Introducing Parents to the Common Core

Learning math

Art TrombleyWhen Joelle Lamica walked into her daughter’s Algebra classroom on Open House night, she didn’t expect to be scared. "I had to admit my heart fell to my feet and I wondered if I should head out the door," she later said with a laugh.

Instead of the usual presentation about the syllabus, homework, and class rules, Lamica and other parents at Chateaugay High School in Northern New York were given a unique challenge. Math teacher Art Trombley asked them to use paper and pencil to complete one of the same exercises he had given his students, using new, more rigorous Common Core standards.

"They were stunned," he said. Trombley was using each ten-minute slot during Open House to introduce parents to the Common Core, using the curriculum modules from EngageNY. "I showed them a video of kids jumping and told them to use paper and pencil to graph height over time," Trombley said. He vividly recalled the reaction of the parents and a number of his students who had come to the meeting. "As the parents were suffering and shell-shocked about what to do, the kids felt empowered to help them!"

Lamica said this novel approach helped her understand how math instruction is changing. During her open house session, she watched a video about a young man walking up and down a bridge, in order to graph elevation over time. "Mr. Trombley basically said this is how we want the students to be engaged, to apply math to real world events. And to explain what you did."

Trombley feels it’s imperative for parents to be informed about the Common Core standards, which ask students to focus more deeply on fewer topics, and to apply critical thinking skills to real world problem solving. "I told them math is going to be different this year. The homework is going to be different," he said. "When I explain it, they say, 'Ohhh. I get it.'"

Lamica’s 9th grade daughter, Morgan, said she was amused to hear that her mother got a crash course in Algebra. "I thought it was funny and I didn't know how she would do," she later said. Morgan added that the way Mr. Trombley teaches is 'fun' with more videos and group work than before.

After the Open House experience, Lamica said she liked what she saw. "I left Open House that night feeling positive about the Common Core. Mr. Trombley was excited and re-energized about this new style of instructing and that excitement will definitely benefit his students."

Trombley said he feels parents are a crucial link in supporting these academic shifts at home, with the ultimate goal of getting kids prepared for life after high school. "I’ve had students come back after college and say, 'I never learned to think.' And I say, 'that’s because we didn’t have to teach you to think. You memorized steps.' It was multiple choice-based methods. Now, there’s a need to think."

To see the videos that were played at the Open House, please visit: