Help! Now I Have to Teach Common Core Math!

You may have seen memes like this one floating around social media now that schools are closed and parents are helping their children learn math. While these may give us a good chuckle, it is important for parents to understand Common Core Mathematics and why their children have been learning math this way for years now. Students in elementary school have ONLY learned mathematics with Common Core. These standards came from tons of research to help students become college and career ready. They came about to address several areas of need in the educational system. See this article for more about the history: Or if articles aren’t your jam, check out this quick video.

In a nutshell, Common Core strives to help our children to achieve conceptual understanding and not just rote memorization. When we experience high levels of stress (for example when students take high stakes testing – like the FSA) our working memory shuts down. The more stressed we become, the harder it is to retrieve things from memory. Thus, when we teach children to memorize, then give them high stakes tests, they shut down and are unable to recall the very information they need to recall! So, what Common Core strives to do is build conceptual understanding. If students have authentic experiences and are engaged in the learning of mathematics, then they have a plethora of experiences to pull from if memory shuts down.

Jo Boaler, a Mathematics Professor out of Stanford University states, “…data from the 13 million students who took PISA tests showed that the lowest achieving students worldwide were those who used a memorization strategy – those who thought of math as a set of methods to remember and who approached math by trying to memorize steps. The highest achieving students were those who thought of math as a set of connected, big ideas.” You can find the full article here:

“No English student would say or think that learning about English is about the fast memorization and fast recall of words.” -Jo Boaler

Really though, just think about how the purpose of mathematics has changed. When we were in school our teachers told us stuff like “you won’t always have a calculator in your pocket.” Well, welcome to 2020 where I do infact have a calculator in my pocket at all times – my smart phone. So it becomes less important for students to memorize and more important for students to become critical thinkers and problems solvers. We, as educators now, are preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, careers in 2030 and beyond. Students won’t need to have facts memorized to be successful in the workforce, they’ll need to know how to solve problems, think critically and collaborate.

I found an article and that really helped to put things into perspective. Dr. Keith Devlin, a mathematician at Stanford University wrote “… what is required today is a sufficiently deep understanding of all those procedures, and the underlying concepts they are built on, in order to know when, and how, to use those digitally-implemented tools effectively, productively, and safely.” His article entitled, All The Mathematical Methods I Learned In My University Math Degree Became Obsolete In My Lifetime is worth the read!

So if nothing else, take away this:

I hope this helps to put things into perspective. While the “new math” may seem confusing for those of us who learned a different way, it is actually great for our students. If you don’t know how to help your child with this math, you can work on building fluency and reinforcing important skills with games. Find out more from my blog post on Making Math Fun Again. The bottom line, don’t let your frustration show. When your frustration shows you can actually have a negative impact on your children’s learning! “A team of researchers led by UChicago psychologists Sian Beilock and Susan Levine found that children of math-anxious parents learned less math over the school year and were more likely to be math-anxious themselves—but only when these parents provided frequent help on the child’s math homework.” (Allen, 2015) You can learn more in the article Parents’ math anxiety can undermine children’s math achievement.

Making Math Fun Again

With school closures across the country, many parents are looking for activities that they can do with their children to keep the instruction going. At home parents may experience additional challenges. When your children don’t see you in the role of “teacher” it can be hard to take this newly imposed “homeschooling” seriously. So what can you do? Bring back family game night, or family game day! You can view my webinar entitled “Building Success Foundations of Mathematics at Home” to learn more about this and other ways to support your children’s math learning.

There is much research to support the use of game-based learning both in the classroom AND at home. We know keeping children (especially elementary aged children) engaged in the classroom and at home can be a challenge. Math games provide challenge and skill practice in a highly engaging format that makes them WANT to learn and participate. In a blog post published by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) by author Kitty Rutherford, who serves as the North Carolina Elementary Mathematics Consultant for the Department of Public Instruction in Raleigh, Kitty points out that:

“Games are an important tool for learning in elementary school mathematics classrooms:

•     Playing games encourages strategic mathematical thinking as students find different strategies for solving problems and deepen their understanding of numbers.

•     When played repeatedly, games support students’ development of computational fluency.

•     Games present opportunities for practice, often without the need for teachers to provide the problems. Teachers can then observe or assess students and work with individuals or small groups of students.

•     Games have the potential to allow students to develop familiarity with the number system and with “benchmark numbers” (such as 10s, 100s, and 1000s) and engage in computation practice, building a deeper understanding of operations.

•     Games support a school-to-home connection. Parents can learn about their children’s mathematical thinking by playing games with them at home.”

The full post with games can be viewed here:

In addition to the old school games (mentioned in my webinar above) like Battle Ship, Trouble, Monopoly, Uno and Dominoes, there are tons of games available for you to print from online. Today with my own 3rd grader and 5th grader we reviewed our multiplication facts in a super engaging way with the game Knock It Off! I got my version from Dots N’ Spots Based on their facial expressions I think you can tell who was winning! :-)

This particular game requires 12 sided dice which can be a challenge to find. So here are some quick links: Hand 2 Mind via Amazon and Really Good Stuff

If you are going to go through the trouble of ordering 12 sided dice, you may want to be able to use them for other games, right? This blog had some great ideas, especially for higher level math for those of you with intermediate and secondary aged children.

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BCCTM Extravaganzaa Featured Speaker Presentation


Naomi Church, FDLRS, Mindset Makes a Difference in Mathematics, 4:00 PM
Sponsored by Destination Knowledge

Presentation Resources:

A Growth Mindset in Mathematics Blog Post

Assessing Basic Facts Fluency Article

Building Successful Foundations of Mathematics at Home Parent Webinar

Thank you for attending my session Building Successful Foundations of Mathematics at Home Parent Webinar.  Please find the referenced slides and resources below.  Enjoy!

Please find the recorded webinar here:

Please download the resources that accompany this webinar:

FDLRS Family Fun with Math Event!

Back by popular demand! We have new dates and host schools for our Family Fun with Math Events for the 2019-2020 School Year.

Families can increase math proficiency in their children by playing fun games at home.  In this seminar, you will learn some strategies, activities & games that you can play as a family to increase student success in math.  Materials to use at home will be provided, supplies may be limited. Register in advance:

Events begin promptly at 6:00pm and last 60-90 minutes. You are welcome to bring your children for active participation!

  • Wednesday, November 6, 2019 at Park Springs Elementary
  • Wednesday, February 5, 2020 at Lakeside Elementary
Family Fun with Math Flyer

Mathematics Mondays Webinar Series Fall 2018

Please join us for an exciting new Mathematics Mondays webinar series!


Growth Mindset in Mathematics: October 1, 2018, 3:00-4:00pm

“I’m not a math person” is a statement made entirely too often.  Learn how to use a Growth Mindset to work hard to grow our math understanding, attitude, and outlook.


Writing Quality Math IEP Goals: November 5, 2018, 3:00-4:00pm

What assessments can I give to get data for the PLP?  What types of math goals should I be writing for my students? What are the progression of math skills that my students need to be successful?  Join us as we answer these questions and more.


Universal Design for Learning in the Math Class: December 10, 2018, 2:30-3:30pm

“There is no formula or recipe that works for all learners in all times. There is no set of lesson plans or units that can engage the range of learning styles, approaches, and intelligences that are likely to gather in one classroom.” -William Ayres. Join us to learn what Universal Design for Learning is and how you can apply these strategies to increase student success in the Mathematics Classroom.


Logging in is Easy!

From the comfort of your classroom or office!  Starting 15 minutes before the start time, click the link to enter the Adobe Connect Virtual Room.

Select Guest, and type your name.  You will need speakers to hear the meeting, and you will ask questions and respond through a chat box in the meeting.


If you are in Broward, both the Growth Mindset and Universal Design webinars can be found in MyLearningPlan.  Registration is not necessary to attend. 

Math Mondays Webinar Series Flyer 2018

The Family Cafe 2018

Thank you for attending my session Family Fun with Math at The Family Cafe 2018.  Please find the referenced slides and resources below.  Enjoy!

Number Knowledge Test

What is the Number Knowledge Test (NKT)?

The NKT is a free, individually administered number sense screener.  It takes approximately 10 minutes per student to administer.  This test can be used to identify if a student is on par with their same age peers in number sense. For more on the NKT, click here:


Goals of the Number Knowledge Test

1. To determine if a student is functioning at, above, or below age/grade level in number knowledge

2. To determine which number concepts the student has mastered, which she is struggling with, and which she still needs to learn

3. To assess a student’s progress over the instructional period or academic year


Click here to download the Number Knowledge Test (NKT) NKT for BCPS


Now What Do I Do with the Data? 

View the Targeted Math Instruction Plan 0418 for details.


NKT Sample Administration Video