Traditional Math vs Common Core: What Parents Should Know


Traditional math education typically follows a straightforward approach, focusing on procedural methods and memorization of formulas. It emphasizes mastery of fundamental arithmetic skills before moving on to more complex concepts. On the other hand, Common Core math aims to deepen understanding by encouraging critical thinking, problem-solving, and a conceptual understanding of mathematical principles. It emphasizes reasoning and real-world application of math, often using multiple methods to solve problems. 

We’ve heard many parents ask – “What is the purpose of common core math?” And while traditional math might seem more familiar to parents due to its structured approach, Common Core math aims to develop a deeper comprehension of mathematical concepts. When it comes to traditional math vs common core, both approaches have their merits, and supporting your child’s learning by engaging with the curriculum and being open to diverse problem-solving methods can benefit their mathematical development.

The differences between traditional math and Common Core math are significant and have sparked numerous discussions and debates among educators, parents, and policymakers. Read on to learn what parents should know when navigating the complexities of these two approaches.

Understanding Traditional Math vs Common Core

  1. Rote Learning: Traditional math primarily emphasizes rote learning, where students memorize formulas, rules, and algorithms to solve problems. 
  2. Step-by-Step Procedures: It often involves a step-by-step method, where students learn to follow a set of procedures to solve specific types of problems. This often hinders understanding, as students may need a deeper grasp of mathematical concepts.
  3. Memorization of Facts: When it comes to Traditional math vs Common Core, Traditional math emphasizes memorization of multiplication tables, formulas, and algorithms without always delving into the underlying principles.
  4. Emphasis on Right Answers: The emphasis is on obtaining the correct answer rather than exploring various problem-solving strategies or understanding the why behind mathematical concepts.

What is Common Core and what is the purpose of Common Core Math?

  1. Conceptual Understanding: What is Common Core math? Well, when looking at Common Core math vs traditional, Common Core math aims to foster a conceptual understanding of mathematical principles. It encourages students to understand why formulas work and how mathematical concepts are interconnected.
  2. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving: Common Core emphasizes critical thinking, problem-solving, and real-world application of mathematical concepts. Students are encouraged to explore multiple strategies to solve problems.
  3. Depth Over Breadth: While many may not understand what Common Core math is, those who do, know that rather than covering a wide range of topics superficially, Common Core focuses on depth of understanding within fewer topics, allowing students to grasp concepts thoroughly.
  4. Communication and Reasoning: There’s a focus on communicating mathematical reasoning, encouraging students to explain their thought processes and understand various approaches to problem-solving.

Parental Concerns and Challenges

  1. Confusion Over Methods: Parents might find it challenging to help their children with homework due to the unfamiliar methods used in Common Core math, which differ from the approaches they learned.
  2. Transition Difficulties: Moving from traditional to Common Core math can be challenging for students accustomed to rote learning. This transition might initially affect their confidence and performance.
  3. Lack of Resources: Some parents might need help finding adequate resources or support to assist their children effectively in understanding Common Core math concepts.
  4. Assessments and Grading: The shift to Common Core may bring changes in assessments and grading methods, leading to concerns or confusion among parents regarding their child’s performance evaluation.

Navigating the Differences

  1. Seeking Understanding: Engage with your child’s teacher or school to understand the reasoning behind Common Core methods. Attend workshops or use online resources to familiarize yourself with the concepts.
  2. Encouraging Flexibility: Acknowledge that traditional and Common Core math both have their merits. When asking both what is Common Core math and traditional math, encourage your child to be flexible in their approaches to problem-solving.
  3. Supplemental Resources: Use supplementary materials, such as tutoring, educational websites, or workbooks, to reinforce learning and provide additional support at home.
  4. Positive Reinforcement: Praise your child’s effort and critical thinking skills rather than solely focusing on correct answers. When navigating the differences between Common Core math vs traditional, encouragement will boost their confidence in tackling mathematical challenges!

Quick Common Core Math Guide for Parents:

  1. Focus on Problem-Solving: Highlight that Common Core emphasizes problem-solving and critical thinking skills rather than only memorizing formulas. It aims to develop a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts.
  2. Concrete Examples: Use specific examples to demonstrate how Common Core math encourages students to understand the “why” behind mathematical concepts. 
  3. Visual Representations: Explain how Common Core often uses visual aids to help students understand abstract concepts. This approach can make math more accessible and relatable.
  4. Multiple Methods: Discuss how Common Core allows for multiple problem-solving strategies, encouraging flexibility and creativity in approaching mathematical challenges. 
  5. Real-World Applications: Emphasize how Common Core math connects math to real-life situations, making it more practical and relevant. It helps students see the usefulness of math beyond the classroom.
  6. Support Materials: Use resources, like sample problems or online tutorials, that illustrate Common Core methods. 
  7. Engagement: Engage with your child’s math homework to understand what they’re being taught. 
  8. Patience and Support: Be patient and supportive as your child navigates the new math curriculum. Reassure them that learning a different approach may take time but can ultimately lead to a stronger understanding of mathematics.
  9. Open Communication: Ask questions, express your concerns, and ensure teachers are open to addressing them.

Still wondering what the purpose of Common Core math is? Or how valuable it truly is to your child? When reviewing the debate between Traditional math vs Common Core, both traditional and Common Core math have their strengths and weaknesses. 

Understanding the differences and finding a balance between the two can significantly benefit your child’s mathematical development. When figuring out where you stand with the Common Core math vs traditional math debate, encouraging a positive attitude towards learning math and providing support and resources will help your child navigate these diverse approaches more effectively.

Understanding math principles, asking questions, and instilling a positive attitude toward math at the critical ages of 7 to 11 (2nd to 5th grade) support children in becoming rational, logical thinkers and ultimately resilient and independent adults. We don’t want questions like “What is the purpose of Common Core math”? Or “Why does traditional math still matter?” to talk your child out of his or her future destiny. We’re here to help. Wonder Math is the only solution designed to inspire and engage children in this crucial foundational stage.

Ready to set your child up with the tools they need to be successful in the future? Sign up for Wonder Math now!

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