How Common Core's 'One Easy Trick' Philosophy Fails Children

There is a scene in one of Heinlein’s books [Ed. Starship Troopers] in which the teacher asks the student if he’d be happy just getting the medal for a race he didn’t win. The student is rightly outraged and thinks it makes a mockery of the proceedings.


It wasn’t until last week when I found myself caught in a Facebook thread on Common Core started by my friend and colleague Larry Correia that I realized this scene must be utterly baffling to the left.

You see, my husband posted some examples of Common Core math problems.  He’s a mathematician and it exasperates him when people praise Common Core for “teaching children to think.”

The quote that struck me came from an article in National Review on The Ten Dumbest Common Core Problems.

In response to an obnoxious liberal, my husband posted the following analysis of the first problem in that article, and the way Common Core says it should be solved:

Okay, time for a little lesson. The Common Core “number bonds” method for teaching 7 + 7 (#1 in “Ten dumbest Common Core…”) makes it quite a bit more work than the traditional way.

Toddler way:

  1. You count on your fingers
  2. You count 7, and then another 7, and get to 14, and you’re done

Traditional way:

  1. You memorize a 10×10 addition table
  2. You recognize that 7+7 = 14 and you’re done

Common Core “number bonds” way:

  1. You recognize that 7+7 is more than 10, but not by how much
  2. You subtract 7 from 10 to figure out that you need only 3 to get to 10
  3. You subtract 3 from 7 to figure out that you have 4 left over and change your problem into 7 + 3 + 4
  4. You use the associative property to regroup into (7 + 3) + 4 = 10 + 4 = 14

So, you take twice as many steps as finger-counting, much less the traditional way, with two of those steps requiring knowing how to subtract, and one of which using a property you didn’t even know there was a name for! How exactly does that show “understanding” of the problem and “teach you to think and understand”? Or do you mean thinking in a convoluted, backward fashion and understanding the solution before you try to solve the problem?

What’s the goal, precisely? To avoid memorizing addition tables? You still need to memorize subtraction tables in order to do steps 2-3 in the “number bonds” technique. How is that easier or more intuitive? Or do you think it’s better because it mimics the toddler finger-counting mechanism (#2 in the link above)? You aren’t going to have enough fingers to figure out how much fuel you need in a rocket to reach escape velocity, I can tell you that!


My husband was genuinely baffled as to the goal, but I suddenly saw it all so clearly.

The problem is this: “number bonds” is a counterfeit of the way kids who are genuinely good at math act by the time they get into elementary. While the other kids are counting on their fingers, kids who’ve been playing with numbers in their heads since they were two or three have figured out all the relationships and will take numbers apart to make it easier to solve. Not something stupid like seven plus seven, of course. More something like 115 + 115.

Having figured out that number-gifted children will do this as 100+100=200, 15+15=30, so 115+115= 230. This is quite nifty for a first-grader, but the left thinks it can skip all the work getting there. If they just teach perfectly normal, average children to think in terms of taking numbers apart, voila! Everyone will be a math genius!

I know, you’re having trouble believing this. But remember these were the same people who came up with “whole word” reading. This is because kids who are really fast at reading, probably because they started reading well before school, glance at words and read them instantly. From this, the left deduced that they should treat English as though it were a pictographic language, like Chinese or Ancient Egyptian, and thereby produced and are still producing (trust me, they call it whole-language now, but if you hear your kid’s teacher encouraging the child to “guess” a new word? The method is still whole-word) generations of illiterate students. Because English words aren’t distinctive enough to be memorized as a shape, and at any rate, not knowing how to sound out new words leaves you unable to read things you haven’t encountered before.


This is because jumping straight to the result does not work.

In the same way, Americans seem to have the worst language teaching in the world because some “education authority” heard about military training programs in languages, where they immerse you in a community of speakers of the language you’re learning and force you to speak it for weeks or months, until you acquire it. And they decided that the way to teach languages was to never translate. Never mind that people in classrooms aren’t “immersed.” Never mind that for anything more than speaking in a patois the military also drills you in grammar and gives you vocabulary lists to memorize. They’d heard of this nifty method that obviated all the hard work of getting to the point where you automatically speak the language fluently, and they were going to enforce it across the land.

Of course, this means that as long as the left has control of the education system, they’ll continue this type of experiment, trying to enforce equal results and more or less preventing kids from learning throughout the land. (You should homeschool, even if you don’t homeschool. Make time to teach your kids everything you want them to know.) This is the bad part of this fatal flaw of leftist thinking.

The good part?

It’s not just in education that they do this “assume the end and pretend we’re already there” thing. Some of the other fields in which they do this are even worse. Glenn Reynolds often says that the left made it easier for insolvent people to get mortgages because they don’t understand that the hard work needed to be loan-worthy was required also to be a successful homeowner. Instead, they assumed if everyone just could “own” a house, no matter how broke or irresponsible they were, they would be transformed into respectable, reputable middle-class citizens.


Fortunately, they do this in other things too: They prevent you from saying things they don’t like, and therefore assume everyone agrees with them; they want it to be that no Republican ever will win a presidential election ever again, and they assume it will be so; they see successful politicians and assume everyone can perform at that level, even Hillary Clinton.

And that, in the end, is what brings down all their grandiose plans.

If their “one easy trick” to take over society worked, they’d already control all of the world. As it is, any country in which they achieve significant power implodes.

They not only put the cart ahead of the horse, they then stand beside the cart flogging it and wondering why it won’t pull the horse.

Sure their rule brings misery and destruction in its wake, but it can be defeated. The boot doesn’t stomp on the human face forever because the left decides the human face should know it’s stomped, without them doing anything about it.

And if enough people are aware of this glitch in their thinking, we might even be able to prevent their insanity from taking us down. Or at least limit the amount of damage they create.

Because you see, no matter how rough things get on the way there, they can’t win. They can’t close the deal. Their thoughts will not align with reality.


In the end, we win, they lose. Our job is to make the way there as short and painless as possible.



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