Here’s how to tell if your kids are being taught reform math by Robert Craigen and Barry Garelick.

“In the past students were taught by rote; we teach understanding.” First, ‘rote’ literally means ‘repetition’ — and this is a good idea, not a bad one. Second, it is simply false that teaching was without understanding — by design, in any case — in the past. There have always been teachers who taught math poorly or neglected to include a conceptual context.

. . . Under reform math, students are required to use inefficient procedures for several years before they are exposed to and allowed to use the standard method (or “algorithm”) — if they are at all. This is done in the belief that the alternative approaches confer understanding to the standard algorithm. . . . But this out-loud articulation of “meaning” in every stage is the arithmetic equivalent of forcing a reader to keep a finger on the page, sounding out every word, every time, with no progression of reading skill. Alternatives become the main course instead of a side dish and students can become confused — often profoundly so.

If you hear references to “drill and kill,” “the guide on the side not the sage on the stage” or “just-in-time learning,” it’s reform math, they write. Praise for ambiguity, flipping, group learning and “making students think like mathematicians” also are danger signs, they write.

“We use a balanced approach” means “go away.”

Many educators are interpreting Common Core to mean fuzzy math, says Garelick in a Heartland interview.

We’ve already got Everyday Math here, so I’m wondering where CC will go. We homeschool and aren’t currently affected, but just today my 13yo told me that one of her best friends is frustrated because she wants to take algebra next year, but for reasons that I do not understand, there will no longer be algebra taught in 8th grade. Since that’s been a big thing in CA for years, I don’t get what the deal is. I’m envisioning a whole lot of kids who have been aimed at algebra in 8th grade their whole lives, and now…splat. Meanwhile kids in 8th grade *now* are often taking geometry because they did algebra in 7th.

Well, Barry, you’ve won. Do you feel better? I don’t. You are just ignored or subject to drive-by pot shots. And now, Common Core is institutionalizing low expectations in K-6. Our schools finally got rid of CMP in 7th and 8th grades a few years ago and replaced it with proper textbooks, but the pedagogical wall into the lower grades is impenetrable. CC sets that in stone. The PARCC test our state will use defines the top level 5 (“distinguished”) to mean only that it’s likely that the student will pass a college algebra course. This level of expectation starts in the lowest grades. PARCC specifically does NOT support a STEM curriculum, even as an option. Still, some students will manage to make it to honors geometry as a freshman in high school, and still, lower school educators will have no clue why. They are left with assuming that it must be an IQ thing, even after many of us parents clearly explain how we had to support and ensure mastery of the basics at home or with tutors.

All they now have to do is ignore us. The only thing that’s surprising is that some still occasionally continue to argue.