When did we as a society decide that expecting less of our children was a good thing?

I’m not off my rocker this morning, I promise. Take the time to look at these two exercises, courtesy of our friends at Out in Left field. Both are the last 6 questions from 4th Grade Math textbooks at the end of the units on Multiplication and Division – questions which should be the most difficult and should establish whether students are fluent enough with Multiplication and Division to move on to other topics.

When you compare the two bear in mind that these are for 4th grade students. Fourth grade students who, according to the Common Core Mathematics Standards, should be able to “*….multiply two two‐digit numbers, using strategies based on place value and the properties of operations. ” *

After reading them, ask yourself which program appears to provide instruction that would enable students to* “multiply two 2-digit numbers*” and which one misses the bar.

Here’s the first:

3. Complete the multiplication facts.

a. 4 × 7 = __________

b. 7 × 7 = __________

c. 5 × 7 = __________

d. _________ = 3 × 6

e. _________ = 6 × 5

f. __________ = 9 × 64. Tell whether each number sentence is true or false.

a. (7 × 4) – 2 = 80 – (9 × 6) __________

b. 8 × 11 = (8 × 5) + (8 × 6) __________

e. 34 < (3 × 5) + (63/9) __________

d. 12 = (6 × 7) / (19 – 7) __________5. Make a true sentence by inserting parenthesis.

a. 7 × 4 – 4 = 0

b. 45 / 9 + 10 = 15

c. 8 × 7 – 6 = 8

d. 24 / 3 + 5 = 131. Why are multiplication facts called “turn-around facts”?

2. In this unit, your teacher encouraged you to use “A Guide for Solving Number Stories” when solving problems. Do you think the steps and suggestions in the guide are useful? Why or why not?

3. Is the World Tour Project a good way to learn about numbers? Is it helping you? Why or why not?

Here’s the second (note: these are just 6 of the more than 18 similar problems listed in the exercise that were necessary to fill in the cross-word puzzle).

Multiply and use the answers to complete the cross-number puzzle

DOWN

A. 895 × 31

B. 676 x 62

E. 346 × 28

F. 406 × 53

G. 119 × 29

I. 135 × 65

The first exercise comes from the 2002 edition of Every Day Mathematics (EDM – pages 77 – 78) ; a program which is used in schools throughout the nation, including Virginia schools. The second comes from Singapore Math, which, to our knowledge, isn’t used in a single Virginia public school.

The exercise in EDM isn’t terrible, it just fails to meet the expectation for 4th grade competency. Yet this program, EMD, is one of the most popular instructional programs in the US. If you ever wonder why American kids are failing to keep up with kids from other nations, these examples provide one of the most compelling explanations I’ve seen.

Note: The folks who developed EDM say they’ve developed a newer version which has been revised to reflect the Common Core Standards. Unfortunately, that version isn’t available yet for us to confirm their promises.

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