So this is my fifth year teaching math and it is just getting progressively worse. When I first started teaching, kids came to me knowing how to multiply large numbers (I teach 5th grade and now 6th), now I am lucky if these kids can add and subtract. What is going on? These kids do not study and their parents want to know what more I can do. I guess the extra help, study guides, modifications, and everything else I do just isn't enough. I am so frustrated at this point. We just ordered a new math program this year to align with the common core and I am having a difficult time using it because they kids aren't ready for it! I don't want to move on without kids really getting the basic concepts, but how long is too long? I think this is just a rant, but I'm seriously frustrated. Is it just me though?

I didn't know you were upset with me. Sorry! No, but seriously I would be frustrated as well. I know teachers expect students to know certain concepts once they move on.

From my observation, the idea of conceptual teaching has overtaken procedural teaching to such a degree that many students are never once told, "you must know your addition and multiplication facts. You must know the steps to subtract with regrouping, across zeroes, etc." Instead, kids spend so much time thinking and explaining their thinking that they never get around to actually doing math. Don't get me wrong... conceptual thinking is definitely important. Kids need to know why things work. But they also need to know, "learning your multiplication facts isn't fun, but knowing them will make everything you do in math for the rest of your life exponentially easier." I seriously just had my math coach tell me that my third graders should not even be taught the standard algorithm for addition and subtraction. Instead they should just do everything using number lines. I'm happy to report that I waited to get back to my classroom with the door closed and nobody in earshot before I said all the four-letter words that I really wanted to say.

THIS! You are exactly right. I want my kids to know the basic. This is getting our students nowhere with all of this crap. I get it, but the basics still need to be taught.

My partner teacher and I are struggling with same problem in 6th grade English. We're both big believers in teaching grammar in the context of a student's own writing, but that's difficult to do when said students can't even write a simple sentence. I'm struggling because, well, how can I expect students to revise and edit their work or conduct peer reviews when their writing is so poor that I can't even figure out how to review it? Sorry, didn't mean to hijack. Just wanted to empathize with the "what is happening?" sentiment.

Considering it's the same math coach that told me with a straight face that there was no reason to teach multiplication before fractions, because students absolutely could solve 7/10+5/12 without any knowledge of multiplication and using only pictures and models... yeah, I'm inclined to agree. My kids are good... but accurately drawing 1 7/60 good? Yeah... not so much!

I'm having the same issues with my third graders and CCSS math. For the most part, the sweeties I have this year are NOT ready for it. I'm way off of my district's math pacing guide because the district admins expected my kiddos to be multiplying and dividing fluently within 100, when (1) they had never multiplied before, much less divided and (2) about half of my kids were still having trouble with addition and subtraction! I finally moved into multiplication, and just moved into division last week. It's absurd! Oh, and my district has decided that we don't need a math book or program, either, because "there's so much online." HAH

I'm having the same issue with my FIFTH graders! My hair is turning gray fast knowing that their scores on the NJASK this year are going to determine whether or not I'm an acceptable teacher. I guess they don't take into consideration what they come to me knowing though...

I was certified out of the "Yay For Inquiry And Conceptual Learning!!!" movement and even I think this is insane. We need a balance of both. And I knew a heck of a lot more going into 7th grade as a student because my old-school teachers drilled a ton of math and grammar rules into me during 6th grade. Was it magical and exciting? No. Was I far better prepared? Yes. Basic skills. Back to basic skills! Also, some people forget that it's hard to create your own meaning on a topic if you don't have any background knowledge on said topic. Some populations are in dire need of quality direct instruction.

What do we mean when we say basics? I guess I am confused, when did/do teachers think they were teaching for conceptual understanding, yet could not actually solve the operation? Do we mean memorizing math facts or memorizing steps to an algorithm?

Both! But alongside a variety of strategies. For example, I feel there is so much "Here's some numbers, kids! What can we DO WITH THEM? Let's chart ALL YOUR IDEAS!" Fine. Super. But also, we just need to teach kids that 5+5=10. Students can't approach numbers like that until they have foundational number sense...Please beat place value explanation to death, but if a kid can solve 27-18 because he just knew how to borrow and carry...well...that's better than nothing! When I taught 3rd grade the curriculum allowed 0 time for fact practice. I'm imagining those kids trying to reduce fractions in 5th grade right now and they are probably struggling.

When I talk about conceptual understanding, I'm talking about students who can model addition and subtraction in a variety of ways. Students that can explain their thinking. Students that completely understand the concept of regrouping. Students that can explain place value, use base ten blocks to model regrouping and explain the purpose of it completely, etc. When I talk about not knowing the basics, I mean those same students needing to count on their fingers twice to get 17-8 because nobody ever made them practice their subtraction facts, and still getting it wrong about once every four times.

Ok, I agree with this. I just don't see this as having anything really to do with conceptual understanding. For me they are not at odds with one another. Its not conceptual versus basics(for me). I see the EXACT same issue with my students, but it I don't attribute it to conceptual understanding, I attribute it to they don't have to memorize anything.

Oh yeah, I'm not trying to bash conceptual understanding... it's definitely necessary! I think the problem is that some teachers don't ever ask children to move beyond the conceptual to the procedural.

Yeah, I see this too. My thoughts are that if a student has strong conceptual understanding. Then they should be able to EASILY work with the subtraction algorithm. When I think my students have good conceptual knowledge, and then fumble with the algorithm....they didn't have good conceptual knowledge, imo. Conceptual knowledge should make working with a procedure easier.

Knowing the concept doesn't do you any good if you're spending so much energy trying to remember the facts. What I see is kids who know the concept, but make mistakes or forget steps because they are spending so much time and energy trying to remember exactly what 17-8 equals.

Students need to have an efficient procedure in place for doing what they already should understand conceptually. In subtraction, this could be the traditional algorithm, adding up, distance model etc. Which one they use depends on the kid and their particular strengths!

I was at Wal-mart today, and we had a rather large coupon that would not ring up for the cashier. The supervisor actually had to pull out a CALCULATOR to figure out 12.94 - 5.00! I told it to her (nicely), and she looked at me like I was an idiot and said... "I trust you, but I'd rather do it myself!" After she left, I told the cashier that my FIRST GRADERS could do 12-7=5 without a calculator!

Couldn't agree more with the frustration regarding students coming to the upper elementary grades (I teach 5th) without any foundations for basic math skills. Today I told the kids to do only the even problems and I actually had a student ask me to write down the even numbers because she didn't know which ones were even!! We were doing a multiplication lesson....YIKES! Half of my class is struggling with everything I teach because they can add/subtract simple 0-20 problems. Multiplication is a challenge as many of them do not know their tables and forget about division....80% of my class is not proficient on simple division. It is a sad state of affairs....

I'm in your boat Bloom! I had an observation today and I obviously planned a lesson that was just too ambitious for these kids and it was DIVISION! I'm supposed to be well in to the order of operations by now. We ordered Go Math this year and I have even begun to use it because the kids aren't ready. I'm so frustrated, but I don't want to blame the kids. I guess drill and practice until they get it.