New Indiana standards make things worse

February 24, 2014 1 Comment

Words matter, especially in the technical lingo of standards. In an earlier post, I noted that the “new” Indiana draft standards use different language when referring to the standard algorithm which is problematic. Indiana citizens wanted our state to improve our standards with this process, and encourage more traditional math. However, a back to the basics approach can’t happen without the standard algorithm.

An algorithm by definition is a written method for a systemic set of steps to perform a computation either in arithmetic or computer programming. In math, there are many different algorithms to compute the basic operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and  division.  “The standard algorithm” is the quickest, most efficient of these methods. It works everytime, for any problem in its class, ie. adding 2 multi-digit numbers or multiplying 2 multi-digit numbers. “A standard algorithmic approach” includes different variations of the standard algorithm, it is different.

This is the standard algorithm for addition:


A standard algorithmic approach for addition includes the above example as well as the following:


This is the standard algorithm for subtraction:

This is subtraction computed with a standard algorithmic approach:

This is the standard algorithm for division:
These are examples of division with a standard algorithmic approach:
The one redeeming thing about the Common Core was that it did have the words “the standard algorithm” for each operation. The placement of it, however, was two grades later than high performing countries and states. I was hopeful the placement of it would have been changed with these new standards, but instead they removed it. With the exception of two-digit multiplication in fifth grade, the words “the standard algorithm” are not there as a whole.
It was not changed or left out by accident. Many math educators feel learning the standard algorithm gets in the way of children developing other strategies and thus limits their ability to conceptually understand the procedure. Why does it get in the way? Because once kids learn it, they always want to use it.  It always works, it’s quick, it’s less error prone,  and it’s easy to perform.
I have to ask, what is wrong with that?
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  1. Tim Akers says:

    The problem lies within the prevailing attitudes of academia, everyone wants the prestige of setting a standard (a new standard) because it brings them acclaim. I had a college professor that once said to me, “What’s wrong with the old way of doing it, it worked. Everyone, including academics, want to be rock stars and win acclaim for themselves. Unfortunately, it (their acclaim)comes at the expense of our students.”

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