I recently spent some time reviewing presentations from the April 2011 Collaborative Conference for Student Achievement (CCSA). The CCSA is an annual conference sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NC DPI).

During the conference Kitty Rutherford (NC DPI Elementary Mathematics Consultant) and Robin Barbour (NC DPI Secondary Mathematics Consultant) discussed the implementation of the Common Core math standards in North Carolina. According to their Power Point presentation, the first step is to discard two core beliefs about mathematics:

1. All students in a mathematics classroom work on the same problem at the same time

2. Each math question should have a single answer

I am fine with the idea of modifying the first idea. Kids learn differently. I have no problem allowing some students to proceed to more advanced problems and others to work on basic ones.

However, the idea that we need to reject the idea of a correct answer is appalling. And it gets to the heart of why we oppose the Common Core. Rutherford and Barbour provide the following example:

Example 1: If someone asked you to name two numbers to multiply, which numbers would you choose and why?

I suspect that most students will choose numbers that are easy to multiply and require as little work as possible. Indeed, I would always choose to multiply by zero or one.

Furthermore, should we really care why students choose numbers? Should our teachers waste valuable class time on such questions? Absolutely not. We need to ask whether he or she successfully multiplied the numbers. I suppose that it does not matter to the Common Core folks, given that there is no single (read: correct) answer.