Sunday, March 9, 2014

New methods for Basic Math in Common Core look ridiculous

Lately, there has been a picture going around Facebook showing some 'new math' problem that's taught to kids in this 'Common Core' stuff that is showing up in schools across America. Here's a copy of it for reference...

Seems stupid to you? Well, you're right. It is stupid. According to this guy who claims to be a math teacher, It's also supposedly NOT the way that basic math is being taught to school kids in this new Common Core regimen. He says this is a bad example. I have to admit something here: I'm not liking this dude trying to stick up for Common Core. He just had to make it political and take an unnecessary swipe at what he calls 'Conservatives' because the image above has been seen/widely shared by actress/comedienne Victoria Jackson. I get the impression that he's looking down his nose at her and I'm not cool with that kind of behavior. It's not just Conservatives that have issues with Common Core. I am beginning to think ill of it too.

Anyway, he claims that this 'new method' is supposed to help kids learn a new way of thinking about numbers and arithmetic that 'doesn't involve just simply plugging digits into a formula.' He also claims that the new method will make it easier to learn more complex forms of math later on in higher grades while admitting the example in the picture is horrible. Well, that example in the picture is pretty terrible... Other than that, I'd have to say this guy's claims are...

Wait for it...


Higher Math is nothing but formulas and processes! You would think that a Math Teacher would know that Algebra and Geometry use a LOT of formulas, processes, standard forms, theorems and methods. Ever hear of PEMDAS, Pythagorean Triplets, Slope Formula or the Standard form of a Quadratic Equation before there, genius? Almost ALL of that is plugging numbers into a formula!!!

The reason why people find math difficult (myself included with the higher math I don't use very often) is the way you teach math to children: rote memorization. Instead of teaching the logic behind mathematics and how it really works, you just make them memorize multiplication tables. That, or count on their fingers and toes for addition or subtraction. Those methods might be a good way to get them started (and essential since pre-pubescent minds are not well-formed yet and mostly incapable of logic and higher-order reasoning) but, it doesn't really help much past the 3rd grade. Yet, sadly, that is essentially how kids continue to learn math all the way up through High School. From my own experience, I can promise you that rote memorization is NOT effective for learning processes in Algebra and Geometry.

Even worse, Educators have completely failed to explain why math is even important. It's not enough to say 'You need to know this stuff' or 'Math is the language of the universe' to your students. Try telling them what kind of job opportunities that math skills can provide and the large paychecks associated with them.

As for the supposed Math Teacher's explanation of this 'new method'... Well, I think I know what the creators of Common Core were trying to do. It won't work, either. This 'new method' looks like they are trying to teach the kids to do what I do in my head. They are essentially trying to make ordinary kids think like 'little professors.' Or, make a Neurotypical think more like Me (and all the other Aspies) and 'look at the big picture'. Interesting approach but, at least in this example, you're trying to teach them to do something that doesn't require that kind of thought process. I don't need to have any 'number sense' as this (supposed) math teacher referred to it, to do basic math. If I don't need this 'number sense', then why would an ordinary NT child?

Also, due to the differences in neurological wiring between Aspies and NT's, most people will never be able to think like me... especially since this so-called teacher still has it all wrong. I don't do any of that number skipping crap he tries to explain in his example. It's needlessly complex and obtuse. It also violates ALL logic known to Humankind, especially the 'golden rule' of logic, Occam's Razor. So, instead of that stuff he used in his example, I simply do what any good naturally born Mad Scientist would do: make it simple instead of more difficult on myself.

Here's what I do...

First, I break the original problem down into smaller ones that are easier to solve.

Let's pretend that the problem on the proverbial test says: 82+17 = ???

So, I reduce the numbers to 2 sets: 80+10 and 2+7.

Then, I add the results from those smaller problems to get the answer to the original problem. I'll demonstrate...

80+10=90 and 2+7=9 so, I then add 90+9 and get 99.

So, that means the answer to the original problem is this: 82+17=99.

Yes, it is that easy and yes it does work EVERY time. You might fool people but, you can't fool numbers. Feel free to check my work on a calculator, if you wish. It's a LOT easier to use/understand than the method in that so-called teacher's example and it complements the old ways rather than conflict with them. It shouldn't confuse students very much, if at all.

Truth be told, I don't remember how I came to learn that trick. It might have come from a teacher of mine in elementary school or I might have developed the technique on my own. Either way, that's how I handle basic mental math. I have become so good at it that I tend to solve basic math problems in my head in a near instantaneous fashion. That proved quite useful when making measurements on a job site when I was working with my father's old contracting business years ago. (See what I just did there? I provided a real-life example of how useful math can be and how it helped me to make money!)

If you think the little trick I just demonstrated was impressive then, check this out...

In college, I learned every prime number between 0 and 100 and committed them to memory. It's actually pretty easy. All you have to do is find the numbers that can't be evenly divided by 2, 3, 5 or 7 since those are the smallest divisors of non-prime numbers. Any other number you use for a divisor can be reduced to 2, 3, 5 or 7. I would recite them all in front of my professors and math tutors (It was several years between High School and College for me so, I needed some help to get back up to speed) and leave them stunned. I then told them how I did it: look for numbers that can't be evenly divided by 2, 3, 5 or 7 in my head as I'm writing them on the board or reciting them aloud. What makes this even more impressive is that it wasn't required for any lesson or course. I did it just for my own amusement.

If the methods I just demonstrated were what's being taught in Common Core, then I wouldn't have an issue with the basic math portion. However, this is yet another brainchild of the Federal Government (via the essentially useless/Constitutionally-questionable Department of Education) so, I don't expect it to work out well. I do understand that Math is not an easy subject to teach. It requires imparting a system of logical thinking to young, undeveloped minds who are rarely capable of any logic whatsoever. I do sympathize with the Teacher's plight on this one issue and quite a few others, I'm sure. That being said, this particular 'new method' just doesn't work. If geniuses like me go cross-eyed looking at it, then the kids don't stand a chance.

My advice to teachers is quite simple: Quit trying to make NT's think like Aspies. It won't happen. I know this from personal experience because I have tried countless times to impart logic to NT's. It's generally not possible for them... and it's also rarely necessary. We naturally-born Mad Scientists will make sure they can use the new sciences and technologies that we discover and create. We're kinda used to 'idiot-proofing' the world for all of you anyway.

- Lord Publius

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