My music teacher, Doreen, brought me her second-grade daughter’s math homework. She was already fuming over Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s remark about why “white suburban moms” oppose the Common Core, and the homework added fuel to the fire. The problem that disturbed her the most was the following:
3. Sally did some counting. Look at her work. Explain why you think Sally counted this way.
177, 178, 179, 180, 190, 200, 210, 211, 212, 213, 214.
It was on a homework sheet from the New York State Common Core Mathematics Curriculum for Grade 2, which you can find here.
Doreen’s daughter had no idea how to answer this odd question.
I’m with Doreen’s daughter on this one. Actually, it’s worse than that. I clicked on the link, searched on *Sally* to check that the problem was really there as stated, then I looked at the two previous problems:
I can’t be sure of the answer to either of these! I mean, sure, the first one has 40 stars. So I’d say 40 ones = 4 tens, and 40 stars in all. But I’m not quite sure—is that all they’re asking? It seems a bit tricky to ask me to write “40″ twice.
As for #2, I see 14 sticks, so that’s 14 tens, 1.4 hundreds, and 140 sticks in all. But they can’t really be asking me to answer “1.4″ to question b, can they? It also just seems weird for them to be asking me to count to 14? I had to count a second time just to make sure I didn’t mess up somewhere. That can’t be the skill they want to be teaching.
But . . . after struggling with all the problems on this page, I figured out the answer they wanted for the “Sally” problem: They want me to say that she is counting from 177 to 214 using tens and ones! Not anything that anyone would ever want to do, but it seems to be part of the curriculum.
This relates to Burris’s other comment:
The teachers in her daughter’s school are also concerned. They are startled to find that the curriculum is often a script. Here is an excerpt to teach students to add using beads from the first-grade module.
T: How many tens do you see?
T: How many ones?
T: Say the number the Say Ten way.
S: Ten 6
Teaching is hard, and developing curricula is hard. So in some way we should be giving the people on these committees a break. But they have power, they waste a lot of people’s time, so when they do things wrong, I do think the right solution is to mock and mock, scream and scream. “Ten 6,” indeed.