Father’s Rant on Common Core goes Viral

Father’s rant goes viral.  A second grader’s answer is not friendly enough.

Common Core homework

Everyone has seen at least one of these posts racing across the internet and flooding Facebook.  What is the truth, and why are they going viral?

Electronic’s Engineer with Bachelor of Science Degree can’t solve 2nd grader’s homework

My sister showed me the post about the father responding to the number line homework.   In this assignment, a fictional student named Jack has solved a subtraction problem incorrectly on the number line.  Students are asked to write a letter to Jack explaining what he did right, and what he should do to fix his mistake.  In the area for the response, the frustrated parent responds that he has a Bachelor of Science degree in Electronics’ Engineering that included extensive study in differential equations, but he cannot explain the Common Core approach nor can he solve the problem.  He then states his opinion that simplification is more valuable than complication.  He goes on to point out that at work, he would use straight subtraction, and not a number line.  In fact, if he tried to use the Common Core method at work, he would be terminated from his job.

I was immediately perplexed and dismayed.  Sadly, school must have failed this parent horribly.  How could someone with an Engineering degree not be able to solve a simple number line problem?  It took me one second to glance at the problem to notice Jack’s error.  After all, this is a second grade problem!  The fact that this has gone viral shocked me.  Are there that many people who are challenged by skip counting on a number line?

Subtraction in Common Core requires “friendly numbers”

I decided to do some research.  My first search brought up another incident gone viral.  This one was about a homework assignment on the associative property.  Students were solving subtraction problems by adding to the subtrahend to form an easier to use number.  For example in the problem (400 – 280 = ), 20 is added to the 280 so it is 300 which is easier to subtract.  Of course to keep the equation valid, 20 must be added to the minuend.  The new problem becomes (420 – 300 = ).  Now the problem can be easily solved.  This is mental math basics.

On this particular assignment, the student was doing straight subtraction instead of using the associative property.  The teacher commented that the answers were correct, but that he should find the “friendly numbers like 200”.

On Youngcons.com the author wrote, “Actually, I don’t think 200 is a very friendly number.  It looks too much like the word ‘zoo’.”  The comments found on the various postings run the gamut of extremes.  Some people state that the teacher had a poorly crafted lesson while others are dumbfounded by the associative property.

I was amazed by what I have read.  Stating that 200 is too similar to “zoo” cannot be taken seriously.  Additionally, the homework assignment does not offer any evidence about how effectively the lesson was taught.  It is the last part of the lesson.  It is unfair to jump to conclusions without evidence.

The Truth

It did not take long to find the name of the parent who posted the first homework assignment – Jeff Severt.  In fact, when he realized that his comment had gone viral, he posted a comment to elucidate the event.  On Facebook, Jeff clarifies what happened that day.  Reading his explanation for the event, illustrates how the media can blow events out of proportion.  It is easy to take one piece of information and transform it to agree with the purported opinion.

Please read his response Jeff Severt on Facebook.   I feel great empathy for this parent.  The problem was multifaceted.  Nowhere in any of the posts that I read was the fact that his son has ASD mentioned.  The problem he faced that day had much more to do with the learning disability than with the Common Core.  Jeff and his son’s teacher seem to have a good relationship and work together regarding his son’s education.

The incident was blown out of proportion.

I have not found the source of the “friendly numbers homework”, and honestly, I don’t plan to look for it.  Nor am I going to argue about the Common Core.  In my opinion, it is like every other legislation, standard, and teaching method – it has its pros and cons.  In fact, just the concept of standards, should they exist and what should their focus be, can create a lengthy dialog.

I hope people are forwarding these postings because they find them humorous.   I think this is the case until I read the comments under the articles I have found.

Then I feel sad.

I am sad because it seems that so many people are perplexed and befuddled by number lines and basic number properties such as the associative property.  However, I can’t believe that this could be the case.  I hope it is just an instance of entertainment and not an indictment of the educational level of those sensationalizing these posts.

 Articles about the Viral Posts

Articles based on the frustrated parent homework:

http://hechingerreport.org/content/common-core-math-problem-hard-supporters-common-core-respond-problematic-math-quiz-went-viral_15361/

http://www.fox17.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/frustrated-father-vents-homework-assignment-20449.shtml

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/03/24/youve-just-got-to-see-what-a-frustrated-parent-wrote-on-their-childs-common-core-math-assignment/

http://thestir.cafemom.com/big_kid/170240/frustrated_dad_writes_epic_response

Articles based on the friendly numbers homework:

http://youngcons.com/a-kid-misses-a-common-core-math-problems-because-his-numbers-werent-friendly-enough/

http://www.theburningplatform.com/2014/03/26/common-core-requires-friendly-answers-to-math-problems/