The Common Core Math Standards–A Step Backward

Education Next interviewed Ze’ev Wurman and W. Stephen Wilson about the Common Core Math Standards which 40 states have signed on to.  They ask are they a step forward or backward?  They are pretty clear that it is a step backward.  Some money quotes…

Wurman in answering whether the CCSS for Math is higher than most state standards said:

They may be higher than some state standards but they are certainly lower than the best of them. For example, the 2008 report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, Foundations for Success, called for fluency in addition and subtraction of whole numbers by the end of grade 3, and fluency in multiplication and division by the end of grade 5. This is also what California calls for, along with high achievers like Singapore and Korea. (Japan and Hong Kong finish with multiplication and division of whole numbers even earlier, by grade 4.) Yet the Common Core defers fluency in division to grade 6. Fractions are touted as the Common Core’s greatest strength, yet the Common Core pushes teaching division of fractions to grade 6 without ever expecting students to master working with a mix of fractions and decimals. Students in Singapore, Japan, Korea, and Hong Kong achieve fluency in fractions and decimals in grade 5.

He then ended his answer, “In summary, analyses of the Common Core standards find them to be mediocre and not obviously better than many sets of state standards.”

Wurman continues:

What to make of such obvious deficiencies and omissions? Unfortunately, the main authors of the Common Core mathematics standards had minimal prior experience with writing standards, and it shows. While they may have had a long and distinguished list of advisers, they did not seem to have sufficient experience to select the wheat from the chaff.

Comparing to international standards he said:

This is where the problem with these standards is most marked. While the difference between these standards and those of the top states at the end of eighth grade is perhaps somewhat more than one year, the difference is more like two years when compared to the expectations of the high achieving countries—particularly most of the nations of East Asia. (emphasis mine)…

….Jonathan Goodman, a professor of mathematics at the Courant Institute at New York University, found exactly that: “The proposed Common Core standard is similar in earlier grades but has significantly lower expectations with respect to algebra and geometry than the published standards of other countries.”

Wilson noted:

When you are so far behind, comparing the United States with better-performing countries through the incredibly narrow lens of standards doesn’t make a lot of sense. I think Common Core is in the same ball park, certainly not up there with the best of countries, but Common Core isn’t up there with the best state standards either, and what does that mean? Look at California’s standards for example. They are great standards and have been unchanged for over a decade, but many in math education hate them. They think they are all about rote mathematics, but I think such people have little understanding of mathematics.

I encourage you to read the whole interview.