Los Banos students give Common Core a tryout

Students in Woody McBride’s fifth-grade class at Los Banos Elementary have begun delving into Common Core State Standards, the new curriculum and testing initiative.

On Monday, students used a real-world application to demonstrate their mastery of math - planning a field trip to an amusement park.

They were asked to research different amusement parks, come up with the cost to attend, calculate the mileage, factor in the cost of gas and parking, count the number of people attending and the number of vehicles needed, among other information.

They then had to figure out what it would cost for the entire class to attend and how much money each student would have to raise on their own to attend.

“We took it a step further and we added in money for food and souvenirs,” McBride said. “So there was a lot of math involved.”

Each of the groups presented information about five different theme parks.

Units are being taught in both English-language arts and in math. Other disciplines will be added next year.

Although official testing doesn’t begin until the 2014-15 school year, staff is teaching and implementing some units that go along with the test districtwide.

“We’re kind of building so when we get to that point, the teaching will go with the test,” he said.

Language arts tasks have been going on since the start of the school year but this was the first math task of the year.

A number of school officials were in attendance during the presentations to help grade students, including principal of Los Banos Junior High Deolinda Brasil and principal of Los Banos Elementary Paul Montemurro. The lowest score given to the students was 17 out of 19.

At the time of the real test, each student will have to perform these types of tasks individually.

“It’s creating a more rigorous teaching for the students,” McBride said. “The way I see it is (that) instead of worrying more about the test and teaching kids how to take a test, it’s making the kids think for themselves.”

For example, the students determined that a field trip to SeaWorld would be the best option for the entire class.

“They thought that although this (park) may be a little bit more expensive, it has more educational value because you’re actually learning about the animals instead of just having fun,” McBride said.

This impressed Montemurro.

“I liked watching the students in front of the class not only giving the presentation, but giving the rational behind the decision-making and explaining why they chose the direction they were going in,” he said.

McBride said that the way the system is being set up, the students will have to learn to think rather than just learn how to take a test.

“They have to know what they are doing,” McBride said. “They have to tell someone and think about what’s going on and why it is. So it’s a higher level of thinking.”

He also added that the actual testing is going to be the biggest change for the students because it’s all going to be done on computers.

“So far, it’s been pretty positive and they’re getting used of it,” McBride said. “In the long run, it’s going to benefit the students.”

The next math unit McBride will be teaching will concentrate on decimals.