Having just returned from a Gates sponsored seminar “ to further hardwire the Common Core curriculum ” (Gate’s words; not mine; notice he said “curriculum“) Mr. White opines us on what he learned. He was most taken with a story from Deborah Ball, now dean of education at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who was teaching her third grade students about odd and even numbers, when one student, Sean, said that he thought some numbers were both odd and even.
It is obvious this was an exercise at the conference. For Mr. White asks us how we should respond…. We are given three options.
Teacher A responded that there are no numbers that are both odd and even and that you can always tell which are odd and which are even by which are divisible by two and which are not. Those evenly divisible by two are even and the others are odd. She then moved on with her lesson plan.
Teacher B asks the student to explain why he thinks some numbers are both odd and even. He says that because two goes into some even numbers (like 6 or 10) an odd number of times, those numbers are both odd and even. The teacher says that is a very interesting thought, but then goes on to explain the rule to him as had been done by Teacher A and moves on with the lesson.
Ok, those were almost the same, so you know the Common Core set up is coming up in …. C
Teacher C suspends her lesson plan and asks the class to think about the student’s conjecture. They talk about it and the teacher provisionally calls these odd/even numbers, Sean numbers, saying that is what mathematicians do when they explore a new idea. The class subsequently discovers or notices that every other even number is a “Sean number” and they then discover what kind of number results (odd, Sean or non-Sean) when “Sean numbers” are added to other “Sean numbers”, to “non-Sean even numbers” and to odd numbers. The lesson ends as the class tries to decide whether “Sean numbers” should be added to the list of numbers in their mathematics curriculum, but by then time has run out.”
Obviously I’m not a Common Core enthusiast. Did you see the part that the teacher “suspends” her lesson plan to cover something totally ridiculous as naming numbers “Sean numbers”? The immediate question is…….. when will they cover what they were supposed to do THAT DAY? Tomorrow? If so, what will be missed on the test because the Smarter Balanced Assessment is tightly wound so everything covered in class, is used on the test… Will each of these children lose 150 points because they missed a most important element of multiplication, because they were kept behind by talking about “Sean numbers”? Remember the test examples we showed you, so complicated that adults cannot even figure out what is being asked?
This is ruining children… Remember where we said the child’s brain is growing and must get a certain amount of knowledge in on a timely fashion, or it is lost forever? How does spending a full day on Sean numbers, probably something everyone in the class except Sean had already grasped, help a child in this race against time?
Most of all, this is an example of taking something really simple…. and making it really complicated…. This is exactly why Common Core is so rotten at it’s core….
Remember in high school where certain cliques made up certain rules, and everyone in-the-know had to follow them, and those not in-the-know, were ostracized and put down? I want you to keep this in mind as we go through the rest of Mr. White’s essay…..
Whose pupils, Teacher A’s, B’s, or C’s, would do better on Common Core standards? Teacher A seems out of step with the Common Core values as she was not even curious about Sean’s reasoning, although she did explicitly correct what she took to be his error. Teacher B went further in exploring Sean’s reasoning, surely something expected in the Common Core, but Sean was more or less left with the idea he was not doing anything worthwhile mathematically. Teacher C seems to embody the Common Core’s values of having Sean “make sense of problems and persevere in solving them, reason abstractly and quantitatively, construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others, attend to precision, look for and make use of structure.” Teacher C moreover encourages the whole class to accept the Common Core goals and see what more Sean and his classmates could make mathematically of his unconventional idea.
Did you get that? Teacher C embodies Common Core’s rules the best… Whoo Hoo… Give him/her a prize!… No comment or discussion if those rules are even good for children … It is a blind-set: these are the rules and we must follow them…. Now if you like this example of creative thinking, it is because you are only thinking of Sean. You are ignoring its impact on all the other students… In the opposite approach to Common Core, where you would have an 11:1 student teacher ratio, a teacher could take such time with Sean and then cover her other 10 people. But in a class of 20, 22, 24, 28, 30? Most of the children are sitting through this discussion going: “this is really stupid; I hate school….”
Now, in Mr. White’s essay, since we are starting with the premise that Common Core is good for children, notice the evaluations given to Teachers A-C.
But what about those who gave Teacher C low marks, sometimes the lowest marks? Their concerns fell into three categories, all worrisome for the future of the Common Core. Most worrisome were those who felt Sean had made an error that had to be corrected and because of that, it was a mistake to let his error contaminate the whole class. Others felt the teacher’s mistake was pedagogical because having the error named after the student inappropriately shamed him. Others felt that Teacher C simply wasted valuable time as this “odd/even number” conjecture was never going to be on a standardized curriculum test and they, and their districts, want their teachers to focus on what the state will test. Clearly, the topic of numbers being both odd and even has no mathematical future and is not going to be raised by anyone ever again.
Forgive me. They all sound good to me… Read them over again….
But that would not cause this post to be written. Mr. White completely disagrees…..
Sean, of course, has not made a mistake, and as his conjecture shows, and as too many faculty and students overlooked, he fully grasps the principle that Teachers A and B taught. He is in fact doing the kind of thinking that the Common Core standards also hope to see when they ask students to “make sense of problems and persevere in solving them, reason abstractly and quantitatively, construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others, attend to precision, look for and make use of structure,” and so forth….
And this is deemed good for education? As a standard it sounds noble, especially when italicized. But in the example provided, it is completely ridiculous… And that is why Common Core is going to so confuse children, especially children in the inner cities who don’t get meals, who can’t do homework, who don’t have parents involved with their education because their night job gets them home at 11:50 pm… 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, are even… 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, are odd… any questions? Let’s practice counting by evens… let’s practice counting by odds… everybody got it? Recess.
I learned fine that way. So did you. So did our whole generation. So did the generation before them…. But now, we are encouraged to have a discussion about “Sean numbers” which to be honest, I couldn’t even follow because I had nothing to write with and draw a little map as to how Mr. White was explaining it….
“The class subsequently discovers or notices that every other even number is a “Sean number” and they then discover what kind of number results (odd, Sean or non-Sean) when “Sean numbers” are added to other “Sean numbers”, to “non-Sean even numbers” and to odd numbers.”
Huh? Could you have handled that in 3rd Grade?
So we have confusion, instead of simplicity… For in Mr. White’s terminology, simplicity shows us:
“The limitations in their subject matter and pedagogical knowledge *which) unfortunately foster the kind of conventional teaching that would undermine the larger goals of the Common Core and preserve the undesired status quo.
If simplicity undermines the larger goal of the Common Core and preserves the status quo, isn’t that now deemed by every parent of a student, to be a good thing?
Flat out, here is what is going on here….
Common Core is a very bad program that is impossible to teach, and impossible to grasp. IT FAILS 70% OF ITS STUDENTS IN EVERY CLASS! It is losing support with parents.
So what Bill Gates did, was whisk educators off to a green world where there was only one set of alternatives, an alternative universe so to speak… In that alternative universe, Common Core is spun as the most awesome thing that every happened… Mr. White descends back to reality… And suddenly, his ideas plop down in a real world where there are 30 students in a class, all going WTF is wrong with this teacher? Please, STFU and lets learn something real.
The Real world… not Gates’ville… the real world…
This is an example of not being in the “real world”….
“The success on this counting task, if it is taken as an exemplary measure of the standard, means that some students will remain as baffled as were a countable number, but fortunately a relatively small number of participants in today’s teacher education programs buy the sense in which some numbers can be both odd and even.”
Wait a minute…. Did he just say that some numbers can be both odd… and even? I think he did… How is that going to go over when tested to see if one is college or career ready? “Sure, some numbers can be both odd and even.”
This is exactly what is wrong with Common Core… It is stupid. It is made-up bullshit. It is fantasy. it does not correspond to reality. It has as much relationship to reality as does your attractiveness to the opposite sex being based solely on your beer which is the same as is in a commercial with attractive models… “Hey, slut! Go out with me, I drink Coors Lite.”
With regard to how we will know whether we have succeeded in the Common Core experiment, we won’t know for sure until the tests we mandate find a way to respect and reward the ingenuity of students like Sean….
By failing 70% of Delawares children… Why? Because they don’t know that numbers can be both odd and even….
This, ladies and gentlemen, is why there is considerable pushback on Common Core. it is farcical. The chickens are running the farm and the real teachers, are being called ridiculous… They aren’t ridiculous. Common Core is what is ridiculous and anyone who tries to rank teachers according to Common Core, will set learning back greatly…
Just remember, that in its effort to resell Common Core to the masses, this op-ed of Mr. White was its high point: “stating that number can be both odd and even…. “
That is Common Core. That is why all parents are against it.