Second Grade Math

I have heard from many parents who are experiencing first hand the problems with math being taught as a concept to the young child who is cognitively not ready for concepts. Math class is no longer about knowing your math facts.

Common Core changes everything about education. The percentages and the letter grades of the past are gone. In the Sioux Falls school district as with most other districts in the country, they are now using a system of one to four. One being the lowest and four being mastering the concept. That’s important. We are no longer grading young children based on knowing their math facts.  It is not that important that they know math facts. It’s more important they know the why. 

A Sioux Falls second grader was doing her homework and became exhausted with the process of always “why” or “how”. She knew what the answer was. And in her mind, this is why the answer of 25-6=19. Notice she received the lowest grade possible, even though her answer was correct. This is the math that is aligned to the Common Core. 

I’m sure we can all imagine how this little girl felt receiving such a low grade in spite of having the correct answer to the story problem. I do have to wonder how teachers feel about having to grade using this new system.  

Tell me again how the Common Core is just Standards…

Update: October 2, 2013
The parents of this child have asked if they could add a statement to the story. I am more than happy to do that. Their statement is as follows.

We are the parents of the child who answered this math problem. What is especially frustrating is that we know it is pointless to speak with the teacher about this. In fact, we LOVE this teacher, and we don’t blame her in the least for the comment she made and for the score that was given. She was simply doing what the standards and the curriculum require, whether she believes it was the right thing to do or not. We also know it would be pointless to bring our concerns to the principal, the superintendent, or anyone on the school board, unless those conversations would somehow move us closer to convincing our state to abandon its adoption of the CCSS. Short of that action being taken, it has become distressingly apparent to us that all of us on the local level are, and will continue to be, powerless to affect any change in what our children are being taught and how they will be evaluated in math and language arts.

92 thoughts on “Second Grade Math

  1. This is direct psychological abuse of a child by the educational system. They are screwing with kids' heads, it causes them anxiety, and hurts their confidence. The kid got it right, period. Imagine the poor teachers being forced to teach this too!!!!

  2. This is akin to every child showing up to class, then repeatedly asking their teacher to describe HOW she drove to school in painstaking detail all day, step by step. or any other activity the teacher might be doing. Because who cares that the teacher is at school all day, Common Core demands we know how she got there too. This curriculum, which is federally mandated, is nothing less that the indoctrination of your kids to do what they're told and be obedient. What it really is, is psychological abuse of kids, and shows how little value the federal and state governments actually place on our kids' learning. Sorry if the truth hurts, but I know my facts on this matter exhaustively. Part of a child learning is that child being happy. If a child is not happy learning, you have failed, period. Does anyone with any kind of common sense think this is good for kids?? The fact people with Master's Degrees came up with this (and plenty of other) curriculum baffles me. How so-called "educated" people could allow stuff like this to make its way into our system … sickening. Wake up, people. Fast. Half these teachers and educators have psychology degrees I'm sure. They should all know better. Demand action from your school boards, state board of education and the federal government that force fed you and your families it. All while data mining your child's privacy for the rest of his or her life. All facts. Go look them up, everyone. Thanks for listening. I am very sincere about this.

  3. So if that's how they want to grade then all the child should need to do is tell them how to find the answer but not answer the problem…so stupid…my child got points off one time bc they had to identify what process it was like addition, subtraction, multplication, or division but instead of using the abbeviation (+×÷-) she wote out the words. They took massive points off!!!

  4. It's called higher order thinking. There's nothing wrong with having a kid explain how they came up with an answer. It's all meant to teach kids to think things through, it's not a conspiracy against the students.

  5. Higher order thinking requires higher order brain development, which SECOND GRADERS DO NOT POSSESS, nor should they. This would be like taking points off because she doesn't lactate! Either the teacher and developers of the curriculum didn't know this (ignorance re: child development) or they did know (psychological abuse). I presume it is the former; either way, it's wrong and needs to stop.

  6. My 6 year old has been able to do very basic algebra with manipulatives for about 6 months now, and she is NOT some off-the-charts genius either. Your supposition that second graders can't do higher order thinking is just wrong.

  7. Students are taught a few methods for solving these types of problems. The point is to make them self-aware of how math is done so they are prepared to do more complex problems. Most of us were taught to do this problem by "borrowing" and I'd wager good money that 80% of adults who can complete the borrowing process can't explain the logic behind it. And guess what, no one cares if you can do the simple stuff by wrote, but knowing how to solve problems that are not obvious is highly valuable in any career. The goal here is lay a solid foundation upon which to scaffold the higher levels of math. Why do think so many students get stuck when they hit Algebra? It's because they learned the monkey-steps to get the banana in arithmetic without understanding how numbers actually work. Then they get to harder problems and they have no ability to learn new skills because they only learned the "cheat code" version of arithmetic. I saw this many times teaching college algebra and remedial college math classes.

  8. I think it is good to have students do this for a few examples but when they are asked to solve every single problem with these convoluted methods they end up paralyzed when they have to take a timed test-which is how the standardized tests are administered. At some point they have to internalize the "why" and "how" and learn to solve the problem the quickest way possible.

  9. My undergrad degree is in psych and I have an M.Ed with certification in ECE and El Ed. I have serious concerns regarding the CCSS. I have seen the paralyzing effect of these convoluted methods of problem solving with my own daughter. We moved her this year to a private school that is trying to stick to its own traditional curriculum and ignore comon core. It was precisely my prior experience in the classroom that alerted me to the problems with these "standards". With regard to math, while I am in favor of teaching alternative methods to solve problems the student should not be forced to only use the alternative method at the exclusion of the traditional algorithm. Whatever method gets the student to the correct answer as long as the child can explain how he or she came up with the answer should be permitted and that should include "borrowing and carrying" for addition/subtraction of large numbers. If an engineer is designing a bridge I care more about whether his or her computations are correct than how he or she came up with the answer.

  10. Park Ridge Psychological Services-I so agree with your comment. Second graders have great difficulty with abstraction. I taught 2nd grade for several years and the one area of math that perplexed even my top students was the unit on time and money- precisely because both topics require abstraction. The push when I was teaching was for the use of manipulatives to help make the math skills they were learning more concrete. In the case of addition and subtraction with regrouping, once the children solved a few problems with concrete manipulatives they could then absract the process to solve any problems. Learning the math facts is not pointless. Once a student knows the basic facts it liberates the child to be able to focus on relevant word problems and determine the best way to solve them. These new methods seem to want to put the cart before the horse.

  11. abstract not absract- oops. My point is learning math facts and problem solving go hand in hand. No good teacher would promote rote memorization alone. We always applied those facts to strengthen problem solving skills.

  12. If the karate kid were taught with common core, he would have been badly beaten up at the end of the movie, because he only understood the "concept" of "how" to beat someone else up, but would have been weak and out of practice because he spent no time waxing on and waxing off. Regardless of whether he knew what he was doing, he was becoming stronger. The penny of enlightenment drops later on, but the discipline of having done the tedious strengthening process it what makes the lesson best remembered later on.

  13. And we are just seeing the problem solving half of it here. Common core does require rote memorization, but not until after the concepts understood. Honestly it sounds like you did the same thing. Imagine if some parent just saw your kids playing with blocks in math class, then they posted a blog about it and everyone jumped on you for having play time instead of teaching. That's what is happening here.

  14. But I can tell you from first hand experience that most students never achieved any enlightenment about math because they were only tested on math facts and pushed through the system. I agree that at some point a student must be able to do arithmetic with minimal effort, which usually means memorization. But that is not enough. And don't assume that some blog post about mad parents is giving you the full view of what is happening in this classroom.

  15. If the purpose in grading the assignment was to have students explain their answers, then yes. My guess is that a rubric was used, and this child's answer supported a score of 1. Again, we are only seeing part of the picture– we don't know the teacher's purpose exactly, so my answer is based on logical assumptions.

  16. I was a Math teacher but would still answer the same way as this child: 25-19=6. The question simply asks "how many apples do they have now?" It does not ask for a diagram of "one group of ten" plus "one group of nine" showing six apples stroked out. The answer the child gave was an exact answer to the question as it would be generally perceived. There was no request to explain, so there should be no marks penalized. The wording is imprecise of course. It would be perfectly correct for the child to note "the two might have eaten some of the apples while baking the pie, or after baking the pie." The question on the test above should have said, "How many apples were not needed to make the pie? This question makes unstated assumptions and does not define what represents "correctness" in reply. We must make tests that are as at least as intelligent as the children replying to them.

  17. Here's the thing…teachers wouldn't just throw this assignment out without modeling examples several times over. We cannot read the directions on this assignment as shown on the above picture, nor can we hear the directions given to the students at the time of the assignment. My guess is the teacher has provided many examples of "explain your thinking" (i.e. counting down on a number line, thinking 25-5 is 20, and one less would be 19, using fingers to count down, etc.). It is easy for people to make judgments on this one problem posted by an irate parent. But every criticism in this thread makes large assumptions about what the teacher is or isn’t doing in the classroom. It’s like being a “Monday morning quarterback” after watching one play out of the entire game.

  18. Someone please explain to me how one would explain "how" twenty five, minus 6, equals nineteen. Because it does! It freaking does! What is twenty five minus six? Nineteen. Why? Because when you take six away from twenty five, you have nineteen left, jackass.Maybe this student should have drawn it in crayon for the teacher…

  19. Amelius, do you expect the teacher to just simply hand out worksheets and tests and let the kids figure things out for themselves with no instruction? Teaching to the test means cherry picking a whole school year worth of lessons out of the curriculum to prepare students for a specific standardized test. Teaching students the curriculum and assessing them on concepts from the curriculum is what normal teaching is. You can't tell the difference from one question on one test from one class out of the entire year. So, is this teaching to the test? Who knows? Certainly not any of us.

  20. "If an engineer is designing a bridge I care more about whether his or her computations are correct than how he or she came up with the answer."I trust that an engineer will perform final computations on a computer or calculator. I want an engineer who understands what problems need to be addressed in the bridge design and has a deep understanding of all the assumptions built into the engineering equations used throughout the design. This is the kind of thinking CGI mathematics seeks to develop.

  21. We've run into plenty of teachers that don't do much instruction. I suppose this is beside the point though, so forget I asked.I've run into plenty of different types of kids who all were capable of mechanically performing arithmetic, but the "click" of understanding would come at different times. I agree that it is important that eventually they understand and can articulate how they solved a problem, but I also hypothesize that some of the kids who potentially will end up brighter math students will have the most difficulty in explaining how they got the answer, and setting a prerequisite on that is a waste of time for many kids.

  22. It doesn't matter how much the teacher has taught the concept of this problem…it is the level of frustration shown by the child. Children are not all robots and should not be expected to all learn the exact same way.

  23. Thank you Derrick for your insightful comments here. The trouble with some people advocating they just memorize how to add or subtract is that, when they get to high school Algebra 2 and they can't add 8 + -9, what is their high school teacher supposed to do? What is being taught now with the Common Core for elementary math is more number theory, which has been sorely lacking.

  24. HOW the child figured out the problem was by minus-ing 6 from 25. Which they clearly wrote out "25-6". I get that they need to know HOW things work and why they work. If the child just wrote "19" I can see why the teacher would ask. But I can't tell you HOW I know that 25-6 equals 19, other than I can subtract in my head. But I can still tell you what 8 + -9 equals.

  25. Katie, it is very ironic that your primary concern has to do with learning styles. There would be multiple "right" answers to the "how" part. The students are given a chance to do problems like this in class to see if they can come up with their own method for solving. They can share those if they wish. The teacher would build on those and add others if students didn't come up with all the common methods. Not only are students encouraged to do it their own way, but they also have a chance to see other strategies and decide if those make more sense. Now compare that to the way you were taught to do subtraction and tell me which one treats students like robots.

  26. You see that you can't subtract 6 from 5 without getting a negative. So, borrow 1 from the 2, subtract 5 from 16 which gives you 9 and then subtract 0 from 1 and you get 1, for 19. These steps start to matter when you have to do subtraction with larger numbers that you can't just do in your head.

  27. Let me see now…I'm 66 years old, owned a business for over 43 years, raised 5 children, own my house, and have started another business for the fun of it…And I can't ever remember using algebra to do any of these things.

  28. Derrick, thank you for saying so eloquently what I am usually screaming at my computer when I see these complaints about new math pedagogy our country is embracing. I look forward to witnessing a generation of Americans who can actually solve math problems like people in other (successful) countries can. My 7 and 9 year olds can do these problems. It requires patience and mental persistence to explain themselves. Both of those skills are so vital to general problem solving. I love that they are getting to practice using their minds.

  29. Watched a very informative documentary about Finland's education system (1st in the world, the US is I think 26th). It's called "The Finland Phenomenon". We pretty much do everything the opposite of what they do, and it obviously is failing our children. I hope people in national and state ed. depts, who make decisions that impact children's lives (for the rest of their lives) will be humble enough (as this Harvard researcher was) to look at what is working there, so we can apply the concepts here.

  30. As much as I hate to admit it, you do use algebra far more often than you think you do. The new math is ridiculous though. My poor daughter comes home confused and I can't help her because the way they do things now is just wrong in my opinion. I show her the right way and she can do the work, but then she gets in trouble for doing the wrong way by their standards. SMH! The United States has a horrid public education system!

  31. CameraWiz – We all use algebra. Many times you have a problem in life that you can't solve, it doesn't have to be a mathematical problem it could be anything. You know the outcome of something but only know one factor of how the outcome gets created and you need to find the other value. Such as 2 x N = 4. For example you have your own business and let us just say you have an employee taking money that is the "4" in the equation. You know that three people work the night shift, that is the "2" in the equation. What you need to find is who is taking the money that is the "N" in the equation. What is happening is that the common core is stressing understanding the concept because math concepts are all around us. I am a 4th grade teacher and I could see some good parts to the common core. I do think it is important to understand the concepts of math but I believe it is VERY important to learn the facts. I think that the way "they" want us to teach the concepts is very confusing and definitely stresses too much explaining. I don't mind some explaining but I think it is a bit obsessive. Sadly all these changes won't do much. The education system is fractured in our society. It is like a person with heart disease, so much contributes to the failure. We will never be China or Finland. The politicians don't get it we first need to change our culture to change education. My 4th graders are much more interested in Miley Cyrus and her nutty stunts then what I teach in my classroom.

  32. Michelle – there was only ONE math professor on the board that approved this new common core math and he would NOT sign off on it – he said if they do this NO child will be able to do college math – they won't be able to do higher math – this doesn't teach them anything – its a feel good system tried many years ago and thrown out and now we are trying it – we will have a group of kids that will have an unusually low amount of students who progress in math (only those naturally gifted) – using your mind is good, but this is not the way to do it – also, as JMS stated, this ALL about culture, if you don't require your child to study, to read, to do the assignments and be part of their education – it doesn't matter they are fighting an up hill battle – YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR CHILDS EDUCATION – not the federal government – home school baby, that's the way of the future out of the government schools and the government/union controlled teachers

  33. CCSS was not designed by educators; it was designed by corporations. It was created by software companies at test prep companies. There is NO educational data that backs up their methods. They did not consult teachers. They went with so-called educational reformers and business people who want to bring corporate politics into education. CCSS is not about education–it is about creating a workforce who will mindlessly buy into corporate agendas and do whatever is needed of them without question. This is not education. This is doublethink. Don't believe me? Take a look at all the money that the Gates Foundation has spent on CCSS: Gates Foundation Grants to Select Education and Policy GroupsRetrieved by Mercedes Schneider on August 26, 2013, from

  34. Exactly what Katie said…As much as Derrick's points grate on me, they tend toward convincing. Then I read Katie's comment about the child's frustration, and it reminded me that no child should jump through a hoop for anyone. If he/she wants to explain their methods, they will. If they don't, they won't. And if the teacher or overarching curriculum has a problem with that, then the student shouldn't be there. Some autistic children, I'm sure, would arrive at the answer by literally seeing shapes and colors in their head that mean the answer to them. Yet I'm quite sure that answer would be met with the same poor grade.

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