Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tutoring and the Common Core

image from www.theclassroomclips.com
There are certain topics we tend to try to stay away from: politics, religion, and Common Core. Unfortunately, no matter how we feel about government imposed education standards, we have to interact with them at one time or another. Maybe you have some students who attend a CCSS school. Maybe you don't. Maybe your area has recently adopted "The Core" or maybe they've just abandoned them. Either way, it's likely that if you haven't already, you will one day come across a student dealing with Common Core. So what do you do?

As a life-long student, I see it as a new learning opportunity. Rather than buck against the system, I'm for rolling with it, and doing the best I can along the way. This past school year, one of my long-term student's school adopted The Core. It wouldn't have been so bad, but they changed curriculums half way through the year! Talk about a headache, and a large handful of unhappy parents. It's easy to point fingers at the teacher, but fellow tutors, let's try to avoid that, and help our students' parents avoid it too. It is very likely they are having a hard time with this transition as well!

My student was a fourth grader, and I can tell you, some of that language and homework was CONFUSING at first. It was really helpful when I had his parents request that a textbook be sent home. It was then I learned his school was using "Go Math" (which I've recently discovered is a pretty common curriculum). Whether it's legal or not I'm not sure of, but most of the editions of this curriculum are available for viewing online as well.

It was the "new multiplication algorithm" that had us stumped. They were calling it the box method, and I was 100% lost! To make it that much worse, my student had had a substitute teacher for a couple days and his notes were scrambled, half his words half copied, and BIG pieces missing, like vocabulary and definitions! What did I do? I ran to my good friend Google. I typed in everything I could think of...box method for multiplication, multiplying with a box, common core multiplication, two-digit multiplication in a box. That proved futile because NOTHING I found looked or sounded like what my student was explaining to me.

Partial Products

I then proceeded to request the help of some of the tutors I know online. I love the Facebook group #tutorchat the members there have proved to be a helping hand when I really need it! One of the members said this was similar to the lattice method. I was so relieved, I knew that word! And I knew how to make it work now. This was extremely amusing to me, because just months earlier I had been working with this very same student on multi-digit multiplication, using what I knew as expanded form multiplication. Once I figured this out, I could go back to my student and connect the two methods. He was flying in no time!

What's the moral of this little story? Just because you don't like it, doesn't mean you can't make it work. For us tutors, it is going to take a little more effort to work with The Core than teachers. We don't have the privilege of the in-house training and professional development they have. However, we CAN connect with them, and with other tutors who have been there and done that. We can set good examples for our students by doing our homework and spending the time to learn something new! And I don't care who you are, that pays off big in the long run.

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