Your Life: Parents, educators weigh in on Common Core

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Common Core has been a source of academic controversy - from arguments about federally-imposed standards to hair-pulling math curriculum critics say is overcomplicated. (WPVI)

Common Core standards have not only changed what students are required to learn, but have influenced how they learn it.

While proponents of the new method say it better prepares students for 21st Century careers, many parents feel underprepared when their kids come home and ask for homework help.

"I quiz them at the dinner table with what we are learning about math and science, and they never get any of the questions right," a student told us.

We're talking 6th-grade math, not AP Calculus. Jennifer Arevalo of Souderton Charter School Collaborative says today's students are engaging in more rigorous math, meant to catch up U.S. students who have fallen behind their peers in other countries.

"Our world is changing so quickly, I think our minds need to be able to adapt to novel situations versus a very linear approach to that," said Jennifer Arevalo, Souderton Charter School Collaborative.

This newer approach focuses on how you get an answer, not just memorizing a formula. This is meant to encourage flexibility to reach the same answer using different methods.

"As far as me being able to help them, I can't and my husband, who is good at math, has a hard time with it, too," a parent told us.

But the standards and this new approach to math has drawn its fair share of criticism from parents and even some teachers.

"Common Core standards are end marks, and the curriculum and what teachers are teaching that's the how of getting there, and so I think sometimes they get confused," said Arevalo.

But search YouTube and you'll find a plethora of videos to help parents understand math, even for their 3rd and 4th-graders.

And many parents use the website Khan Academy, which has tutorial sections for kids and parents. Some schools across the country have even offered courses for parents to relearn math. Debbie McHale says there should be more of that.

"As a nation, it would be helpful. There's so much controversy about it. If we knew more about it, maybe there wouldn't be as much push back," said McHale.

While students are required to meet the Common Core standards, the curriculum in each school can vary, which may also be contributing to the frustration.
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