More and more parents in America are expressing frustration over mathematic achievement standards. We are reminded almost weekly that our children rank lower on standardized tests than last year’s students. Or lower than students from many other countries. This trend has been underway for years. Social media accounts abound with posts exemplifying confusion about today’s teaching concepts and models, including the example below from a 3rd grade student assignment.
The issue here is that in many subjects, and particularly in math, it is not enough to simply have the right answer, but one must be able to demonstrate his or her thinking process as well as other possible ways to achieve the correct answer. Gone are the days that place a total premium on accuracy at the expense of process. Gone are the days when you could say, “I don’t know how he did it, but he got the right answer.”
Academic rigor now requires students to learn the difference between “equal” and “equivalence.” (That is what tripped up this student, and the numerous authors of internet commentary.) As one commentator put it, “It’s more important than ever for students to understand the difference between equal as a result and equivalence in meaning from a young age because it is a fundamental computer science concept.”
So what does this mean for the average parent? It probably means that if your child is struggling with math, you may be doing him or her a disservice if you still think that getting it right refers only to the final answer and not to the analytic process too. No wonder that many parents have realized this and look for outside assistance if their child is underperforming.
Parents too are often also looking for help for their children to help them excel even though they are currently scored as proficient in their current grade level. These are wise parents. Maybe they know that 50% of all eighth graders who are scored as proficient in math achieve just average SAT scores when that time comes.
Proficiency will be the subject for a later post.