Common Core/”Spaghetti Math”

Conservatives Academics: Common Core Math: 

How is basic math being taught? 

For example, a math problem like multiplying fractions: Let’s multiply 2/3 X 3/4.

* With common core math this problem is solved by:

drawing a square and then dividing the square into three columns, and shading two of the columns, thus representing  2/3 of the area of the square.  Then the square is divided into four rows, with three of the rows shaded–this is 3/4 of the area of the square.

Where the two shaded areas intersect represents 3/4 of 2/3 of the square. The intersection of the two then yields 12 little boxes of which 6 little boxes are shaded out of the total. This is 1/2 of the whole square.

The thinking behind having students draw the pictures is supposedly to “drill” the understanding of what is happening with fraction multiplication. This understanding precedes the use of the algorithmic method. Common Core change agents claim that student understanding leads to fluency.

* With the standard algorithmic (Rote Learning) math method,

the students learned, that 2/3 X 3/4 = 6/12 which is then reduced to 1/2. This effective approach to multiplying fractions by using the numerators and denominators, then becomes the foundation for effective critical thinking and understanding.
The correct time tested truth that Fluency leads to understanding.

It is an effective rote learning method that was used in my old math textbook and is still the method used in textbooks of other countries today. These countries that are now ranking ahead of us in the world ranking.

* Rote Learning is the memorization of information based on repetition. It’s always useful to apply meaningful relationships to basic skills. At the end of the day, however, rote learning plays a bigger role than Common Core change agents will admit and leads to understanding concepts.

* Critical thinking (creative thinking or Lateral thinking) aims to put data/information into a new or different context (in order to generate alternative answers or solutions). We must build higher-level critical thinking skills with a rote learning as the foundation.

* The role of the parents in the education of their children is determined by their absolute right as the ultimate authority of their children’s education.

* The role of the school district is to come along side of our parents who do have the ultimate right to determine what is in the best interest of their children. The School District must not usurp or undermine this authority in any way.

Common Core proponents blame Rote Learning for the failures of our students by mischaracterizing Rote Learning.

1) They claim the reason students have a hard time with math is “No one taught them to understand the concepts and why we’re doing what we’re doing”.
2) They also claim that “We didn’t teach them how to think; we just taught them how to ‘do’ and execute”.

These mischaracterizations of Rote Learning, are a sham to our children’s education!!!

It mischaracterizes that procedures were taught in a vacuum without contextual understanding. Common Core proponents often use the word “rigor”.

“Rigor” is defined in common core standards as “the intense pursuit of conceptual understanding, procedural skills, and application.”

Common Core proponents claim that “Understanding” leads to “Fluency” .

The time-tested-proven reality is that Rote Learning leads to fluency: which leads to understanding: being fluent in anything will eventually lead to a level of understanding.

Fact: Understanding and procedure work in tandem. Sometimes understanding comes first, sometimes later.

1) Are our students barred from using the standard algorithm until they’ve acquired “mastery” of the pictorial procedure? Common Core change agents will state “Of course we want students to use numbers and not be dependent on pictorial diagrams, but it’s important that they understand how the algorithms work.” Their claim that Understanding will lead to Fluency.

2) Are our students being prevented from going to standard algorithms (Rote Learning: Fluency) until they know the prerequisites needed to do them?

3) How are our children being taught to add and subtract numbers? Are they being taught to use regrouping: To borrow and carry or are they being required to draw diagrams to show place value in adding and subtracting?  It seems that the words “carrying” and ” borrowing” are now anathema with Common Core.

4) How are our children being taught to multiply fractions. Are we applying the standard method (or algorithm) in which numerators are multiplied by numerators and denominators multiplied by denominators?

Common Core’s pictorial approach to math teaching in the lower grades is a product of many years of mischaracterizing and maligning traditional teaching methods. Common Core Math insists on students drawing diagrams to show place value in adding and subtracting numbers.

The Superintendent Contract: The Flawed Process

This is the culture that needs to change!
The prior Superintendent’s new contract 03-08-2016: The School Board officially learned of the Superintendent’s push to renew his contract in February of 2016.  Although some on this board (Board President and Vice President 2016) stated that talks have been going on since November of 2015. The late notice allowed by the Board Leadership, created a “Board Crisis”: The Board had just 2 meetings and about 5 hours of total deliberation on a multi-million dollar contract (about 1.5 million dollars).

We should not be pushed into negotiations without sufficient time to vet this out. Contracts negotiated hastily, often times have bad, costly, unforeseen results. The big hurry here, is due to time-line obligations and termination clause the Superintendent has in his existing contract.

The prior Board majority was rushing this through because of a time-line crisis created by the Superintendent due to his not informing this board sooner. By Design the Superintendent created this crisis and the haste that comes with it. Simply put, this Board and Board leadership was outmaneuvered by the Administration.

Fixing the flaw going forward to the future:

Responsible Board governance would had prevented this! The Board majority and board leadership has failed here. The absence of specific policy with regard to this specific matter opens the door for the mishandling of something so significant. The process of a Superintendent Contract renewal should be changed and spelled out in policy, so that this never happens again in the Boyertown School District.

We need to be about the business of educating our children and not indulgent, unnecessary, poorly planned for, building projects. Let’s spend money that actually educates our children and improves academics. Investments add value, poorly planned indulgences, always exclusively add cost.

We must have effective oversight of everything from Financial Management and Facilities Management to Curriculum and our School District Administration. I will look to be an efficient and effective steward of a School Board Director’s responsibilities.

The folks in our community want the best schools in the state. Our children have one chance at a great education. We are not satisfied to be less than the best. When our children graduate with honors and have to take remedial courses, the parents have to pay for that, and valuable months of our children’s lives are wasted learning what they should have learned in high school!


Boyertown School Board Director