Have you, err, uhh, heard about this “common core” thing? It’s going to make all the children take a half hour to learn 2+2, and they’ll call it “deep.”
That’s the essence of the conversation you’ll hear about the Common Core State Standards in certain reaches of the Internet. Take, for example, a recent Facebook post by Victoria Jackson, the former Saturday Night Live actress and self-described “outspoken conservative,” in which she shares the following image and captions it “This is common core” (reproduced here):
Most of the comments on the post run the gamut from “This is insane!” to “This makes no sense.” (Facebook: Come for the BuzzFeed reposts, stay for the commentary.)
There’s no context for the image aside from the one-line caption, so one result could be to give the image’s viewers a sense that the execution of a subtraction problem, done in a way that many of us are not perhaps used to, demonstrates why the common standards are bad. Then, when inevitably asked about them by others, people can say, “Oh, I saw an example of those standards. Crazy! I’m against them.”
Even while there’s no context given, I’m pretty sure the idea of this subtraction problem (wherever it came from) is to show how addition and subtraction are, in effect, the same thing, while also demonstrating that adjusting math to be in terms of fives and tens can make problem-solving easier. (Some commenters also pointed this out.)
I’m also pretty sure the problem addresses one of the 2nd grade math standards:
CCSS.Math.Content.2.NBT.B.5: Fluently add and subtract within 100 using strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction.
I honestly don’t recall the exact way I learned to subtract, but I’ve found the strategy of putting numbers into terms of fives or tens to be of frequent help. (Anyone who’s ever split a huge group bar tab understands this.) If math teachers feel like this is an adequate way to explain math to students, then it’s one more method that young students have to understand math, especially at an early age; when children fall behind early in math, they are like to stay behind, so every little bit presumably helps.
Note, also, that the standard doesn’t seem to preclude the “old way,” but rather suggests alternate ways, too.
While there are many arguments against the common core (whether about current construction, or the associated testing, or relevant political agendas), many of these arguments use actual, well, argument, which doesn’t work as well on social-media sites better suited to sharing GIFs or a quick-hit photo. (Which is not a critique of GIFs. On the contrary, GIFs can make me feel like this):
But maybe the reason that public awareness of the common core lags is because it’s not so easy to summarize standards in a viral image like Jackson’s; they form a massive, complex framework and, in the common core’s case, backstory. The Internet can be a great way to spread information, but I think common core’s supporters and critics alike would rather that arguments (both ways) be based in good faith, not on exaggeration. Or else they will, inevitably, feel like this:
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.