Small Talk

Common Core Standards

March 6th, 2015

I can't do Common Core math for second graders. I feel totally lame saying this, but I've come to realize that I'm not alone.

I've complained about this randomly over the past year and I'm always met with sympathetic frustration from other mothers who also feel the exact same way.


Math is my weak point to begin with. Sometime early on this school year, I had no idea how to help Olivia with her math, because instead of doing it the way I learned in school, they do something that involves boxes with tens and ones and carrying stuff over.

One afternoon, I actually saw Claus helping Olivia and I had no idea what was going on. I should mention that I do wake up at 3 a.m. so by the time we're at the homework stage of the day, I'm kind of brain-dead and can't focus very well.

I asked Olivia to teach me what she was doing. I had to do a couple of examples to get it right. And I've certainly forgotten the lesson by now.

My husband is good with math and apparently he learned it this way in elementary school in Denmark, so it was not a mystery to him. Those Scandinavians are so advanced.

One week, he went on a trip and I had to do the math with her. I can calculate the problems, I just can't do it the way the teacher wants it done via Common Core methods. I actually wrote a note to the teacher, "I can't do Common Core math, sorry." She wrote back the next day, "It's OK! I'll help her."

Probably a good thing I'm paid to read and write. My kid, by the way, reads two grade levels above her grade. So I can still help her if it involves letters and not numbers!

How are you with Common Core math?

7 Responses to “Common Core Standards”

  1. Lowtone123:

    It takes me a little while to figure it out, luckily my son's teacher sets him up with a example problem to start. Once in a while I have no idea how they do it so I use the formula we used to do it and I don't know if it confuses my son or not.

  2. rayboyjr:

    Hey Diane ... wat dat!? ... haha ... I've tried doing that stuff and it's like a foreign language to me ...

    ... math and science I love ... well, I'm actually an engineer ... that's not to say I'm smart, but I do ok ... I do not like that method of learning math ... but if it works for today's students, go for it ... like the abacus did for people before us ...

    ... I guess it brings logic and visual and special context to math ... instead of just crunching numbers and formulas and equations ...

  3. Lorraine Baron:

    Dear Diane
    I feel for you. I know that parents want nothing more than to be able to help their kids, and when something is unfamiliar, that makes it really tricky.
    I know that the intent of the common core math is not for kids to do it a CERTAIN way as determined by the teacher or the textbook or anything, but eventually for students to know many ways, ways that make sense to the child, visual and hands-on ways, ways that we never really experienced as children, in a system where procedures ruled - whether or not we understood them. The "old" way was - learn your basic facts, again, whether or not you understood that multiplying 4 times 8 means 4 groups of 8, or 8 groups of 4. In the "good old days" all we needed to know was 32, and somehow that meant we "understood", when we know we didn't. For too many of us, math got away from us, and we hit the wall. Our brains were full. Full of facts that were unrelated to each other and not at all conceptual or applicable, and we couldn't connect ideas in math to make more room in our brains...
    Math today is about making sense - connecting visual representations to what it means to do math. If you child understands any of it, I encourage you to be the learner... to let your child teach you his/her way of making sense. Ask lots of good questions, have lots of objects that kids can count and group together in your house (rulers and measuring instruments too!). Ask if your child can find the answer in a different way. Eventually, parents can learn that math, learned conceptually rather than procedurally, will sustain your child through many many grades, and maybe they won't even hit the famous wall...
    Oh.. one more thing... everyone can learn math. (If you pardon the advice...) It's not likely a good idea to tell your child that "mom can't do math" or that "dad is not that good at it". If you just say, you are still learning, that is probably more accurate 🙂 Telling kids that "some can, and some can't do math" gets them off the hook.. if they suddenly stop persisting and decide they "can't do math" because it's "not in their genes", then that is to the detriment of the child... the child loses out... doors can often close... Please keep the energy positive, and always "wonder" and question... that is a very good learning space... the whole point is that we don't know... we only really learn when we try, make mistakes, then try again until it makes sense to us...

    There 🙂
    Apologies for the length of the post. I am so very impressed with this parent who wants to help her love love....(The Beatles - of course).

  4. MZ:

    Wait till you get to multiplication....that's even harder to grasp.

  5. zzzzzz:

    Great post, Lorraine.

    ITA, if you can't do it the way they're doing it in Olivia's class, ask her to teach you. That will really help her learn it better.

  6. Lynn:

    Please also look at and try out the SBAC practice tests at,

    While some people find the Common Core standards problematic, more difficult are the tests that are linked to those standards, the time they take away from instruction, and the way they are being used in our schools, not to help our students learn but to sort or rank our students, schools, and teachers.

  7. Lorraine Baron:


    You raise a very good point. Though the intent of having logical and connected math standards that we can all aim towards may be a good plan, the overuse of testing and evaluating the system is a completely different ball of wax.

    Some of these test questions might be nasty, and some of them might even be better, but what matters is that teachers should have the power to assess their students' understanding...which usually cannot be accomplished well through tests like these. There are so many politics around these, questions about who is benefiting financially, and no evidence that it helps children learn. In fact, so much energy is expended towards preparing students for tests, that teachers don't get to really focus on what students are is a shame, and we shouldn't stand for it.

    The Standards (though related - unfortunately) are not the same as the tests or the whole machinery of evaluation that aims to measure and punish the system (read - teachers and unfortunately children caught in the cross-fire).

    It is all such a complex issue, and we need to be informed about all of it.
    I appreciate that you brought up these issues.

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