to her that I couldn’t help her with her homework. Even worse, that I didn’t understand her homework, was unable to figure out even where to begin or what was required to come to the correct answer.
I looked at a first grader’s mathematics problem and was completely stumped.
I was familiar enough with “Common Core”, standards set in 2010 with the intention of having a universal curriculum across all the States. The teenager was still asking me for homework help when the philosophy started to change to students learning to master a few topics each year before moving on to more advanced studies.
I’d paid just enough attention at parent- teacher conferences to understand that the “domains” first grade students were expected to master were split into Operations and Algebraic thinking, Number and Operations in Base 10, Measurement and Data, and Geometry. I’d been assured that she was progressing at the required pace and was shown a bunch of charts that were supposed to quantify that.
What I was not familiar with was the new “inquiry based” method of actually teaching math, a complete reversal of everything that I had ever seen before. Instead of providing a quick method for solving equations on paper, the new way is supposed to encourage students to reason their way to the answers. Intellectual problem solving as opposed to memorization of tables and formulas.
On an intuitive level, I understand this. I’ve always been better at arriving at the answers to math questions than I was at showing my work and I think on a basic level this is the way that I’ve always approached problems. To calculate the change from a twenty dollar bill after purchasing something for $4.50, I don’t subtract $4.50 from 20. I add 50 cents to arrive at a simpler number, 5, then decide what I need to add to that to total the original 20. After figuring that answer to be 15, I add that 50 cents back to find my change to be $15.50. This seems to be what they are teaching the children to do.
Understanding the concepts and being able to look at a math problem and conceptualize how my daughter is supposed to be learning this are turning out to be two totally separate things, however. All I seem to achieve from staring at the example problem above is a headache and a six year old staring at me like I’m an idiot, a look that she is growing much more increasingly comfortable with than I appreciate.
I knew from the start that there was a lot about being a parent that I was going to be learning as I went. I’ve said many times in these pages that I think there is just as much that we could be learning from our children as they can be from us.
At no time did I think that any of those things would be elementary level arithmetic.
This post was previously published on Thirsty Daddy.
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