As my son heads into 5th grade math I thought I would look at the curriculum goals for the year. Although I knew the curriculum was weak, I was still surprised at the lack of expectations in math.

This is ALL they expect 5th graders to accomplish in a full year of math:

- Adding and subtracting rational numbers (decimals, fractions, mixed numbers).
- Basic rates of change
- Solving and working with simple equations and inequalities
- Basic properties of 2-D shapes
- Bar graphs and stem & leaf plots

I could teach these 5 topics in 12 weeks. Four weeks for goal 1 and 2 weeks for the rest of the goals.

Let’s add in what in the 6th grade curriculum:

- Negative numbers
- Percents
- Transformations in the coordinate plane
- Basic Probability
- More with equations and inequalities
- Multiplication and division with decimals and fractions

Okay – so if we add these next 6 concepts, if we are generous, we can do 3 weeks with negative numbers, 3-4 weeks for percents if you want to do some really fun, real world activities with the unit, 2 weeks for transformations (although could be done even quicker), 2 weeks for probability, 3-4 weeks if we really extend equations and inequalities, and finally 4-6 weeks for multiplication and division of decimals and fractions. That adds another 19 weeks.

Maybe after we finish the 12 weeks for 5th grade and the 19 weeks for 6th grade math, we spend another 6 weeks integrating all the concepts taught together and do more applications as a review. This is a total of 26 weeks. This would still leave approximately 8 weeks more in case any of the topics take longer or need more practice with 2 additional weeks for days when we don’t do math because we have field trips or parties and such.

The fact that we really move that slowly through the curriculum is pathetic. We also don’t take the time to link all the concepts together. We will teach each unit in isolation and then we move on to the next topic instead of finding activities and applications that will allow the children to practice many of these goals at the same time.

Let’s say that we are teaching equations. We can teach the following concepts integrated within our goal of equations:

- Arithmetic with decimals
- Arithmetic with fractions
- Concept of inverse

This meets 6 out of the 12 goals in both the 5th and 6th grade Standard Course of Study. One-half of our goals all at the same time!

When teaching the unit on percents, we can meet these goals all at the same time:

- Multiplication and division of rational numbers
- Equations and inequalities

In fact things like **Rates of Change, Percent, and Probability** can all be applications for practice of Arithmetic of rational numbers and Equations/Inequalities.

The biggest GOAL needs to be in providing a better curriculum and teacher education so that our teachers can do a better job in instruction. They need to do more teaching as opposed to asking students to do rote memorization.

If we put the bar really low (as we have) and provide curriculum materials that ask students to do the same problems on worksheets over and over while throwing in these higher level thought questions that aren’t even related to what the student is working on, we will continue to be way behind mathematically as a nation. We will continue to hear parents say (in front of their children), “well, I was never good at math either.” It seems that being BAD in math is a badge that you can wear on your shirt and be proud of.

Come on North Carolina – and the USA – is it really that hard to get it right?!