The new Common Core math standards require students to develop a deeper, conceptual understanding of mathematical concepts. While this is unarguably beneficial to students, should it be at the expense of learning how to correctly perform basic math calculations? At least in my district, we are being told that the inquiry process and student discussion are of paramount importance.

Under Common Core, my students are expected to complete Formative Assessment Lessons (FALs). Typically these are group projects in which students solve complex problems and present their findings using posters or other types of presentations. Of course, because it is math, there are correct and incorrect answers. However, we teachers are supposed to let students create their presentations with errors in calculations and share these findings with each other. We are not to correct the errors, we have been instructed to simply facilitate discussion, and explain that some learners are more advanced with this concept than others.

I am concerned that Common Core may have put the cart before the horse with regards to math. Practical math problem solving skills and conceptual understanding certainly should not be mutually exclusive. Nor should one be sacrificed for the other. However, when it comes down to priorities, I’d rather my students know how to correctly solve a proportion rather than create a model of the concept with the incorrect answer.

I’d like to hear about how other math teachers are handling the shift to Common Core. Do you still emphasize basic operational skills? What do you do if students are performing calculations incorrectly?