Letters to the Editor

Talbot Troy: Common Core promotes problem solving not memorization

Regarding the Nov. 29 news article “Common Core ignites math war”: Over the last 23 years, I’ve been a K-8 math teacher and administrator in three states.

When I taught prior to Common Core, prevailing expectations focused on memorization of steps and predictable problem types. As a result, many of my sixth-graders started with math “skills” that fell apart on Day One. Some who had made A’s in elementary school struggled with realistic problems requiring higher-level thinking or had no reliable number sense. This doesn’t help produce scientists and engineers, and no parent should settle for it.

Common Core’s Math Practice Standards demand, among other things, that students “persevere in solving problems – reason abstractly and quantitatively – construct viable arguments – critique the reasoning of others – model with mathematics (and) attend to precision.”

This is compatible with all good teaching styles but frequently gets ignored when not demanded. It moves learning where it should go, beyond predictable problems and short “answers.”

Wherever working toward these unassailable goals creates confusion, educators need to improve implementation. North Carolina shouldn’t slide backward and abandon the goals just because they are different from the convenient routines of teaching children that doing real math can be avoided with memorized steps.

Talbot Troy