Saturday, March 1, 2014

What's the Big Deal with Common Core? (Part III)

In my 3rd and final blog post on the subject of Common Core, I want to go into the Math standards of the Common Core Standards (CCS). 
There was one mathematician on the Common Core Validation Committee, the committee whose job it was to review the curriculum after it left the work group who designed it.  Professor James Milgram, of Stanford University, refused to sign off on the math standards.  So the authors took the curriculum back and revised it, right?  Nope.  Those unapproved standards are part of what is currently being implemented in our schools right now.

He said that by the end of 7th grade, the CC would put students about 2 years behind most high-achieving countries.  In addition, the fact that now Algebra I won’t be taught until 9th grade instead of 8th makes calculus inaccessible in high school.

Further, in his discussion on the new approach to geometry (from 7th grade on), Milgram said that the approach "focuses on sophisticated structures teachers have not studied or even seen before. As a result, maybe one in several hundred teachers will be capable of teaching the new material as intended."
Read his entire statement here
A journalist for The Atlantic quoted a couple emails he received in regard to the CC math standards.  The first was from a parent:
They implemented Common Core this year in our school system in Tennessee. I have a third grader who loved math and got A's in math until this year, where he struggles to get a C. He struggles with "explaining" how he got his answer after using "mental math." In fact, I had no idea how to explain it! It's math 2+2=4. I can't explain it, it just is.
And from a teacher:
I am teaching the traditional algorithm this year to my third graders, but was told next year with Common Core I will not be allowed to. They should use mental math, and other strategies, to add. Crazy! I am so outraged that I have decided my child is NOT going to public schools until Common Core falls flat.

It’s hard  for me (someone who has never been well-versed in mathematical terms) to describe what exactly is wrong with the math standards.  The one thing I've noticed, though, is the unnecssary complication of simple arithmetic.  It appears to take out the memorization aspect. 

In an article in National Review Online, the author states:

Take, for example, my first-grade son’s Common Core math lesson in basic subtraction. Six- and seven-year-olds do not yet possess the ability to think abstractly; their mathematics instruction, therefore, must employ concrete methodologies, explanations, and examples. But rather than, say, count on a number line or use objects, Common Core’s standards mandate teaching first-graders to “decompose” two-digit numbers in an effort to emphasize the concept of place value. Thus 13 – 4 is warped into 13 – 3 = 10 –1 = 9. Decomposition is a useful skill for older children, but my first-grade son has no clue what it is about or how to do it. He can, however, memorize the answer to 13 – 4. But Common Core does not advocate that tried-and-true technique​.

Here’s a sample test question from a New York math exam for 3rd graders:

There were 54 apples set aside as a snack for 3 classes of students. The teachers divided up the apples and placed equal amounts on 9 separate trays. If each of the 3 classes received the same number of trays, how many apples did each class get?

A) 2

B) 6

C) 18

D) 27
The question is simply asking how many each class gets if there are 54 apples and 3 classes. So why include the 2nd sentence at all? It’s completely irrelevant. So what’s it in there for, anyway? Simply to confuse our 3rd graders, which will, what, lead to making them smarter?

Here’s another 3rd grade question:

I encourage you to read the entire article from which I took these examples.

Take a look at these math problems.


Here’s another article with a real CC math test that you should read.
I want to finish up this 3-part series with a quote from Mr. Milgram, the above-mentioned mathematics professor at one of the nation’s most prestigious universities.

At this time we can only conclude that a gigantic fraud has been perpetrated on this country, in particular on parents in this country, by those developing, promoting, or endorsing Common Core’s standards.

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