1.OA 6: Natural vs. Plastic / Pre-Fab Math Learning Materials (#100)

Day 100 (yay, triple digits!)

For one year, 365 days, this blog will address the Common Core Standards from the perspective of creating an alternate, ambient learning environment for math.  Ambient is defined as “existing or present on all sides, an all-encompassing atmosphere.”  And ambient music is defined as: “Quiet and relaxing with melodies that repeat many times.”

Why ambient?  A math teaching style that’s whole and all encompassing, with themes that repeat many times through the years, is most likely to be effective and successful.  Today’s post will continue with the Common Core Standards for Grade 1, listed in blue and followed by their ambient counterparts.

Operations and Algebraic Thinking   1.OA
Add and subtract within 20.
6. Add and subtract within 20, demonstrating fluency for addition and subtraction within 10.  Use strategies such as counting on; making ten (e.g., 8 + 6 = 8 + 2 + 4 = 10 + 4 = 14); decomposing a number leading to a ten (e.g., 13 – 4 = 13 – 3 – 1 = 10 – 1 = 9); using the relationship between addition and subtraction (e.g., knowing that 8 + 4 = 12, one knows 12 – 8 = 4); and creating equivalent but easier known sums (e.g., adding 6 + 7 by creating the known equivalent 6 + 6 + 1 = 13).

Wow.  This is the basis of one of the Common Core controversies that’s all over the internet, posted by confused parents defending children stressed over too much homework and testing.  And coming to the aid of teachers who are stressed over possible censure and/or threats of job loss.  All that aside, it’s a mistaken “improvement” on existing math methods.  This sort of juggling numbers requires a good deal of abstract thinking which is developmentally beyond the ken of first graders.  Manipulatives are most likely being used in some cases to teach this, but it still demands more than a 7 year old is able to handle.

Some of the Common Core demonstration lessons I’ve seen use snap-together plastic cubes as manipulatives to solve these equations.  And there are many colorful, imaginative plastic sets available as classroom kits, like 20 plastic strawberries in a plastic basket, or whole picnic-themed sets with several different items, used for counting, addition and subtraction.  These are specifically aligned to Common Core coordinated worksheets, either consumable pencil and paper or laminated to be used with wipe off crayons/markers.  All of this is pre-fab and truly deadens the creative impulse every child is born with.

Using simple, natural materials as manipulatives and creating child/parent-made learning tools is far superior.  The Math By Hand glass gems and colored paper strips are a good example of this.   Re making ten, decomposing to lead to a ten, or creating equivalent, easier known sums, these may all be seen as mental shortcuts and could be valuable at the right age and place, which Grade 1 is decidedly not.  Basic and straightforward beginnings are best, such as learning addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division side by side with simple visual aids.  This is a good way to practice the section of the standard that asks for juxtaposing addition and subtraction.

Knowledge ensues in an environment dedicated to imaginative, creative knowing, where student and teacher alike surrender to the ensuing of that knowledge as a worthy goal.  More on the Common Core Grade 1 Operations and Algebraic Thinking Standards along with their ambient counterparts tomorrow!


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