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Common core: Father’s check goes viral. Why do so many parents relate?

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Angry over the complicated instructions of Common Core math, an Ohio dad crafted a message to his child’s elementary school in the form of a prank check.

"You figure it out," Doug Hermann writes in a Facebook post, alluding to the facetious dollar amount he had written out on his check followed by a series of Xs and Os. Although he clarified that the check was never sent to the school, Hermann was able to commiserate with fellow parents who may also struggle with Common Core practices across the country.

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Since the photo of the check was posted six days ago, it has garnered more than 9,000 likes and 26,000 shares. But what exactly is it about Common Core that parents find so frustrating?

Common Core is a set of national benchmarks that expect students not only to calculate solutions but also explain how they arrived at the answer, with the aim of showing that there is more than one solution process for each problem. As a result, Common Core math education deviates starkly from the way most parents were taught in school.

Common Core is not a curriculum – that’s for states and school districts to decide. Rather, it lists the skills and knowledge students must acquire at every grade level.

Since the set of academic standards have been adopted by more than 40 states in the past few years, students, their parents, and even some teachers have taken issue with its complex phrasing, roundabout methods, and total rejection of memorized shortcuts or formulas. 

For instance, a three-digit multiplication could involve making illustrations, breaking apart numbers, multiplying, adding, and then a clear break-down each step.

Stacey Jacobson-Francis, mother of a first grader in Berkeley, California, tells NBC Washington that her daughter's homework requires her to know four different ways to add.

"That is way too much to ask of a first grader,'' she says. "She can't remember them all, and I don't know them all, so we just do the best that we can.''

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Still, supporters of the standards say students are now understanding math in an unprecedented way, some showing precocious conceptions of advanced formulas.  

Melissa Palermo, fourth-grade teacher in New Rochester, New York, told the Washington Post last year that her students are definitely improving because of Common Core standards. The problem, she says, is the parents.

“The toughest part is the homework part because parents, it’s so hard for them,” Palermo says. “A lot of parents, they doubt themselves because there are all these models and things they’ve never seen before.”