Friday, October 11, 2013

8th Grade Math: Then and Now . . .

Common Core standards, testing, and materials have become the topic of conversation in numerous public meetings around the state.  A lot of parents, students and teachers are upset.  What's the fuss about? I thought a simple comparison of "then" and "now" might be helpful.

 On the left is the table of contents from "Making Arithmetic Work" Silver-Burdett Company 1952 edition, an 8th Grade math textbook, editions of which were commonly used in the Utica area throughout the 1950's. Flipping through the book, the "Money and Interest" chapter describes family budgeting, what money and thrift are, what banks do, various kinds of checks, and paying for use of money (interest). "Sharing Risks and Benefits" explains the purpose of fire, auto, hospitalization, accident, and life insurance and how they work.  It also describes different kinds of taxes and common terminology in working with them.  Other chapters to note are "Earning a Living" and "Borrowing and Investing Money."

On the right are the Common Core grade 8 math standards. (I was unable to find a textbook for them.)  In a nutshell it is all mathematical theory.  Searching through CC standards for other grades I was unable to find where the useful practical information from the 60 year old book above are addressed.

An Eighth Grade Education used to be generally accepted as being prepared for everyday life.  That is clearly reflected in "Making Arithmetic Work"'s contents.  It's not clear what these Common Core standards prepare students for, although it is proclaimed that they make students "college and career ready."

What happened to being life ready?


Keith said...

Although the concepts in the CC standards are not impossible for 8th graders, they are buried in such deep layers of jargon that they would confound most parents, many students and (I suspect) a lot of teachers. Since there are no textbooks yet trying to present the lesson plans and worksheets without the aid of a jargon to English dictionary becomes a monumental task.

I saw this in action last year when my daughter tried to help her niece with a fourth grade worksheet on fractions. My granddaughter had no idea what was being asked of her until her aunt explained it in terms of cutting a pie. I could see the light bulb go on. She immediately understood cutting a pie into 3 pieces rather 4 and why 1/3 was bigger than 1/4. Once she learned the concept, learning words like "numerator" and "denominator" become less stressful.

Dave said...

Never saw anything like the book "Making Arithmetic Work" when I was in 8th grade in Utica. Probably because I spent the year at Our Lady of Lourdes School in training to become a little rocket scientist by studying those yellow Regents Review books. But I'm happily surprised to learn of such a book as "Making," because I have often wondered why my elementary and secondary (and beyond) education never taught me to balance a check book. And here the kids in public school were far ahead of us on that score (but we always beat them in basketball.) Since us Catholic boys had to deal with the Virgin Mary syndrome in our women classmates, that would be a double advantage of public schools. Learning to make out with girls earlier AND balance one's checkbook would seem an advantage in life, and at least symbolically related.
See, "Irish Catholic Sex," at
Anyway ... it's too early in the morning and I'd need more Dramamine than I have on hand
to get through an educational standards document. I believe I paid my dues years ago on that score. So far and from what I've read, I'm not a fan of Common Core, but let's remember two things. 1.Like the filmstrip projector, classroom television and, yes, even the PC, educational fads come and go. And 2. don't expect that after educators have spent fifty years trying to save curriculum from those with an axe to grind of one kind or another and the more recent public kickback regarding the teaching of values that you'll find very many curriculum documents that aren't largely theoretical (and often obtuse.) Oh yes, you'll find teachers teaching values, but I wonder if you'll see it on paper any more.

Strikeslip said...

LOVE your stories, Dave!!!!