"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Sunday, March 30, 2014

When We Miss the Point

It is Lent and every Sunday is packed with very profound readings. Today's gospel reading is about a blind man whose eyes were opened. The story unfortunately turns into something absurd. Not a single soul was happy for the fact that someone had gained sight after living a life in darkness. Instead, everyone was focused on who was right and who was wrong.

Missing the point often happens when deference to the correct authority is ignored. Frequently, doubts have already been planted in someone's mind so the one's task is simply to discredit. With this agenda, we really cannot see even if we look. This also happens in education when we do not respect the teachers, the individuals with whom we have entrusted our children. It is necessary that we see teachers as the educators of our children. Otherwise, we will become completely blind.

There was a parent's rant against the Common Core that went viral on Facebook this week:

The above homework was asking the student to write a letter to Jack. Jack was apparently trying to solve the arithmetic problem, 427 - 316 = ?, using the number line. On top of the homework is Jack's drawing of the number line:

I had to clean up the previous picture so that the question is clearer. Jack in the above picture was basically subtracting only 306 from 427. This was the reason why Jack arrived at the answer of 121. This was basically the homework question. It was plainly asking us to review what Jack did. Jack knew decimal places. The 3 in 316 is three hundreds and the 6 is plain 6 ones. What Jack forgot was the 1 in the middle of 316, which was in the tens' place. This homework had nothing to do with teaching students a specific way of subtracting two numbers. This homework was meant to be an activity for a child to review another person's work. Yet, the father who posted the rant became an instant hit on social media.

Dear Jack,
Don’t feel bad. I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering, which included extensive study in differential equations and other higher math applications. Even I cannot explain the Common Core mathematics approach, nor get the answer correct. In the real world, simplification is valued over complication.
427 – 316: 111
The answer is solved in under 5 seconds – 111. The process used is ridiculous and would result in termination if used.
Frustrated Parent

Someone who has studied differential equations and other higher math applications should have developed reading comprehension as well. This parent totally missed the point of this homework. It was not trying to force a specific method of subtraction. It was an opportunity for a student to review someone else's work. Yet, not only did this dad miss the important point, but so did the thousands who have liked and shared the above misguided rant.

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