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Hard ‘Core’: Reaction Mixed About New School Math

Students, teachers range from grousing to lamenting untapped potential of Common Core

 

By Alfredo "Benji" Herrera - MOSAIC 2018

It was a nightmare walking into math class for Axel Martinez. An average day was filled with constant frustration regarding a new teaching method that left him feeling on his own.

“We need some guidance, we need some light,” said Axel, a rising senior at Latino College Preparatory Academy in San Jose.

Axel was referring to Common Core math, which is designed to make students think critically about problems and how to apply their math skills in real-life situations. It's done through the increased use of word problems.

The goal is to give students a better idea of the practicality of the problems they are solving.

Common Core has raised questions about whether complicating math really benefits students’ understanding.

“Moving to Common Core is almost as if nothing changed,” said David Goulette, a math teacher at Latino College Preparatory Academy who previously taught at San Jose State University. “They changed how they​taught a couple of things. But the goal stayed the same.”

Despite some benefits of the change, Goulette said the new curriculum “is not always the correct approach,” and that a good math teacher will adapt their teaching style to fit the students’ needs.

For example, he said the high language in the College Preparatory Mathematics (CPM) textbook is an obstacle for English-language learners.

“It’s an abrupt switch from what you are used to. CPM is awesome if you’re used to it. CPM is hard to transition to midstream,” Goulette said.

For Archbishop Mitty student Kritika Yerrapotu, “it did not click,” and her grades suffered after the switch.

“Math in eighth grade jumped around everywhere. The curriculum was not well put together,” she said.

Kritika said the change in curriculum was too quick for students to understand, and she didn't feel that Common Core accomplished it any better compared with traditional math.

She said she believes she can still apply the math skills she learned in her regular math class to real life, and that Common Core made it a lot more complicated.

Chelsey Martinez, a student at Latino College Preparatory Academy, said she believes that with proper execution of Common Core, the change to Common Core will benefit students.

“It takes way longer than the regular curriculum and it's a lot of teamwork and struggle. But it gives better comprehension,” she said.

Chelsey said it’s worth it to teach Common Core because students will be able to apply it more often in real life.

Anne Wustrow, a math teacher at University Preparatory Academy, said Common Core “allows students to get their hands dirty,” and helps students think for themselves.

Some students disagree, and think Common Core is so bad that they turn to private schools, like Samuel Branchears, a junior at Valley Christian High School.

“Common Core lacks rigor and the concrete structure of curriculum,” Samuel said.

Samuel said it was not focused and it ruined the flow of learning. If the idea was to give students a deeper understanding, he said he doesn't feel that Common Core does that effectively.

Ever since he made the switch to Valley Christian, he said he notices that students who are in Common Core generally fall behind in understanding math concepts.

“It sets students relatively behind and makes students have to catch up,” he said. “It’s not efficient.”

Kritika said she believes that there is hope for Common Core.

“The reasoning and goal behind Common Core was good,” she said. “The execution of it was not well done.”