Some things are so reliable—and the exception to their rule so preposterous—that they’re considered constants. The grass is always green. The sky is always blue. The Sun and Moon will change places at the start of every day and night. But, if you expected those constants to include math among their ranks, you’d be incorrect.
As old ideas are fleshed out and new ideas become part of the conversation, accepted thinking can shift and alter the realities of the things we thought we knew. That’s how knowledge works—we seek knowledge to gain a better understanding, not to affirm that the things we take as truth are correct.
When it comes to math, though, our knowledge concerning the subject isn’t really what’s changing. Numbers are still numbers, and they still go together and separate to get the same results they used to. However, what has changed when it comes to math is the process itself.
These changes are in the same vein as the shift towards placing greater emphasis on STEM learning—science, technology, engineering and math—in today’s classrooms. The importance of critical thinking, problem solving and future-proof skill sets justified STEM’s rise to the top of America’s education conversation, and the new math method aims to place a similar emphasis on thinking critically to solve problems.
If you or your learner would like to explore more STEM concepts, Juni Learning has a variety of courses that can help introduce and reinforce concepts related to the four STEM disciplines.
What is the New Math Method?
In 2010, National Council of Teachers released a new set of math standards for assessing effectiveness of lessons in every grade level, from elementary school to high school. These new guidelines for measuring achievement, referred to as Common Core State Standards, inspired a shift in the way a mathematics teacher would impart math education onto their classrooms.
There’s a misconception that Common Core State Standards themselves are a prescribed curriculum school mathematics must teach to, a blanket assessment that measures adherence to the rules, or a list of rules and methodology for teaching that teachers can’t stray from. This isn’t the case at all, though. The standards are short but to-the-point progress checks that try to pinpoint progress students should’ve made by a specific point in their academic careers.
At the conclusion of their first-grade year, a student’s ability to accurately count should allow them to reach the number 120. Common Core State Standards state this as a standard, but the document also has wiggle room written in which acknowledges that both students will logically move on to 121 and others will be unable to reach such a lofty sum.
This demonstrates the philosophy behind the standards: less emphasis on memorization to reach a product and more value given to a student’s understanding of the process behind those methods and correct answers.
Juni Learning has great resources for exploring the new landscape of math learning and comprehension.
New Math Method vs. Traditional Math Methods
What we’ve come to know as the traditional way to do math relied on black-and-white methodology with concrete steps. This was the trusted and exclusive way to arrive at the correct answer for any given math problem, turning everything into a formula or theorem that requires plugging away until the answer reveals itself.
The new way of doing math still has all the formulas named after long-gone Greeks that produce tried and true results, but it changes up the way students think about numbers and the way they arrive at the correct answers for operations like addition, subtraction, division and multiplication.
For example, if asked to add 52 and 68, the formerly established method of addition tasked us with lining the two numbers up vertically, carrying a remainder and eventually finding a solution. With Common Core State Standards, students are taught to first add the 2 from 52 to the 68 value on the other side of the problem.
This creates a simple addition scenario that can probably be completed in your head. This is a method called making tens, and it not only helps students find the correct answer, it also instills the confidence to tweak elements of a problem and find the answers their own way.
Benefits of New Math Method
Finding Answers Their Own Way
Speaking of, one of the most lauded benefits of Common Core State Standards is the turn towards handing children some agency in their mathematical explorations. As previously mentioned, they’re given a set of tools that includes finding tens to solve math problems in class and in math homework. They get to choose how they deploy these tools, as well as how to interact with and expand upon their relationship with numbers.
Learning about taking different approaches to problems, manipulating pieces of a puzzle, and finding solutions based on their own decisions does wonders for self-agency, critical thinking, and confidence in their skills to tackle seemingly esoteric issues.
This focus on critical thinking has also introduced a greater emphasis on word problems, as evaluating and justifying actions is a great way to encourage reflection.
Improved Textbooks for All
Having uniform standards across the majority of American states means textbooks can spend more time highlighting important concepts and diving deep into those concepts, exploring them thoroughly while providing students with a strong foundational knowledge instead of a brief glimpse.
Thanks to the wide array of adopted standards throughout America before the introduction of Common Core State Standards, large companies purposefully created textbooks that were broad with their concepts in order to appeal to as many buyers as possible. With so many of their buyers also becoming part of the same audience, the quality of material can improve, too.
Teachers are Better Prepared
Before Common Core State Standards put firm benchmarks into place for administrations to strive for, a teacher’s objectives were mostly in the hands of state legislatures or long-established curriculum. They’d look to see what content had to be touched on in their assigned grade and get to work. Now, in the new math teaching method, clear goals are suggested and can be uniformly worked towards and measured in assignments and tests.
Monitoring Entities can Better Keep Track of Progress
National Assessment of Educational Progress is a standardized test administered to children in fourth, eighth and twelfth grades. You may hear it referred to as the nation’s report card on news programs or in articles because it’s used as the main source for national student achievement trends.
Higher Quality Standards
Earlier, it was mentioned that standards were often put into place by state legislatures, and while some teachers make the transition into the political realm, this means that people without backgrounds in education were making decisions about what teachers should teach in classrooms. Common Core State Standards were developed by an organization of educators and are bipartisan, children focused guiding points.
How Can I Teach My Child New Math?
Don’t Lead with Negativity
Children have a habit of doing as they see, and watching their parents complain about the methodology of their math class will give them an excuse to interact negatively with their material. Common Core State Standards produce different problem-solving methodology than the last generation of math best practices, but it isn’t meant to confuse or frustrate.
This new way of doing is meant to draw parallels between math and skills important in other subjects, such as critical thinking.
It’s okay if you don’t understand everything immediately—even if your child is learning at a first-grade level. Your parents probably didn’t understand the new math you were learning, either—yes, this backlash has happened before, and it’ll probably happen again when we further improve on Common Core State Standards.
Learn Common Core Concepts
The array model. Box multiplication. Tape Diagrams. The new approach to match arms students with a large number of specific tools they can then deploy for the right situations. Learning these concepts will help keep you in-the-know for homework help, as well as personal enrichment.
Make Sure Homework is Completed
Homework acts as a bridge between teacher and parent, provides what can be very necessary post-lesson interaction with a subject and can solidify concepts which may be talked about in a student’s next class period.
Practice Talking Through Problem Solving
With the increase in word problems and heightened focus on documenting work when solving a problem, try convincing your child to talk through everyday routines like they’re on stage at the largest conference in their field.
Ask Kids to Complete Math-centric Chores
When home tasks are divided between family members, purposefully assign tasks to your child that include measuring, adding, subtracting, and other basic mathematics functions.
Help Your Child Learn Math
Common Core State Standards are a fairly new concept, but this new math teaching method didn’t start with Common Core, and it probably won’t stop there, either. For now, though, the current standards create some synergy between curriculums and push students to solve problems with critical thinking.
If you’d like to encourage more interaction with lessons in Common Core’s mathematical standards, visit Juni Learning to explore their options. Just like those math standards, Juni Learning’s catalog can encourage exploration in other subjects, too!