When both my boys were in pre-school, they were given a good foundation for future academics. I remember our three-year-old church pre-school introducing age appropriate math and other curriculum. At the end of the year, the average three year was to collect and count out loud using three teddy bear shaped pieces. What the teacher was expecting was each child would see several bears on the table and collect them one by one and hand them to the teacher while counting as they did so. “One bear. Two, Three.” They were counting their own age.

When it was my eldest’s turn at this instruction to see if he was capable of showing what three meant, he collected three at one time and handed them over to his teacher. When it was my baby’s turn, eight years later, he grabbed five and subtracted two. Our pre-school teacher, having taught both of my boys, told me that she always thought our first child was smart with his adding the bears before giving her the answer, but when the youngest had his turn she was astonished that at three he was subtracting.

It was then I knew their aptitude for math should make it easy for them. Our eldest did well throughout his years in school. Our youngest performed the same until the NEW MATH was introduced in his 9th grade year. That year, the Common Core standards offered a new approach to math that emphasized more conceptual forms of understanding and “…if states and districts implemented the reform well, the instruction will give students deeper math skills. Common Core math also has the potential to better prepare students for a career.”

I get this lofty idea. But the state didn’t start this new math just in elementary school but as soon as possible, which meant, those who had learned one way of deciphering math problems were jerked into something totally new, without preparation, to begin how to understand math. My youngest was in 9th grade and it was one of the worst times of his life. Not only him, but about 75% had to take even another math class at the same time to repair and supplement whatever they were behind on with the new regular, but foreign, math class. It was like being thrown into the deep end with hopes you will just survive.

These supplemental classes also took away from a time slot for learning something else besides math. His father, an accountant, couldn’t help. He was schooled in old math. I was just a math dummy.

This is how word-problems in math looked to me:

1. If you purchase two of the books, MATH FOR DUMMIES, each costing $16.99, when the clerk adds the total and it comes to $50.00, is he incorrect?

2. If the teacher says, “You have ten chocolate cakes and someone asks for two, how many do you have left?” And if the student answers, “Ten” and the teacher continues, “Okay, well what if somebody forcibly takes two of the cakes, how many would you have left?” and the student answers, “Ten AND a dead body”, is the student incorrect?

3. Is this restaurant sign correct? “Today’s special – Buy one Fish & Chips for the price of two and receive a second Fish & Chips absolutely free!”

4. If the teacher loudly comments, “Don’t worry, I’m not actually saying anything important up here, in the front of the room, about your lesson” what percentage of the class of students will answer with, “So, if I just do my homework, my grade will improve?”

5. On the first day of face to face instruction at school, students are required to bring 30 pencils, 64 crayons, 20 pens, 12 rulers, and 10 notebooks. How many of these items will be left after a month of instruction? Answer: ONE pencil found on the ground, or classroom, or hallway.

And it will probably be missing an eraser and no lead at the point.

Hope 2021 improves for teachers and parents!