It’s been a while since I’ve written one of these math posts, but someone posted a video about the futility of “common core” math (whatever they think that means)… and then evangelist Joshua Feuerstein, who is constantly battling himself to see who’s more ignorant, reposted it for even more people…
So we have to address it.
The video shows a teacher explaining a multiplication problem on the left. The key word there is explaining. She’s not using an algorithm. She’s not telling the students to just “stack the numbers” and maybe “carry the one” — which gets you the answer, but teaches you nothing. She’s trying to get the kids to understand what’s actually happening when you multiply two numbers. It’s a skill that’s really important as the numbers get larger and the problems get more complicated.
(To be sure, that’s not “the” Common Core method. It’s one of several ways to multiply numbers, and the “Common Core” curriculum urges teachers to stress an understanding of how numbers work rather than just teaching them to use a simple trick or method. That’s better for students in the long term. The people who say they “hate math”? They’re usually the ones who grew up thinking it’s just a bunch of formulas.)
Anyway. While that teacher is explaining how multiplication works — slowly and carefully, so the kids understand it — some jackass on the right uses the old multiplication algorithm. That’s the one where you multiply some stuff, add some stuff, carry some stuff, but don’t necessarily notice if you screwed up. It’s also the method that, while efficient, often defies understanding from those using it. (Ask them why you’re supposed to include a zero as a place holder. Watch their faces go blank.)
Feuerstein’s description of the video reads, “Lol .. this is hilarious!!! Common core math is a joke!!”
Here are two obvious problems with all that.
First, the guy on the right is the real idiot here. We could’ve used a calculator, figured out the answer, and still had time to warm up a bagel before he even started making the coffee. As far as speed goes, there are faster ways to solve the problem.
Second, I promise you high school math teachers are hoping to work with students from the left panel. Those are the kids who will understand how math works. They’re the ones who will be able to manipulate numbers in their minds, estimate with better accuracy, and do better when they go on to trig or calculus. The guy on the right will likely fail an exam the second the problems go beyond mere plug-and-chug.
It’s like learning to type the “right” way. It’s possible to get by just fine with hunt-and-peck, but if you learn to type with your fingers in the proper positions, sure, it’s slower at first, but you’ll get much faster in the long run. You’ll also make fewer errors.
The math teacher on the left is thinking about the long term.
The guy on the right is too arrogant to understand all of that, which is why people like him end up wasting their lives whining about Starbucks’ red cups. (Seriously, has Feuerstein ever posted a video involving coffee that doesn’t backfire on him?)
Don’t hate the teacher for doing a good job. Get angry at the conservatives who treat this video as a mic drop without taking a second to figure out what’s actually happening. It’s a perfect encapsulation of how they glorify their own ignorance.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)