Chrispin Alcindor was a star student in the early grades, but he fell way behind in third and fourth grade, reports the New York Times in Common Core, in 9-Year-Old Eyes.
Is it the new curriculum’s shift from rote learning to understanding concepts? (The Times assumes that no teacher tried to teach understanding in the pre-Core era.) Or is it the Haitian-American boy’s subpar reading skills?
A pet store has 18 hamsters. The shop owner wants to put 3 hamsters in each cage. How many cages does the shop owner need for all the hamsters?
Math had always been Chrispin’s favorite subject. Wherever he went, he was counting: Jeeps, pennies and basketball scores. He liked the satisfaction of arriving at a neat, definitive answer and not having to worry about things like spelling and grammar.
But as he worked on practice questions one day, the hamster problem stumped him:
Draw a model using equal groups or an array to show the problem.
Write a division equation for the problem.
Write a multiplication equation for the problem.
How many cages does the shop owner need?
Chrispin scribbled aimlessly in the margins. He hated word problems, a hallmark of the Common Core. Ms. Matthew had once told him to act like a detective and look for “clue words.” If a question referred to a “border” or “outside,” for example, it was asking for its perimeter. “Math is very, very, very, very logical,” she had said.
But Chrispin did not see any clues before him. After a few minutes of intense reading, he settled on an answer: 6. But he still did not fully understand the question. He could not remember what an array even looked like.
At Chrispin’s school in Brooklyn, producing the right answer isn’t enough. Students “had to demonstrate exactly what three times five meant by shading in squares on a grid.”
The Times prints Chrispin’s letter to Carmen Fariña, New York City’s schools chancellor, about standardized testing. If he only he really wrote this well . . .