One of the three lead writers of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), a national initiative with roots in No Child Left Behind and other federal government education programs, recently told a Columbia University education magazine parents should avoid helping children with their math homework.
Jason Zimba, co-author of the CCSS math standards, told a reporter for The Hechinger Report, Columbia University Teaching College’s trade magazine, parents should not help children with their homework because government school teachers are trained professionals who are better equipped than parents to help students learn.
Ze’ev Wurman, a former senior policy adviser at the U.S. Department of Education and a visiting scholar at the Hoover Institution, says Common Core’s expert authors aren’t really experts.
“Common Core math standards have been written by three people: two mathematicians with very limited educational experience and one English major, and it shows,” Wurman said. “Its recommendations have no empirical support, and many professional mathematicians and professionals using math object to them. Further, the objections to parents teaching their kids with different and more efficient ways to do math are akin to complaining about telling teenagers that they can use bikes or cars, rather than walking everywhere.”
Parental involvement in the education process facilitates learning, Wurman says.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a given, but all studies indicate that children do much better when parents are involved,” Wurman said. “If parents are discouraged from helping, their involvement, by definition, gets lower. The general effects are bound to be more disengaged children, many of whom will come to dislike the unnecessarily convoluted math taught in the classroom. Teachers will become the gatekeepers to knowledge, since parents will not be able to mitigate teacher failures, and we know that many teachers are not very strong in math.”
Barry Garelick, cofounder of the U.S. Coalition for World Class Math and a math teacher in the California government school system, says Common Core math homework, which can be confusing to parents, is a sign of a problem in education.
“Common Core math homework is not the problem; it is a symptom of the problem,” Garelick said. “That problem is the math reform agenda that has been active for more than 20 years and thus predates Common Core. The Common Core math standards lend themselves to interpretations along math reform ideologies. The words ‘explain’ and ‘understand’ crop up in many of the content standards and serve as code words to have students as young as 1st graders ‘explain’ math problems so simple as to defy explanation.”
Garelick says government school officials are pursuing trendy education fads, instead of using proven methods to educate children.
“Schools and districts are quick to tell parents, both suspicious and unsuspecting, that such circumvention strategies are part of a deeper understanding of math facts,'” Garelick said. “In those derided eras, the standard algorithms were taught first and alternative strategies were taught later as a side dish, not one of an endless supply of main dishes.”
Garelick says parents should be included in the education process.
“Parents, to the extent they can, should teach their children the standard methods, as well as what they need to do to comply with what’s required of them at school,” Garelick said. “As far as expanding options for students and their families, [schools] should drop the dictates that parents not teach their kids the standard methods and allow students the option to learn them and use them if they so desire.”
Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.