What is Common Core Math? A Math Teacher’s Insights
Just the mention of common basic mathematics around parents and grandparents with young children will bring a lot of unfavorable comments. But why? What is basic math?Many of us, down through the generations, remember learning math through timed practice exercises. Dittos and worksheets containing hundreds of simple addition, subtraction and multiplication problems. It wasn't unusual, […]

Just the mention of common basic mathematics around parents and grandparents with young children will bring a lot of unfavorable comments. But why? What is basic math?

Many of us, down through the generations, remember learning math through timed practice exercises. Dittos and worksheets containing hundreds of simple addition, subtraction and multiplication problems. It wasn't unusual, and it was almost fun if you were competitive, to have the teacher time the class and declare the winner. Invariably, there are those who growl at the memory!

Today, memorizing mathematical facts by heart is not emphasized, and these timed exercises have practically disappeared. Replaced by research-based strategies that allow more learners to be successful.

Common Core Math is a recent development

The Common Core of Mathematics was established in 2009 to ensure that students across the country enjoy the same mathematical standards so that all students graduate with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, in career and in life.

As a high school math teacher when Core Curriculum first appeared, I saw the change firsthand. I can attest that students are joining a class from another state who are not at the same stage of their learning. There was always the possibility that they might not even have a comparable class offered in their state. This really made the registration process a nightmare, to say the least, not to mention the frustration of the student, parents and teacher in trying to meet educational goals.

Students work too hard to lose ground in their education due to a family move across state lines. Establishing a common core standard was the key to structuring a nationally common standard for all students. According to www.corestandards.org, 41 states, four territories and the District of Columbia still use the Common Basic Standards.

So why is core math so frustrating?

Even though we have been taught to memorize, students are encouraged to visualize the responses. There is one more element of memorizing basic facts: addition and multiplication, and by extension subtraction and division. The diagrams often associated with solving problems using the core are the ones where most people stop thinking.

[An excellent video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_Ip_Qdu6xI ]

Important skills are always taught: estimating, strategizing for problem solving, and applying the basic mathematical facts needed to solve a problem using the common basic methods. Remember the challenges of learning decimals and fractions for the first time? What if these same frustrations could be mitigated, or avoided, with a few new strategies? It would be worth a try!

An approach off the beaten track

Adding ½ + ¼ is easy to illustrate by using pizza or a similar shape to calculate ¾. But how can you use that same pizza to easily add ½ + 1/3 without too much head scratching and learner anxiety? Common core strategies offer spatial reasoning that allows for a “think outside the box” approach. By dividing the common shapes into equal segments and rearranging those elements to determine a solution, it's easier to see how these skills might help solve real-world problems. Fractions in math problems could then represent fractions of time, money, or geometric problems.

From a teacher's perspective, it helps to have multiple strategies for teaching students to solve problems. The idea is that one or two strategies will help the majority of a class. We will always have some other strategies to help others. Especially those who need a different way of seeing the problem. Research has shown that students with learning disabilities can benefit from common basic math strategies. And that it allowed students to solve more problems based on learned and memorized techniques, a drawback when they only offer rote memorization.

How can parents and guardians help young learners?

The best way for a parent or grandparent to help their child is for the student to show you what the teacher has demonstrated. More parents and grandparents have the opportunity to participate in the educational process with online or hybrid learning models.

There are plenty of videos available with examples and after watching a couple or two it is possible to see how problem solving is structured with common basic math. Watching the videos with the students is also helpful. Children discover key concepts that we may miss.

When we understand that all possible solutions have an underlying core element, even the “old ways” we have been taught, it is less intimidating and frustrating to embrace the ideas presented by the core mathematics. Keep in mind that the Core Curriculum is meant to be standards and goals for all students to be successful at solving problems in school, college, career, and life.

Barbara ashman


Whether you regularly whip up Michelin-worthy meals at the drop of a hat or your cooking skills are best described as “fine, ” you can always benefit from the helpful little tricks of others. Here, 14 of our friends’, families’ and coworkers’ most-used cooking tips.

There’s a time and a place to whip out that complicated coq au vin recipe you’ve been dying to try. A dinner party isn’t that time. With a new recipe, you’ll likely be chained to the kitchen the whole time, plus, when you’re trying something for the first time, there’s always the possibility that it could go horribly wrong. When cooking for a group, we always err on the side of tried-and-true crowd-pleasers.

You do hours of prep work on an intricate dish, only to be totally disappointed once you taste the final product. Bummer. Instead of putting in all that effort only to be disappointed, taste while you cook. That way, you’ll realize sooner that the dish isn’t tasting how you’d like it to, and you can make all kinds of last-ditch exercices to save it. This doesn’t just work for bad-to-OK meals. Tasting midway through and realizing how perfect a dash of cayenne or a squirt of lemon juice would be can take a great dinner to legendary status.

Plating pasta means tossing some onto a plate and finishing it with a nice dollop of sauce right on the middle, right ? Wrong. Here’s how to take your carbs to the next level : On the stove there should be two pans, one with pasta and one with sauce. Cook the pasta to al dente and transfer it into the sauce. Then, add a little bit of pasta water ( literally just the starchy water the pasta has been cooking in ), which will help the sauce cling to the pasta while also keeping it the right consistency. Perfection.

In the pursuit of the perfect steak, you have to be OK with your kitchen getting a little smoky. That’s because, to get the mouthwatering sear we’re all after, the meat has to be dry and the pan should be pretty damn close to smoking hot. Trust us, it’s worth a few seconds of a blaring alarm.

Most foods are ruined by too much salt. Steak is different. When it comes to seasoning your meat ( before you cook it ), more is more. Use a generous amount of coarse Kosher salt—more than you think you need. Since most cuts of steak are pretty thick, even though you’re using a lot of salt, it’s still only covering the surface.

This one isn’t too complicated. Whether you’re making avocado toast, pizza, fried rice or a burger, the addition of a fried egg on top will not hurt your feelings. Trust us.

This one seems like a no-brainer, but we’ve definitely found ourselves in a situation where we assumed we knew all of the ingredients that went into chocolate chip cookies only to find out that we had about half the required amount of brown sugar. Ugh. to avoid a mid-cooking grocery-store trip, read the recipe from front to back—carefully—before you start.

Prepping grains in mass quantities is less about taste than convenience. Rice, quinoa and even oatmeal last about a week in the fridge after being cooked. When we’re prepping any one of those, we double up our measurements and store the leftovers, which are then impossibly easy to use up throughout the week. Too tired to make dinner ? Heat up some leftover rice from the fridge and toss an egg on top ( remember ? ). Couldn’t be simpler.

So you fried up a pound of bacon for an indulgent ( read : delicious ) brunch. Great, just make sure you don’t throw out the grease in the pan. Instead, save it in the refrigerator or freezer ( it technically lasts for up to a year, but should be used sooner than that to take full advantage of its flavor ). Then, anytime you’re cooking something you typically prepare in oil, try cooking it in the bacon grease instead. You’ll never want to eat Brussels sprouts the old way again.

You’ve probably heard that whenever a dish is lacking a little something-something, the best thing to do is toss in some salt. But, we have it on good authority that salt isn’t always the answer. When you’re tasting a dish at the end and you think it needs a little oomph, often it just needs a splash of acid ( like lemon juice ) to round out the flavor.

You know the difference between a paring knife and a fillet knife, but do you know how to take care of them ? Or, more importantly, how to use them ? A set of good knives can be the difference between a stressful cooking experience and a great one. First, practice your knife skills. Look up tutorials on YouTube and practice chopping, slicing and julienne-ing. It’s amazing what you can do with your cook time when your prep time is shortened with solid knife skills. Then, once you’ve got your skills down pat, learn how to take care of your set. No one ever achieved kitchen greatness with a dull chef’s knife.

The key to tender, flavorful barbecue and roasts ? Cooking it on a low temperature for a long time. The same doesn’t go for roasting veggies. For crispy, perfectly cooked butternut squash, Brussels sprouts and more, remember the magic number : 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Any lower, and you risk pulling a pan of blah carrots out of the oven. It might seem high, but to get the nice roasted flavor, you need high heat. And while we’re on the subject, stop crowding your veggies in the pan, which will also make them soggy.

You know how just about every cookie recipe suggests that you chill your dough in the refrigerator for at least a few hours, but oftentimes you don’t listen because you just want cookies now ? ! ( Same. ) Unfortunately, this step actually does make a difference. In addition to limiting how much the dough spreads while baking, chilling your dough intensifies the flavors and produces that perfect chewy, crispy texture we know and love.

It won’t do your breath any favors, but never ( ever ) scrimp on garlic. In fact, we typically double the amount a recipe calls for. Apologies to anyone who was planning on kissing us.

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