Thanks to the reader for writing and asking a probing question.

The Common Core Standards may not use the precise phrases “abstract” and “place value,” but in Point 5 below the statement refers to place value. The number 2 in 29 is not a 2 but a 20 because of its “place.”

In addition, in Point 4 a “teens number” uses a 1 to indicate a 10 by its “place.” The entire concept in Point 4 is pretty abstract. Students cannot be expected to understand the words in Point 4 (I hope), but this is the concept the Common Core wants to teach–in Kindergarten!

The effort only comes about because **adults** want 5-year-olds to know such things. As I said in my letter, young children are more naturally motivated to develop their powers through play, the arts, and the exploration of nature. In fact, given a chance to develop, the drawings and artistic works of children between 5 and 7 routinely blossom in breathtaking ways. But our schools are more than ever focused on academics, leaving little time for the arts.

I am glad that the readers’ school is using manipulatives, but I question the need to try to introduce subject such as place value so early on. I wish schools would pay attention to children’s own spontaneous interests.

–Bill Crain

Base Ten Computation

Core Standards ⋅ Students understand that:

1. Ten ones make a tens unit (ten things can be thought of as bundled into a single unit).

2. Decade words refer to groups of tens units. For example, thirty refers to a group of three tens units.

3. A teen number is a ten and some ones. The number 10 can be thought of as a ten and no ones.

4. Any teen number is larger than any single digit number. Teen numbers are ordered according to their ones digits.

5. A two-digit number is some tens and some ones. For example, 29 is two tens and nine ones.

After combing through the kindergarten standards, I can only find references to ones and tens. Can my kindergartener tell me the difference between a one and a ten – absolutely! Does she know that it’s called place value? She doesn’t have to…yet. It’s not in her standards. She, and the other 24 kids in her kindergarten class, can do this because they learned about ones and tens by using concrete manipulatives and later pictures, not abstract methods.

Thanks for clarifying.

Amy Francis

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