What do you think about Common Core?

Recently, I was asked to answer three questions related to Common Core standards. Since I thought these were of general interest, I’ve posted the answers below.

We currently develop and market our games in the U.S., Chile and Trinidad. Therefore, we make every effort to teach content that is essential regardless of what standards are adopted by a specific state or region.

1. How have you changed your games and other curriculum materials to adapt to Common Core?

The short answer to this question is that there was little need to adapt our resources as many of the standards were already addressed, for example:

• “Solve word problems involving addition and subtraction of fractions referring to the same whole and having like denominators.”
• “Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.”
• “Find whole-number quotients and remainders with up to four-digit dividends and one-digit divisors”
•  “Apply the area and perimeter formulas for rectangles in real world and mathematical problems”

Regardless of the standards espoused by a group or school district, we doubt you’ll find anyone who doesn’t believe that being able to divide or find the area of a rectangle would be important for a child to learn. Personally, as someone who has taught math at all levels from middle school through doctoral students, and who homeschooled two of my children, I believe that understanding what is required by a problem and not giving up until you find the solution is one of the most important things that a student should learn.

Whenever I am asked by anyone, “Do your games align with XXXX standards?”  My answer is, “If your standards include multiplication, division, computing a mean or finding the area of a square, then, yes.”

One change we did make was that we now have fewer multiple choice questions and more where students give their answer. I think that change was warranted anyway and would have happened regardless. Seeing what answer the child gave is more helpful than knowing he/she picked option B.

2.  Do you plan on making any changes in your curriculum or games to adapt to Common Core standards?

We make an effort to revise our games regularly to be more effective. Those efforts are based on data we collect on student learning and persistence, observations and discussions with students and teachers, including homeschool families and review of the research literature. For example, if we see that 80% of the students missed the problem on comparing fractions with unlike denominators, we would look at whether we need to add another educational resource to the game prior to that problem, if the “give me a hint” option is being used by students and, if so, how we could improve it to help students understand the concept.

Where I have found the Common Core Standards to be helpful is in having a hierarchy clearly laid out where, for example, before teaching children to add fractions, we teach them that a unit fraction is 1/b when a whole is divided into b equal parts. Then we teach them about a fraction as a/b . It may be obvious to you that children should learn the idea of what is 1/3 before teaching them what is 2/3 and 1/3 + 1/3 = 2/3 but I can guarantee you from experience that it is not obvious to everybody. Even people who know these things (and I count myself among them), can overlook a step that should be taught. So, just like we don’t blindly adopt standards, we don’t wholesale throw them out, either.

3. Do you advertise that your games are aligned with Common Core standards?

We DO advertise which standards are taught in our games, not just that we are Common Core aligned but specifically which standards are taught in our games, as attached. We are in the process of creating similar spreadsheets for the Caribbean standards, Chilean standards and specific states. We find that most people want to know more than just “are you aligned with XXXX” standards but rather, what specific standards will be taught and where/how are you teaching them.

You can find files for each game linked on our website so that teachers and parents can download them and judge for themselves. For example, here are the standards taught in Forgotten Trail.

I’m sure after reading how much is taught in our games, you’ll want to try them yourselves. Click on BUY NOW or PLAY DEMO under the ABOUT tab above.