Confused? Blame fuzzy (not core) math

If your kids’ math homework is confusing, blame “fuzzy math,” not the Common Core, writes Jessica Lahey in The Atlantic.

Eleven years ago, long before the core, New York City teacher Matthew Clavel complained about the “fuzzy math-inspired” Everyday Math curriculum in City Journal.  Not one of his fourth-graders knew the times tables, he wrote.

The curriculum stressed “critical thinking skills” over mastery of math facts on the theory that “what matters is showing that you understand a concept, not whether you can perform a calculation and come up with a right answer.”

. . . no one claims that knowing how to think independently isn’t important. But thinking can’t take flight unless you do know some basic facts—and nowhere is this more the case than in math. If you really want your students to engage in “higher-order thinking” in math, get them to master basic operations like their times tables first.

Clavel’s critique of fuzzy math sounds a lot like the complaints against Common Core math, Lahey points out.

Last December, Emily Willingham attacked the “hodgepodge of confusion” known as Everyday Math — without confusing it with Common Core standards.

Everyday Math is drill free. It’s jargon full. Complaints are widespread that it is confusing for parents and children. And it doesn’t build on concepts or scaffold understanding. It has children learn 2 plus 2 in 500 different ways, many of which involve answering questions like, “How did Tanya add two plus two?” Um, with her brain?

“My children like math and play math games at home for entertainment,” Willingham concludes. “But they hate Everyday Math, every day.”

Frustrated parents should identify the monster correctly before going for the pitchforks and torches, writes Lahey. Common Core isn’t to blame for every problem with our schools.

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  1. Ann in L.A. says:

    I worry that CC has locked fuzzy math in for the long haul and across the whole country. Now, instead of different schools, districts, and states selecting their own path, all are locked into the CC, which does nothing to wipe away fuzzy math.

  2. ChemProf says:

    Right. Sure, if you look at the standards, Common Core doesn’t mean fuzzy math, but in districts all over California, parents are being TOLD that the new fuzzy math methods are required by Common Core. So you can’t expect parents to separate the two when districts don’t.

  3. Ted Craig says:

    Remember, though, that Everyday Math was developed by the University of Chicago using data from extensive research into the process of teaching math. It wasn’t just thrown together by unqualified individuals. Blaming EM should give Common Core supporters reason to pause.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    While we’re at it, we should bring back “look and say”.