A Regrouping FREEBIE and...Digging Deep and Common Core

Last week I shared a pic about our kinesthetic math.
I said I had a lot to say about that and that I’d share more later.

Well it’s later. (I’ve included a FREEBIE to make up for the lengthy read.)

Have you seen those hater images, posts, videos and essays out there in cyberland about the “new math”? Are there a lot of common core frustrated peeps on your campus? In many ways I think a few districts, teachers and parents are missing the point. 

I don’t think common core is the holy grail or anything even remotely close. I wouldn't even say it is an answer to any kind of problem we had in education.

It, like most standardized things, has plenty of failings. And, I am the first to agree that the formal assessments currently used leave a lot to be desired. 

HOWEVER, I do think this refocus on standards and methodology requires students, teachers and parents to use deeper thinking.

Yes, this should have been done all along. But let’s face it – it wasn’t. Not in a lot of classrooms.

The way I try to explain common core to questioning parents and colleagues is two-fold:

First, it’s a spiraling staircase. If everyone (teacher and student) does their job in each grade level, the concepts recap, reinforce and build.  

I don’t care if you call it Common Core, Spiraling Standards or Sparkling Smarts (I made that up – you’re welcome). Maintaining this “common” structure is essential to cohesive learning. It makes absolute sense.

It also is VERY dependent upon the prior year’s teacher doing their job. We all know how difficult it can be when a colleague just refuses, declines, and or neglects to do what’s expected.
So in the real world, “Sparkling Smarts” isn’t going to be ALL it would be if we were teaching in Utopia. But I feel it is a solid plan. On this point, I think most agree. And, honestly, many of us felt things worked that way LONG before "Common Core" was penned.

Second,  learners are expected to have deeper understanding of REASONING not a pocket full of skimmed techniques and concepts. 
TRULY smart people, the geniuses running around our planet, don't just know HOW to do something - they know WHY you do it. They possess wisdom to think critically, deep knowledge and skill. As students, many of us learned “procedure over reasoning”. In other words, we were taught HOW to do something, but not why we do it. If the task is simple - that really isn't a big deal. BUT, if the concept is difficult - this isn't so great. I hated math in school and never understood why I had to do each step. I was never taught the reason - just the procedure.

Can you imagine if “they” were still pushing whole word ONLY reading instruction? (For you youngsters – yep that was a “thing”. No phonics. No rules. Memorizing words only. It was not a good thing.) 

Last week I tested a few of my kids on some words we had previously practiced quite extensively and hoped they had mastered.

One of the words I asked them to spell was TAKE.

8 of my 30 kiddos spelled the word TACK.

Obviously they were not at a stage where they were able to apply the silent E rule on a spontaneous basis.

When I asked them WHY the word they had written said tack and not take most were all able to tell me there was “nothing there to tell the a to say its name” after taking a second look. So, I knew those kiddos were close to mastery. They had the reasoning… just a few more opportunities to apply this concept and it will be imbedded in their schema. 

For the others, more instruction on the WHY was needed.  Just telling them "Take has a silent e at the end." would never have been enough to truly cement the knowledge of when to apply the silent e phonic rule. So digging deep into the phonic rule and the *job* of silent e was a big part of guided reading for these kiddos.

I don’t think you will find anyone who argues this type of teaching. No one is making nasty graphics calling phonetic rules the “NEW READING”.

Well... I guess I am... but that's not that point. ;)

What the Debbie Downers and Negative Nancys are missing is that the “new math” isn’t NEW - it's an enforcement  of deeper understanding that has been side stepped in many classrooms. It also isn't what students are expected to do on a daily, living my life, paying my taxes, and balancing my checkbook ATM card basis. It is what is necessary to explain, support and define the absolutely vital WHY.

This month our first graders started regrouping.

Without extensive WHY lessons – first grade regrouping efforts look a lot like this…
Before the kiddos can learn a new (to them) math technique/strategy, they need to understand EXACTLY what they were doing with that technique and be able to EXPLAIN it. The tens and ones must be understood THOROUGHLY. It’s not enough to simply teach the procedure – first you need to explain WHY.
We worked on the why of regrouping for a long time in class (steps 1 & 2 in the pic above). Then I taught them the technique. They were ready.

We started with addition. We made a chart.

Click HERE to download a copy of this poster.
We added some kinesthetic to it so our WHOLE body could learn how to do this new technique.
After a thorough understanding of how this works with addition, it was an easy transition to subtraction with regrouping and delving deep was easier and quicker.

Yes, this is basic first grade math, but the bottom line is universal: The more time we spend on teaching the WHY will lend itself to thorough understanding and kids who “think” rather than robots completing tasks without true understanding. Even if you are not on friendly terms with common core or teach in a school that doesn't use common core - it is important to align yourself with deep thought, learning and teaching. Oh and feel free to call it Sparkling Smarts! ;P
Don't get me wrong, I want the kids to know and USE the most efficient way... just AFTER they understand WHY we are moving the numbers around and can explain it. The truth is, I had to reteach the WHY concept a lot each day during our regrouping math introduction, because after a night of homework with their parents, the kiddos were confused. Their parents are not clear why we are doing the extra steps and keep trying to teach their kids a “shortcut” or the most efficient way even though their child didn't have a complete understanding of what could be done with tens and ones.  To combat that problem, I’ve decided that a common core night for parents will be part of my yearly routine. 

I’ll have more to say on that later. :)

I'm curious to hear about your common core/"new" math love and hates - leave me a comment. 

OH! And ....
Don't forget to enter the MYSTERY (not so mysterious) BOX GIVEAWAY!


  1. I think you are right on with the "why" in math. Students could also solve that without regrouping if they see 27 as 30 and add the 8, then take off the 3. Or think of it as 25 and 2 and 8. 25 and 10 is easy to add. Check out CGI math...it is amazing!

  2. Love this post :) and am really looking forward to hearing how you develop your CC Parent Night!!

  3. This is such an incredible post! Thank you for all of the details!!

    Searching for Teacher Balance

  4. This is great information. I loved the video too. I was reading this with great seriousness and then I hit the eecard and exploded laughing. Teachers are struggling over not teaching the algorithm. Change is hard but Common Core is forcing us out of our comfort zone (it might kill me) but I am getting stronger? ... maybe?

    1. You, my friend, are a common core muscle woman!! <3

  5. Great post Traci! You're on a roll :). Totally agree with the need for understanding procedure. On another note...you have to teach regrouping to grade one? So glad we wait 'til grade two.
    Grade ONEderful
    Ruby Slippers Blog Designs

  6. You don't know how refreshing it is to hear someone who shares my views on the common core math. I get so frustrated trying to explain to people that it's just more about the why than the how. I struggled all through school with math because I didn't understand why we did those things. I now teach math/science to firsties and I haven't ever seen such a deep understanding by the kids. My first graders have never been able to do 2 digit addition and subtraction with regrouping before (even at the end of the year) and this year we started it at spring break!

  7. i just love this post!! the why is what makes it stick!


Back To Top