Changes in math instruction with Common Core are coming to many states.
By fall, traditional textbooks mostly will be tossed aside in California classrooms. What’s taught in each grade will get shuffled around and, often, merged. First-graders will get tiny tastes of algebra while learning to add, and middle school students will be exposed to statistics and geometry while still solving for X.
The changes are part of a national shift to Common Core standards, which identify the skills and topics to be taught at each grade level, with a focus on critical thinking and real-world applications rather than rote memorization.
So far, 45 states, including California, have agreed in the past few years to switch to the new standards, creating a more cohesive national public education system. The effort has been coordinated by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
The new system, according to proponents, will offer a more logical progression of math concepts and include real-life reasons for learning, say, about exponents or linear equations, local and state education officials said.
To be sure, 1 plus 1 will still equal 2 under the new standards. But the changes are creating some apprehension among parents trying to figure out why the course called Algebra I is disappearing from middle schools, and what it means for math-whiz kids who want to take calculus someday or students who might not be ready for bivariate data analysis before puberty hits.
In San Francisco, Deputy Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero is leading the changes, making sure math teachers know what to teach and how to teach it, even without new textbooks or a set teacher manual.
He has two words of advice for perplexed parents: “Don’t panic.”
This isn’t the first time math has gotten an overhaul in public schools.
In the 1960s, there was the much-criticized new math, which included set theory and number bases other than 10. That was scrapped eventually, replaced by the old math. And then, in 1975, there was the mandated switch to the metric system – a change beat back inch by inch.
This is bigger.
“I think it’s huge, actually,” said Brooke Arroyo, an eighth-grade math teacher at Denman Middle School in San Francisco.
Arroyo teaches Algebra I but is transitioning to the new system, which would have most eighth-graders taking a course called Math 8 or something similar, depending on the district.
To many parents and students, that might sound like an easier course. It won’t be, Arroyo said.