When San Francisco public school kids head back to class next week, they'll be confronted with a big change in the way mathematics are taught. According to the Examiner, all of SFUSD's schools will be migrating to the controversial Common Core State Standards curriculum. It's the first overhaul of the way the district teaches math since 1997—and it could meet with some resistance.
Whatever the value of the new standards are—and 300 of the district's 1,800 math teacher have used the standards in previous years—the district might want to work on how it sells the standards to the public. "For a very long time we have been reinforcing that math is getting the right answer quickly," one staffer told the Examiner, who pointed out the elementary students might work on their multiplication tables by decorating their desks with Post-It notes. Instead of working on problem sets alone, students will be encouraged to collaborate. Sure, there's a point to all of that: Getting kids to understand the conceptual underpinning of math is hard work—maybe even tougher than getting them to work the formulas.
Common Core is a nationwide effort to improve and standize teacher in mathematics and English that focuses of developing critical thinking skills. It has been voluntarily adopted by 43 states and the District of Columbia.
If that kind of talk raises hairs on the back of your neck, you aren't alone. Critics of Common Core in New York state have raised worries that the new approach to math is, "creating a generation of young students who are learning to hate mathematics." Even an eminent UC Berkeley mathematician took a swipe at them recently in the Wall Street Journal.
So are those criticisms likely to take root here? We'll begin to find out next week.