Tuesday, October 27, 2015


I've heard about the common core math requirement but I don't really understand it despite being the father of a 12 year old. Not really anything new. I was never particularly good at math. Good enough, mind you, to fool the teachers, but not myself. I know the difference since I was unable to fool the music teacher into believing I could read music. The proving was a dismal melody.

One of the drawbacks to a peripatetic life is changing schools frequently and leaving behind any expectation that you, "must surely remember your lessons from last year!" Which, because I didn't share the same lessons, meant the answer was usually a big fat no. That whole orderly progression through the numbers and fractions and base 10 were all a separate slice out of the giant ball of quarks that is math to me.

I had an interesting dinner discussion with a friend from California who is passionate about the common core and raising 2 boys who are taking two different approaches to it. One flies by the rules and the other is content to write the answer and leave it at that. That's where I came in, made a mark and left the building. What is wrong with just writing the answer, I wondered. She told me I didn't understand the process as part of the solution and without showing the process, the solution had no meaning.... My brain started to revert to what it had been like when it was shiny and new and seldom used (back when I was 14-21 years of age.

Oh, I thought. "Could you show me the process you used to reach the correct answer to the following problems," I asked her. Add the numbers together and show your work:

V + V + VI =
C - XIV =

Well, I could go on with higher math but why bother. The process is important but immaterial if one has the correct solution. Why would anyone take away points if the process is not shown but the solution is correct? You know the kind of person who holds fast to a thing they think they know and won't let go even if it kills them? There's one out there reading this and going, "screw the Romans, what did they ever do? The process must be shown or the answer doesn't count!"

Pont du Gard (read the links to see the math)

On the other hand, engineers like to show their work. :)


  1. Yeah, slide rule! Oh, wait, that was not invented until 1622.

  2. The Common Core approach is akin to the old "Taking the watch apart to tell you what time it is." lol

  3. I'm surprised nobody answered the questions.V + V + VI = VVVI
    C - XIV = 42

    Then there is the whole use a calculator approach to math. I'm not sure what they bother teaching anymore since it doesn't seem to get the kids up to the point of actually passing State mandated basic math comprehension/much less reading comprehension and SAT scores are still falling. Kids today must be dumber, don't you think?

    1. The kids are not dumber--the perverted education system purporting to teach them certainly is.

  4. As a former math teacher, I required students to show their work so that they could demonstrate understanding and not just get lucky by guessing the answer. it also makes cheating harder since they cannot just reproduce a list of right answers but have to reproduce entire processes. As a teacher, I would work through every step the student made to see where they went wrong. Mostly, they went wrong on simple arithmetic errors, not in the higher functions or applications. Thus, they could still get SOME credit. I did know other teachers who graded just on getting right answers and their students seemed to get the attitude that guessing was just as mathematically sound as learning the lesson points.

    1. As a former student I was encouraged to get the correct solution and cheating was countered by observation and detection. There was no credit for wrong answers, only correct answers didn't count against one when totting up the wrong answers and subtracting from 100. A student's understanding was communicated most effectively by passing and doing well on tests, quizzes and answering the problem when asked. The latter was where the teacher refined his or her appreciation for the individual student's understanding of the processes involved.
      We entered a pact with all teachers which was that we could only be observed and detected cheating by them or be a hostile student who squealed. Barring that, post facto declarations or accusations of cheating were disregarded and viewed with some contempt. We were of the 'Stand and Deliver' persuasion. Kudos to the teachers who detect cheating but the pact required students be caught in the act, not by post mission analysis. :)