Well, I’ve made another course correction. After posting the list of measurement topics, the next step in my math relearning project was to collect and post links to online sources that discussed them so my readers could refer to them as they read my notes and I’d have less to write. So I started collecting. As usual, it was taking a depressingly long time. There were a lot of topics, and I was collecting too many sources per topic. I only wanted to spend a couple of days on it, not the week or more it was clearly going to take at that rate.
But while I was collecting links, I noticed something. Several of the resources I was finding were organized around the Common Core standards. I had read the math standards for grades K-8 a while back to get ideas for what my curriculum should cover and how I should order it, but after that I’d opted to try to streamline my studies. Common Core splits math into several domains, such as algebraic thinking, geometry, and measurement, and then covers most of them at every grade level. I wanted to try to clump the material together more to keep the presentation simpler. In the realm of pre-algebra I’d progress through number sense, measurement, geometry without calculations, the arithmetic operations, rational numbers, geometry that used arithmetic calculations, and basic statistics.
The trouble is that math is a complicated, interconnected subject, and while clumping is possible, it’s harder if you’re also trying to build math up gradually from its most basic concepts. And actually my plan was to cover the basics of each topic and then return to the topic in more depth periodically as I covered more advanced topics that related to it, so the clumping wasn’t going to be all that simple in the end. In any case, all of this takes a lot of thought and time, too much time for my purposes.
Well, the resources I was collecting brought my attention back to Common Core. Here was a program for math education that built up the concepts from the basics, and it was already being used to organize several sources’ teaching material. That’s a lot of thinking I wouldn’t have to do myself. After only a little wrestling with the question, I decided Common Core would be my new organizational scheme.
I wanted a single resource that would serve as my home base. I would read it to get the main ideas of each mathematical topic in a Common Core order, and I’d fill in the details with other research as needed. After some Amazon searching and a trip to the library, I settled on The Everything Parent’s Guide to Common Core Math Grades K-5 and the companion volume for grades 6-8. I ordered them. Then I, characteristically, did some more searching and, uncharacteristically, cancelled my order.
What did I find? It was this blog post by Crazy Crawfish, a parent who had tried to help his child with her math homework. In some ways it was a typical story of a confused parent complaining about the new way of teaching math. It was different in that it was more extensive, related the political background of the issue, and had a long comment section with some good discussion. It also had a lot of photos of the homework, which included the curriculum’s branding, a familiar name–EngageNY. EngageNY seemed to collect the new kinds of math instruction that perplexed parents. It was the kind of instruction I wanted to understand. It seemed like good place to start.
I’d run across EngageNY in my earlier searches and had noticed it included some downloadable lesson plans, but a second look revealed that it didn’t just have a few. It offered an entire P-12 Creative Commons Common Core curriculum! Thousands of pages of complete and well-organized course material available to download and use for free. I’d found my home base.
Common Core might have problems. It certainly has critics. I might examine the debate and write about it someday. But I don’t have kids with educations to worry about, and most of the criticisms don’t apply to my project, so it’ll be a while. As far as I can tell, Common Core is good enough for my needs.
I’m not sure what I’ll post for this reorganized project, maybe just my questions and random observations, but I’ll at least provide a list of the main sources I’ve found. That’ll be my next update. I’m especially looking for shorter treatments for people who don’t want to sift through a whole curriculum.
Before I get to the EngageNY curriculum, I’m reading the Common Core progression documents from Achieve the Core. They follow the development of each domain across the grades. These will give me an overview of the subject matter so I’ll know where I’m headed, and since they’re organized by domain, they’ll make it easier to see connections I might miss in the grade-oriented approach. The progressions are sort of what I was trying to accomplish in my clumping exercise. The progression documents are shorter than EngageNY, but it’s still a lot to read, around 280 pages. I’ll be on it for a few weeks. But at least it’s a few weeks on all of K-12 math and not only basic measurement. After that I might take a break from math to work on some of the projects I’ve been putting off.