Common Core Math – Looked Simple to Me

Common Core Frustrated ParentThere is apparently a big story these days with what is called the Common Core. While I am an educator my focus is primarily on technology and I teach adults. Even with that said I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know much about the Common Core until I read this article.

At this stage I haven’t done much research into the Common Core and I’m not writing this blog as a defense or an attack on it. I was just a bit amazed by the father’s reaction to the problem. I’m sure he’s had a lot more experience with the Common Core than have I and his reaction was likely an outburst related to accumulated feelings.

That being said, I’m a college dropout, not an EE, and it took me about ten seconds to see the method being taught for subtraction and it makes perfect sense. It’s exactly how I do math in my head when presented with a problem. The fact that someone with a degree in Electrical Engineering couldn’t figure this out is baffling to me. The father is also completely undermining the authority of the teacher and basically telling his child it’s fine to mock and ignore teachers. Good luck with that.

The original problem is a subtraction equation: 427 – 316. So, using base tens you subtract three one-hundreds, one ten, and six ones to arrive at 111. In the example the student failed to subtract the ten properly and went from 127 to 107.

The method being taught is very straightforward, and as I said, exactly the way I do subtraction in my head. The line at the top is an excellent representation of how I solve such a problem.

Please don’t take this as a defense of the Common Core as a whole because I don’t know enough about it to make such a statement. I’m just saying that the father’s reaction to this problem is nonsense, not the problem itself. Even then I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. It’s likely this letter is the culmination of multiple frustrating events.

The process used is straight-forward and works perfectly. It takes about five seconds and can be done in the head instead of having to use a piece of paper to write down all the numbers. It’s, in my opinion, a better system for subtraction than the one the father presents.

What do you think?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Coming Soon: The Broken Throne

6 thoughts on “Common Core Math – Looked Simple to Me

  1. Tom, the article you reference is most assuredly trying to sway opinion instead of illustrating fact, just as this parent did. I completely agree with your assessment. Nowhere in this homework problem is any one advocating this approach to subtraction ad the best method. This word problem is simply a practice of critical thinking. And, you are correct, it makes total sense. Moreover, if a student is dyslexic or is just one of those thousands of students in the US that just don’t seem to “get” math naturally, this is another sound approach to describing simple math concepts where traditional methods fail. Frankly, I am also an engineer with extensive education in mathematics. Do I use this method on paper? No, I don’t. However, is this the logical process I sometimes use in my head for larger numbers when paper isn’t available? Yes. This system is an exercise on critical thinking, not on whether or not you know how to subtract.

    • Thank you for the comment, Spencer,

      My blogs get posted on my Facebook and Twitter and there has been extensive discussion on Facebook about this issue but none so far here.

      I agree that the problem in question is more of a critical thinking exercise! I should have mentioned that in my blog.

      Thanks for the comment and come back any time!


  2. FINALLY! The first sane post I’ve read about this math problem. I AM an Electrical Engineer, and I’m embarrassed that another EE couldn’t figure out what was going on here. Thank-you!

    • So, I feel a little better. This guy isn’t an Electrical Engineer. He got a BS in Electrical Engineering Technology from Devry University back in 1988. He now works at a church. I can’t tell if he’s actually ever done any engineering. I’m guessing not. So, he was a little misleading in trying to establish his authority in math, so that he could commit an argument from authority fallacy.

      • Hi Ellen, welcome to the blog and thank you for the comment.

        I failed to do any research into the father who wrote the original blog, I simply took him at his word which was clearly an error on my part. Thank you for rectifying my mistake. What you say is very interesting because it means he was practicing to deceive. This bothers me quite a bit. I don’t mind people have strong opinions even when they are in disagreement with my own. I just ask for honesty when making them.

        And you know your fallacies! (

        Are you single by any chance … 🙂

        Come back and comment any time, even to disagree.


  3. I had taken the guy at his word too, but then did more searching to see if I could find more blogs that approached this picture/meme reasonably (instead of just OMG Common Core!!!1!!!), and stumbled upon an interview that Glen Beck had with this guy, so then I looked him up on LinkedIn. So it was just dumb luck that made the discovery that the guy was being deceitful.

    I’m not single, but I am ALWAYS looking for blogs and friends that don’t mind disagreement. I find it the best way to try to uncover what is actually true, and to help shed each other’s false beliefs 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *