Come and Observe

I don’t know what else to do except to suggest to an anti-Common Core parent to come and visit my classroom. Visit for a period or stay for the day. Come back again the next day. Stay for a week. Come back again next month. Become a parent volunteer in my room. Help me help a child because God knows we all have children in our room who could use some one-on-one support.

Parents should be our allies. A few are crazy. But there are a few teachers, doctors, plumbers, postal workers who are crazy too. Parents love their kids and want what’s best for them. They are concerned that their kids won’t be developmentally ready for Common Core (CC). They fear that it’s one-size-fits-all, that CC controls kids’ minds and stifle their creativity, that national testing and national curriculum will soon follow. The list of concerns just keeps piling up.

Both sides are quite passionate and create a lot of noise. I engage very little in this noise because I feel my energy in doing so does not get converted into anything useful. It dissipates too quickly, leaving me hollow and out of breath. But I’m talking now by writing. It’s midnight and really quiet here.

I want parents to observe their children do Taco Cart and Always, Sometimes, and Never. I want them to listen in on the kids’ math talks. I want them to walk in on a day when I’m doing direct instruction — and observe how much the kids direct their own learning, how much they try to make sense of something new.

I want parents to observe you — my local and online colleagues whose lessons I steal from and whose support only makes me work harder.

So, that’s my plan. I will invite my parents to visit my classroom whenever they want (I actually prefer unannounced) and see how a CC lesson plays out. The worst that can happen is I fail miserably. But I guarantee their kid will not.

Speaking of curriculum. (Wasn’t I?) I found some very old arithmetic textbooks, dating back to the 1800’s at Open Library.

page 13

Bonnycastle, John. Arithmetic… 17th ed. London: Longman, 1843. Print.

These prefaces are quite remarkable. I’ll just share from two textbooks.

Adams, D. (1848). Arithmetic: in which the principles of operating by numbers are analytically explained and synthetically applied : illustrated by copious examples : designed for the use of schools and academies (Rev. ed.). Keene, N.H.: J.H. Spalter & Co..

Exertion, then, to bring teachers to a higher standard, will be more effective in improving school education, than any efforts at improving school books can possibly be. It is here where the great improvement in must be sought. Without the cooperation of competent teachers, the greatest excellences in any book will remain unnoticed, and unimproved. Pupils will frequently complain that they have never found one that could explain some particular thing, of which a full explanation is given in the book which they have ever used, and their attention only needed to have been called to the explanation.

Colburn, D. P. (1862). Arithmetic and its applications: designed as a text book for common schools, high schools, and academies. Phililadelphia: H. Cowperthwait & Co..

In the first place, such tests are unpractical, for they can never be resorted to in the problems of real life. What merchant ever thinks of looking in a text book or a key, or of relying on his neighbor, …?

When a pupil, having left the school room, performs a problem of real life, how anxious is he to know whether his result is correct! Neither text book nor key can aid him now, and he is forced to rely on himself and his own investigations to determine the truth or the falsity of his work. If he must always do this in real life, and if his school course is to be a preparation for the duties of real life, ought he not to do it as a learner in school? Is it right to lead him to rely on such false tests?

Besides, the labor of proving an operation is usually as valuable arithmetical work as was the labor of performing it, and it will oftentimes make a process or solution appear perfectly simple and clear, when it would otherwise have seemed obscure and complicated.

But some of the exercise problems are just insane. I intentionally looked only for exercises in division of whole numbers. And all these textbooks were for school-aged children, grades 4 through 8.

1909, Walton & Holmes:

  • 408903 ÷ 3508
  • 147500 ÷ 6190

1921, Thorndike:

  • 748275 ÷ 825
  • 42974 ÷ 8523

1862, Colburn:

  • 55673 ÷ 6349
  • 2700684 ÷ 19743

1848, Adams:

  • 46720367 ÷ 4200000
  • reduce to lowest terms: 468/1184

1843, Bonnycastle:

  • 4637064283 ÷ 57606

Common Core looks better than this.

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