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The Hood Magazine

Helping Parents Better Understand Common Core Math

Jan 22, 2016 12:16PM ● By Hood Magazine
By Mathnasium of Sioux Falls

If your child is in school in the Sioux Falls area, you’ve likely heard the term “Common Core Math.” Common Core is the set of education standards that South Dakota has adopted for student achievement in language arts and mathematics.

In regards to math, Common Core standards are designed to help students master the following mathematical practices:

1.     Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them

2.     Reason abstractly and quantitatively

3.     Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others

4.     Model with mathematics

5.     Use appropriate tools strategically

6.     Attend to precision

7.     Make use of structure

8.     Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning


While this list helps schools across the U.S. focus on the same set of goals and requirements for each grade, it can cause a lot of questions and frustration for parents.


“A lot of parents come to us frustrated with Common Core math because it looks so different from how they learned math,” said Matt Manes, Owner and Center Director of Mathnasium of Sioux Falls. 

Manes explains this difference further using an example of two approaches to a basic two-digit addition problem:

Looking at the problem, 53 + 37, most parents will probably solve this problem the way they learned it.

The first step would be to line the problem up vertically, and then add 3 plus 7, which would equal 10. Then, carry the 1 above the 5 and add 5 plus 3 plus 1, which would give you 9. So, your answer would be 90.

However, the Common Core math way likely first teaches your children to do this problem a much different way:

  1. First, keep the problem written horizontally instead of vertically. 
  2. The second step would be to de-construct the 37 into as many 5's and 10's as possible. So one student may decide to break 37 down to 10 plus 10 plus 10 plus 5 plus 2. (Adding these back together, you would get 37.)
  3. The third step is to start at 53, and add these deconstructed numbers on to the 53. So:

    1. 53 plus 5 equals 58
    2. 58 plus 2 equals 60
    3. 60 plus 10 equals 70
    4. 70 plus 10 equals 80
    5. 80 plus 10 equals 90

​​Both strategies will get you to the same answer. The parent’s method focuses on a technique called carrying, while the Common Core math way focuses on deconstructing numbers and then using those numbers to build to your answer. Your child will eventually learn the carrying method in school too, but not in the same timeframe as you did.

With such different approaches to the same problem, it’s easy for a parent to feel confused or helpless when it comes to helping their children with math.  

Tips for Helping our Kids at Home with Common Core Math:

1.  Look for examples in your child’s textbook before helping him or her with a problem. This will help you avoid confusing your child more by showing him or her a method that he or she has never seen in the classroom.

2.  Try to refrain from criticizing the method they are required to use, even when your way seems much easier or faster. By trying to learn with your child, you can help keep his or her attitude towards math positive and his or her confidence level high.

3.  Communicate with your child’s teacher and ask for additional examples or help when necessary. 

4.   Take advantage of outside help from other teachers, parents or learning centers that can help bridge the gap between the way you learned math and the way your children are expected to do it. 

The biggest thing to remember with math is that in the end the goal for all approaches is the same: to see your child learn, understand and succeed in using math for their future.