What the Heck is a Number Bond? The Struggling Parent’s Guide to Common Core Math, Part One

by Abigail Shore

They say simple arithmetic is like riding a bike—you never forget how to do it. Even today, I remember that 2 x 5 = 10. I bet you never thought you’d struggle teaching your elementary schooler how to add, subtract, multiply, or divide, but let’s be honest… the “bikes” of today look nothing like the “bikes” we had as kids.

But that’s okay! Part One of this post is here to explain what the Common Core is, why it was adopted, and how it’s different from the math we learned in elementary school. Part Two, coming soon, will explain a few key Common Core math processes and provide you with some steps you can take to help your child with their homework!

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What is the Common Core?

The Common Core is a set of research- and evidence-based academic standards for mathematics and language arts that are designed to align with college and career expectations. The Core sets standardized goals of what students should be able to accomplish in a given subject by the end of the academic year.

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Why was the Common Core adopted and how is it better than previous curricula?

The motivation behind the Common Core, beyond standardization between all of the US states, was to improve the United States’ academic standing in the global community. In fact, the Core is inspired by curriculums in other top performing countries in order to better prepare US students for success globally as well as domestically.

The Common Core is considered an improvement upon the previous curricula used in the United States—it provides a clear and consistent outline for educators, which in turn provides clear and consistent teaching for students. This means that, for example, if a fourth grade student in our very own Chester County were to move to a neighboring school district, a different town, or even a different state, he or she would not fall behind academically—they would be held to the same expectations as their previous school.

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How is Common Core math different from what I learned in elementary school?

Common Core math was designed to address the issue of mathematical understanding in the United States. The primary issue was that the curriculum was covering a broad variety of topics, but didn’t delve very deep into any of the concepts. So while students were vaguely familiar with many mathematical concepts, they didn’t truly understand them. The Common Core aims to better organize mathematical education to aid in this particular goal.

In short, the Common Core not only teaches students how to perform mathematical functions (like addition and subtraction), but also teaches them where these concepts come from and why they work. Because students now have this understanding, they are able to apply mathematical concepts to nearly any situation and are no longer reliant on rote memorization (I’m looking at you, times tables!).

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Now that we have a basic understanding of the Common Core and why it was adopted by the majority of schools in the United States, keep an eye out for Part Two of this blog for tutorials on how to solve some particularly unusual Common Core Math processes with step-by-step instructions!