Tag Archives: common core

“Common Core” Math (new math): a refutation of one of the lamer attack memes

the offending meme.
the offending meme.

A week or two back, an acquaintance of mine put a meme up on their facebook page attacking “common core*”math. I tried to bring wisdom to the situation, and some people listened. Since a lie can spread around the world in the time it takes the truth to put on its shoes, I thought I’d write a full refutation of this nasty piece of work, complete with pictures.

I explained why what the teacher wrote on the paper was correct, but I used too many words doing so and some people tuned me out. So it might be easier with pictures.


Instead of thinking of them as abstract numbers, think of them as sets. Think of a set of 8 dots and a set of 5 dots.
Instead of thinking of them as abstract numbers, think of them as sets. Think of a set of 8 dots and a set of 5 dots.


The critical issue here is that while you are adding 5 to 8, you don’t have to add the five circles all at once. You can add two circles first:


That gives you ten. As the instructor said, “Yes you can.” You then add the remaining circles to get a single group of 13 circles. But 10 circles (with 3 remaining) is a completely legitimate interim step when adding a set of 5 circles to a set of 8 circles.


There.  8 + 5 = 13.  You just don’t have to do it all at once. The idea of being able to not do addition or subtraction all at once, to shift values for your own convenience,  becomes really important in any form of math from Algebra up.

If this seems simple, it’s because it is. This isn’t about common core, it’s something called the “new math.” Essentially it has to do with teaching kids to understand what they are doing instead of just memorizing stuff. It’s been around a fairly long time.

It shouldn’t be controversial at this point. I don’t want to go into the possible motivations of the people who are attacking this.  I will say that posting a meme like this reveals one’s ignorance.

There is no shame in being ignorant. It simply means that you don’t know. If you realize that you don’t know and seek knowledge on a subject, you will no longer be ignorant. This process is something we all must do, as no one can know everything about every subject. There is no shame in admitting one has been wrong: it’s a necessary precursor to being right.

* In reality, this has nothing to do with common core. I have teacher friends: some of them have had issues with common core but it doesn’t have to do with curriculum: it has to do with the implementation time table , and with the standardized testing taking away from time teaching the kids. I apologize to teachers out there if that’s an over simplification. But this dumb meme has nothing to do with common core: it is reactionaries attacking what they don’t understand instead of trying to understand it.