What Kris White’s Fourth Graders Taught Me About Math

Math has never been “my thing.”  Which is one reason me and pre-engineering at Auburn University soon parted ways decades ago.  I mean once it gets into understanding concepts of math and such, my eyes glaze over.  (On the other hand, my daughter took the ACT twice and had a perfect score on math each time.  Which caused me to scratch my head a time or two, but I digress.)

Anyhow, it seems that math is most often the culprit when folks complain about the Alabama College & Career Ready standards and the evils that await anyone who gets within 10 miles of the dreaded “Common Core.”  One state school board member has repeatedly cited math as to why so many parents complain to her about their child’s schooling.

So me being me, I decided to take matters into my own hands and visit a classroom to find out what is going on.  My principal friend Liz Hill at Bear elementary in Montgomery was happy to help and she sent me to the classroom of veteran teacher Kris White.

This merry band of students were studying how you multiply double-digit numbers by double-digit numbers.  Like 37 times 54.  Here’s the way I was taught:  You write 37 and then immediately under it write 54.  4 times 37 is 148.  5 times 37 is 185.  185 is one space to the left of 145.  These two rows are added and you get 1,998.

Some of Kris’ students also used this method, which they called “Traditional.”  Then some used a method they called “Matrix.”  And the majority used a third method called “Lattice.”

At first glance, I was totally baffled by Lattice.  Then the light came on.

The young lady doing this problem at the white board first drew a box, then divided it into quarters.  These were then divided again with a diagonal line going from the upper right hand corner to the lower left hand corner.  While no one told me, I figured this line was the “Lattice.”

The number three was at the top of the left hand column, seven above the right hand column.  Same for five and four on the right hand side of the box.  Three was then multiplied by five and the answer of 15 was shown as one in the top portion of one-quarter, while five went in the bottom.  Process was repeated for three times four, seven times five and seven times four.

Numbers in each diagonal section were added and the total was 1,998.

I fully expect that by now you are thoroughly confused.  But trust me, this ain’t “fake news.”  It really works and seemed quite simple.  In fact, Kris told me she has been teaching this method for many years, long before anyone ever uttered “Common Core.”

So it was not the way I was taught.  So what?

The answer was right.  The cat was skinned in a different way.  And before I left the room I looked at each student carefully.  As best I could tell, though I’ve heard tales of what evil comes with the new standards, none of them had horns growing out of their heads nor did any look as if they were young vampires in the making.  They were just youngsters growing up in a far different world than the one I grew up in–and the one most critics of the Alabama College & Career Ready standards did as well.

Several years ago I tried repeatedly to get one of the state’s most vocal anti Common Core Tea Party stalwarts to go visit classrooms with me.  She refused.

She needs to go spend some time in Kris White’s fourth grade class.

 

 

2 Responses to What Kris White’s Fourth Graders Taught Me About Math

  1. When I watch “whiz kids” on millionaire, they all use mental math based on common core. Back in the day – my kids were taught ” new math”. Concepts like properties and Venn diagrams were a foreign language to parents.

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