S.F. schools to test new U.S. math standards

Stanford University student teacher Sabrina Silverman 
works with students in a math class at Mission High School in S.F.
Four out of every 10 or so people say they hated math in school. 
They didn't like fractions, they've told pollsters - or formulas, polynomials or even pi.

Solving for x was as bad if not worse than a pimple on prom night.

Yet with the 21st century job market increasingly requiring proficiency in math - and the critical thinking skills that come with it - the country can't afford that many math haters.

With that in mind, San Francisco has signed up to be among the first districts in the United States to put new national math standards in its classrooms. Adopted by 45 states, the standards' purpose is to make math more relevant and interesting, less about getting the right answer and more about why one might need to get that answer in the first place.

The school district has received a $3 million, three-year S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation grant to carry it out.
"We're getting killed across the world in terms of mathematics," said Terry Bergeson, executive director of the San Francisco School Alliance, a district partner in the implementation of the grant. "Around the rest of the world, the kids are ... applying mathematics to real-world problems. We teach formulas. We teach algorithms. We teach math facts."

And we bore students to tears.

Sleep inducing math


"I just think it's boring slash hard," said Jason Byers, 14, a freshman at San Francisco Mission High School. "I fell asleep last year."

The new "Common Core" math standards are sleeker and more in-depth than the old ones. They build on key mathematical concepts like measurement, size and volume. Kindergartners might be asked to identify the smallest of three apples, for example, while high school students would be required to calculate the growth of a bacterial colony.

It will be important that the students get the right answer, but the how and the why will be just as essential, said Common Core advocates.

"Kids will still have to add fractions. That's not going to change," said Phil Daro, an author of the new national math standards. But if it's successful, math "will look different."