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From the Desk of Dr. Charles Murphy

Unlike years and years ago, problem solving has become an important component of the New York State math curriculum. As an elementary student, I can recall my teachers assigning pages and pages of math computations, but for some reason we were always allowed to skip the two word problems at the bottom of the page. In fact, if word problems were assigned, they were designated as a “bonus work”. 

Nowadays, problem solving is one of the most emphasized skills in our math curriculum. In general, our grades 3-8 students are taught to solve one, two and even three step word problems.  

Naturally, the sophistication of such problems increases incrementally as the students move through school. Our students have become very proficient at solving these problems. Remarkably, the new common core math curriculum has significantly increased the degree of difficulty in problem solving. The complexity and increased expectations are quite dramatic.   

For most adults, we didn’t see word problems as complex as these until our first high school algebra course. Incredibly, the problem solving expectations in fifth grade are probably more challenging than on an old-time Algebra Regents. In fact, the new core curriculum has integrated multiple step algebraic problem-solving into third grade.     

Starting this year, our 8- and 9-year old students will be expected to master these skills on April’s New York State assessments. Currently, our staff is working hard to teach these difficult problem-solving skills to our youngsters.  

To support this initiative, we’re not asking parents to practice multiple-step problem solving. However, we do believe parents can continue to practice computational skills with their children. Students need to have instant recall with their addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts. Practice, practice, practice.