Developing logical thinking skills
Common Core Math is my kind of math. Because I went to a Montessori school for elementary and middle school (Montessori is a very hands-on, process-based learning style), I was already familiar with the investigative learning style of the Common Core curriculum.
Since Common Core Math blends Algebra I, Algebra II, and Geometry throughout three classes, there is more time to explore the hows and whys of the math. For example, while we were learning about the Unit Circle in Common Core Math III, which would be taught in Algebra II, we were able to investigate why sine, cosine and tangent determined the coordinates of each radian instead of learning that they just do. In Math II, we built up our knowledge of parabolas from Math I and we discovered as students in a student-led project why parabolas move as they do when you change the formula, and how the quadratic equation describes various points on the parabola, instead of learning from the teacher.
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This teaching style helps students learn why and how, which develops logical thinking skills in students, and helps us understand the principles behind the math better. Knowing why the math works logically also helps when testing, because it is easier to remember math when you understand the fundamentals of it, as opposed to just having to recall hundreds of formulas from memory.
As a student, I am glad I was taught Common Core Math. Now that I am in Precalculus, I feel like I understand the math better since I have the knowledge of why math works to back my thinking. Even if I don’t necessarily learn why in the class, I know how to learn it on my own time, and I often do. Common Core Math has served me well.
Common Core butterflies
As my eighth-grade year was ending, I remember my math teacher pulling me aside and telling me “Riverside is not Montessori, but you are.”
It is true, I was Montessori, yet I knew I had to prepare for a totally different experience that added two words to my schedule that made my ninth-grade butterflies morph into something horrifying, Common Core.
As I walked to my first Common Core catastrophe I held my breath hoping for an upside. The first class consisted of name games and simplistic equations, which I hoped would be the norm. It was not. Through that first semester I passed due to YouTube tutorials and lucky guesses.
The second year, however, was a completely different story. The first week in, I knew that Standard Math 2 was not the place for me. I talked to guidance counselors about how my struggles were nothing compared to the other students in my class. The day I was going to transfer my teacher told us that she was going on an extended trip and would not be back until the end of the semester. Great. There I was drowning, with a substitute teacher/football coach throwing me a life preserver. As I completed worksheet after worksheet I began to believe in my math abilities. Until my engineering teacher started upping the ante on the “Principles of Engineering.” I had no idea what “sine and cosine” were, much less where to find them on a calculator.
My current Common Core class is the third level, with the big, fat, “Dear college, please notice me on my transcripts” word, honors. I have finally found the sine and cosine buttons on my calculator, but I have so many questions that I don’t even know what to ask.
My friends complain to me about calculus, and I wonder if I will even make it that far. Students tend to blame curriculums and educators while I am stuck blaming myself and my goldfish-sized attention span. Sometimes I want to track down the people that invented this program and see if they could sit through a 90-minute class period of exponential functions being shoved down their throats. I would like to see them try.
As for my future of being a mathematician, it seems highly unlikely. Previous math teachers think that my craving for education should be put toward building a better math curriculum that would help out students who share my struggles. If the whole spontaneous “rich and famous” thing doesn’t work out, that could be a Plan B, or Z.