By Lauren Lubin
The newest form of educational standards, known as Common Core, came to life in 2009. In the math department in particular, Common Core has manifested itself in students being placed into groups and left to solve problems. This has been a controversial form of learning ever since it was presented. It is no secret that it is not a suitable form of learning for all students.
The curriculum has been pushed into many classes and subjects, yet with the math department, it has taken a rather negative turn. Sydni Cook, a sophomore at Novato High, is currently participating in two math classes, Geometry and Algebra 2. Cook is a great example of a student who has trouble with the Common Core math curriculum.
“I’m a very visual learner; I kind of need to see how things work,” Cook said. “So when I ask a teacher a question and they say ‘what do you think?’ I’m like no, this is a yes or no question or this is a show-me-how to do this question. It’s not a what-do-you-think question. I need actual help understanding this material. It’s like ‘ask your team,’ but nobody knows.”
This issue has come up among students throughout the years it has been practiced. The difference between the old curriculum and Common Core is that students are placed into groups of up to four people. The grouped students get a set of scenarios each day and they are basically left to figure them out. This practice was meant to help students with problem-solving on their own and prepare them for real-life situations.
Some students, such as junior Emilee Gendel, don’t agree with the practice of being put into groups and figuring things out on their own. Gendel described her personal experience with this set up.
“I cannot learn with the way they are trying to teach us, with Common Core,” Gendel said. “I need teachers to actually teach me. I can’t have students try and teach me and that’s basically what Common Core is; students trying to teach each other and that does not work.”
Since this curriculum is relatively new, the transition has been especially hard for students who were used to the standards we had before. Most students have come to Common Core after participating in CPM (previous curriculum) throughout middle school. Seniors have transitioned during their high-school years, since the district implemented the curriculum around 2014.
Emmalee Jordan is one of the many seniors who has struggled with the transition. She even wrote her sophomore speech about Common Core.
“The Common Core math curriculum itself is not inherently a problem for me because they're in essence just a set of standards,” Jordan said. “However, it's the way they're being taught at Novato High that I struggled with in freshman and especially sophomore year. Our school is really new to Common Core, so it's understandable that the transition would be rocky. Personally, I don't benefit from the way the standards were taught at my school—group discussions and activities are not necessarily the best way to learn math in my opinion. I really struggled with math that year; my grades definitely suffered.”
Although it may seem most of the student body does not agree with the Common Core math curriculum standards, the view of the teachers has been different.
“I do believe the Common Core math curriculum is an effective form of teaching,” said Tina Schumikowski, an Algebra 1 and Statistical Reasoning in Sports teacher. “Common Core is not CPM; it is the expectation that students will understand not just the how-to, but the why. They have to be able to communicate and justify their thinking. It requires students to read for content and that’s new to a math experience for lots of kids.”
Schumikowski also described why this form of group learning may be harder for some students.
“We spend time helping them with that, but it’s different from what it has been in the past,” Schumikowski said. “It used to just be we would teach it and they would practice it you’d spit it back out but they wouldn’t necessarily know what they were doing. By asking to make sense of the mathematics, it makes it a lot harder.”
The Common Core math curriculum is a set of standards that is meant to teach students the deeper meaning of most math problems. Although the intent may be good, it does not work with how most students process information.