Common Core Follies

The video of an Arkansas woman protesting Common Core math is blocked but it is amazing to me and it is only one of a  great many out there on the follies of Common Core math.  The woman is addressing the local school board about her children’s math instruction.  According to her, it  does not include memorizing the times tables by the fourth grade.  Now If you substitute learning for memorizing, then I agree, there is no sane reason why children are not learning times tables.  It’s just a different way of counting.  If a child can learn to count 1 2 3 4 5 then the child can also learn to count 2 4 6 8, or 5 10 15 20, or  6 12 18 24 and so on.  Some people use sing songs and rhymes, others use rules, or descending numbers, but in the end, it is just another way of counting and if children can count to one hundred, they can learn the times tables.

The mother cites one of the problems that was asked of fourth grade students on a test.    I’ll paraphrase it:  given the number 18 how many times would 18 go into 90.  What the Common Core graders  expected the children to do was count out 18 circles and then use hash marks in each circle.  No numbers or times tables for fourth graders?   What seems to have escaped everyone except the mother testifying is that the times tables are the key to division, fractions, and everything that comes afterwards.

Lets assume some of the children, even if they don’t know the times tables,  can use numbers and can add numbers up to 100.  Here’s what they would have to do:

18 + 18 = 36 +18 = 54 +18 =72 +18 = 90 (5 times 18)

Adding all these numbers is unnecessary drudgery (as is drawing circles and making hash marks.  Busy work.) The only value it would have is after the children do this, the teacher says “Let me show you a short cut, it’s called the times tables.”   But, evidently, even adding the numbers was out of bounds in this alleged math lesson so even the addition would have been graded down according to the mother questioning the methods of Common Core.  Math without numbers is, well, a stupid idea. 

Divide90by18In her opening statement, the mother addressing them asked  the board their answer to the question of how many times 18 goes into 90.  One of the ladies on the school board answered 5.  She was asked how she got the answer and she said she divided 90  by 18. That would be most direct way to solve the problem.  On the left is  how it  was done when I was in the fourth grade.

The point the mother was making was that this calculation is only possible for one who knows the times tables.   Learning to use the times tables makes math easier, not harder as the above examples show.

Divide10by2Here is another way to solve the problem. Identify the greatest common factor of both 18 and 90 and then divide the multipliers.  In this problem, the greatest common factor is 9.  We already know that 90 divided by 18 is 5 and we can see that 10 divided by 2 is also 5, so we have both the answer and a check.

Learning the times tables is the key to the door.  It makes math easier, not harder.  That is why I started these postings with the times table we generated earlier in J.

In another blocked  video we discover that Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, is the biggest promoter of Common Core but he DOESN’T send his children to a school using the Common Core curriculum.  The video raises serious questions about the role Gates has played as a private citizen in promoting Common Core.


Bill Gates makes clear what and who  benefits from  Common Core.  He uses the analogy of light plugs.  He says the Common Core curriculum will work because children when they grow up can be plugged into the workforce like light plugs.  Common Core works because it turns the children into the equivalent of light plugs?  Children as light plugs?  Boy, talk about a size 8 shoe; this is worse.  This is imagery straight from the old Fritz Lang movie, Metropolis.  Our children need better math instruction but—man— Gates is sorely in need of some lessons in humility.  Laughter will suffice.

 Next, Nicholas Negroponte on how children teach themselves and his experiment with children and tablet computers.

About Richard Rollo

I am a retired Community College Instructor. I taught Political Science 1 American Government for 22 years in Southern California. I am originally from Northern Minnesota. My earliest years were spent in the living quarters of a rural Duluth Winnipeg & Pacific Railway Depot. Then my family joined the great 1950's migration to Southern California where I joined up with fellow baby boomers in overcrowded schools.
This entry was posted in APL and J, Do It Yourself Learning, Learning Math. Bookmark the permalink.