Abbott and Costello Explain Common Core Math


Teaching children to add, subtract, multiply, and divide is not difficult. It’s not that every child gets it quickly, but if it’s drilled until learned, no child will ever forget their addition and times tables.

Many modern-day educators hate the idea of repetitive learning methods and drills. It’s no wonder that many kids can’t make change, still count using their fingers, and are often lost if they do not have a calculator at hand.

My wife taught elementary school for a good many years. Every child she ever taught learned their addition and times tables because she drilled them until they knew them. It’s that simple. Parents must be involved in the process. Can it be frustrating? Does it take work? Yes. Is there a payoff? Yes.

Every child would have to face her one-on-one. She would show a card and expect a student to rattle off the answer in a split second. Thus, “flash cards” – students had to answer in a flash.

Once the basic facts are mastered, teaching how the facts work together is made much easier.

Here’s a clip from Abbott and Costello on doing math. It’s what many parents fear Common Core will become:

When my father started to work of the Post Office, he had to learn the zip codes of all the streets with a Pittsburgh mailing address. Letters without zip codes had to be sorted by hand. A sorter could not spend time looking up the zip codes. He had to know them by heart.

My father had boxes of cards with street names with zip codes on the back. He would spend hours memorizing. Arduous? Yes. But necessary if he wanted to keep his job and advance. It was a whole lot harder than learning the multiplication tables since as the numbers increase in value, there are fewer facts to learn.

For decades educators have been trying to figure out ways to teach basic math. There are some methods that can’t be improved on. Teaching addition and multiplication by rote and drill is one of them.

Moving to the next step of adding two, three, and four digit numbers (carrying) is dependent on knowing basic math facts.

Some educators with PhDs will argue that children need to “understand” what they’re learning. It certainly helps, but it’s not always necessary. Daniel in the Karate Kid learned that “wax on – wax off” had to be learned before he could turn it into a defensive move. The same is true of factual learning. It doesn’t mean examples, memory helps, storytelling, and other learning enhancements can’t be used. But a solid foundation must first be laid.

Now we come to Common Core. I’ve seen some of the goofy techniques that are being used to teach addition and multiplication. They might get to the right answer, but they may also complicate the process and frustrate some students.

One website argues that this is Common Core:

Standard: A statement that describes what a student should be able to do at a certain point in his/her educational career.

Task analysis: Breaking an activity down into all the components, steps, and/or skills needed to complete the activity.

Methodology: The process by which students are taught to arrive at an answer or new understanding of material.

Curriculum: The scope and sequence of skills that are to be learned in a particular subject at a particular grade or level.

If this is all Common Core did, no one would object. In fact, this is not Common Core. It’s the educational process that’s been used for centuries. It comes down to what a child should learn, how what a child should learn should be taught, and who’s controlling the content. Common Core is about content management, methodology, and control. That’s what many parents object to.

By the way, government should get out of the education business. If your children are being taught by government teachers, it’s time you get them out.

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