A nationally representative survey of public-school teachers by a pro-Common Core organization found that 48 percent of middle-school teachers, a plurality, say fewer of their students are memorizing basic math formulas or times tables under Common Core.
While pluralities of teachers for grades K-5 said their kids’ math knowledge has stayed about the same, large numbers of teachers in those grades also said their students are learning fewer math facts since Common Core arrived in 2010. Only tiny percentages said their kids are learning more, which disappointing since American kids’ math knowledge is poor.
It should be needless to say, but this is a problem. Studies have shown that kids’ mastery of math facts is crucial to their advancement into higher-level math. This is why at Redeemer Classical our students practice their basic math facts to full fluency. And we don’t do it dully, either: students become fluent through timed drill races, card games, mental math games, modified board games, and other delight-driven strategies. Our students also learn the story of mathematics through biographies and engaging histories of the sciences.
Yes, the kids will still complain about doing their math sometimes. We all get tired of doing our duty. But we strive to balance discipline and joy, as does any good teacher. We neither use “fun” as an excuse for indolence nor “high achievement” as an excuse for destroying children’s wonder at the world God created. Education is not just a mechanistic input-output system. It is built on relationships. Our education methods are designed to build strong relationships between students, teachers, families, God, and his creation, of which one aspect is math, in a character driven atmosphere in which delight and diligence work together, not against each other.