I recently joked with my colleagues that, for my next blog post, I was going to do a Google trend search and connect math to whatever the top topic for the day was. However, finding the mathematics behind winter school closings in Minnesota too depressing and yet another alleged affair involving a married politician a bit too scandalous, I instead went to Twitter trends, where I noticed two articles being repeatedly retweeted.
One involving a very impressive mathematician/artist who created an amazing video using doodles to demonstrate exponential functions and fractals. The other involved a teacher who uses Wii games to motivate kids and collect data.
What do stories these have in common? They demonstrate teachers developing unique and creative tools to motivate their students to learn—the very essence of the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice.
The education community is a rather creative one, so you would think that creative outbursts like these would be the norm—and that they would inspire schools and districts to provide these kinds of engaging tools for their teachers and students. What’s more, the Common Core initiative and the drive for increased student achievement has provided increased funding opportunities in many U.S. school districts. But alas, while funding is on the rise, creativity in our classrooms is not. It seems that money does not follow creativity, but rather, the ability to claim that districts’ curricula are “aligned to the Common Core.”
The Answer Sheet blog from The Washington Post has a sad but true example: In the never-ending quest for statistics, instructional materials that produce easily aggregated data are increasingly popular, while tools and materials that engage students in rich experiences are shuffled to the side. In the schools that my kids attend, the engaging materials teachers selected two years ago have been shelved for a new district purchased curriculum system—that is, an avalanche of worksheets.
The Common Core should not force teachers into a regimented, scripted curriculum with standardized tests and other assessments. The Common Core could be an opportunity for the integration of new ideas and technology. Unfortunately, it could also be an excuse for more testing and more dull instructional experiences. So what’s it going to be?