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Do Shortcuts Have a Place in Teaching Mathematics?

· mathematics,data,education,Vincent Granville

Out of 71 countries, the United States ranked 38th place in student’s math scores. In the attempt to gain a higher place, forty-one states have adopted Common Core Standards when teaching mathematics in school.

Utilizing Common Core in education helps to engage and encourage students to use conceptual thinking in mathematics rather than getting to an answer quickly. Although over 80% of the country is now teaching to Common Core standards, the process still receives backlash, but not from the students.

Older generations, anyone over the age of 20, don’t recognize how common core is taught. Often parents of students are the most vocally frustrated. Sitting down and helping a child with homework can be challenging when the methods you were taught are far different from present-day math techniques.

Before Common Core launched in 2009, students were often taught math in the form of tricks or mnemonic devices to get the solution to a problem quicker. Cross multiplying, borrowing, and “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” are only just a few examples.

Although these math tricks allow students to reach the answer faster, they don’t teach students the concepts on a deeper level. As mentioned before, borrowing when subtracting is a popular technique used when subtracting two numbers from one another.

This does not show what you are doing or what borrowing is. Using Common Core standards students utilize tools such as “number lines” and “counting-up methods” to find the distance between those two numbers and can visibly see and understand the process of subtracting.

While older generation will still argue that these tricks are the most beneficial to students, math experts argue otherwise.

Phil Daro, a lead writer for Common Core Math, explains that these math tricks (that many of us know and still use) have tainted math for many students. Phil Daro also explains how American teachers have different objectives when compared to higher ranking countries such as Japan.

An American teacher focuses on “answer-getting” meanwhile a Japanese teacher focuses on what math the students are supposed to learn from working on a problem and how is the problem used to teach that math.

Common Core Standards adopt similar methods from high score ranking countries such as Japan. The standards put in place helps to develop “number sense” and for students to realize the idea that numbers are flexible. While old math techniques and shortcuts helpful in getting an answer quickly, it does not provide a deeper understanding of the student.

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