Learning starts at home: advice for parents
Our curriculum is always evolving.
The biggest factor in student success is home support. The good news is that elementary math is very concrete and straightforward, with plenty of visual aids, such as charts, tables, or number lines, to help in the solving process.
Of all these visual guides, perhaps the important one is the multiplication table. Certainly most parents memorized multiplication tables when they were in grade school, and today, the times tables are still a very useful tool because it offers a quick, easy shortcut for solving problems–especially if you don’t have a calculator.
However, parents have to understand one thing: Common Core fundamentally changes the way that numbers are taught to students, giving a framework that is totally different than what parents might be used to. Also important is the fact that students must show how they arrive at an answer.
For instance, let’s take a look at this viral example, where a student was marked wrong for writing that 5×3=15, because (s)he had worked out that 5+5+5=15. Both calculations (5+5+5 and 3+3+3+3+3) arrive at the same answer, due to the commutative property. But there was still an issue: as the article points out, is that 5 x 3 should be read as five groups of three, and not three groups of five.
Think of it as packaging. You can sell five A packages (each of which contain three phone cases), or three B packages (each of which contain five phone cases). But while the total number of phone cases is the same (15), there’s definitely a different price for package A (with 3 cases), as opposed to package B (with 5 cases). It’s this distinction that Common Core wants to point out.
Another one would be the use of ten frames, which are two rows of boxes, with five boxes in each row (totaling ten boxes); each box is either filled with a dot to indicate a value, or left blank, to indicate a zero. Ten frames are very easy to use, simply because they allow students to quickly count; for instance, leave out three boxes on a ten frame, and students can quickly see that it is seven.
The reasoning behind ten frames is that, like counting in groups of five, ten frames offer an easy progression for students to quickly understand number theory. After all, subtracting from ten frames is much easier than counting the individual numbers, one by one. And, it allows children to construct other ways to recognize values. For example, 7 is 2 more than 5 (a full row), and 3 is less than 10.
And making a simple ten frame at home is also quite easy: just take an old egg carton and cut off the last two ends for your own ten frame. This way, you can supplement your student’s learning at school with manipulatives (we call these objects manipulatives because they can be physically handled) of your own.