Apparently the people who created these standards aren’t much into laying obvious foundational skills before heading towards subjects that require more critical thinking. The problems with the math standards can be outlined very succinctly by the only mathematician on the Common Core Standards validation committee.
In this article outlining Milgram’s testimony to the Indiana Senate Education Committee he states some clear problems that perhaps a parent who isn’t mathematically inclined wouldn’t notice.
There isn’t a full geometry course.
The 2nd year of Algebra is not fully covered.
Standard algorithms for math in grades 1-5 are not taught to the degree that a child needs.
High-school seniors will graduate a full 2 years behind in math due to the slower pacing in higher grades, making it impossible for a 12th grader to take the Calculus needed to go straight to a four year college.
But for all the low expectation and slow pace that the math standards show in high school, they seem to go hyper-speed in lower grade levels. So here we go again putting the cart before the horse with Common Core.
In discussing math standards with elementary teachers you will learn that often times 2nd graders work algebraic equations. Even first graders are introduced to a basic geometry course when learning about shapes and solid figures; cubes and cones, for example.
IXL is a popular math skills website used in districts all across the nation. School districts will purchase a membership so children can practice a plethora of math skill from Kindergarten through 12th grade either at school or at home.
Recently, someone pointed out in a Common Core group on Facebook the new Common Core math standards on IXL. Specifically, the Kindergarten standards were being discussed.
Some of the problems ask questions like: Which item is shaped like a cylinder? Does this picture have symmetry? Of course these are story problems with pictures. However, who knows a Kinder that can read the words in the questions? Especially words like cylinder and symmetry.
Do you know what a Venn diagram is? A Venn diagram or set diagram is a diagram that shows all possible logical relations between a finite collection of sets.
Common Core standards would like your Kindergartner to understand a Venn diagram.
A 5th grade math teacher from Nevada recently told me that the standards rely heavily on directing teachers what to teach when. There’s a specific order they want skills taught in. That sounds good, right?
Here’s the problem. Her math instructions were to teach her 5th graders how to multiply numbers with decimals in the first trimester of school last year. Of course in order for the child to be able to do that problem they will need review on decimals, one would assume.
However, that is not the case with the Common Core standards. The teacher was instructed to do multiplying with decimals in the first trimester and then in the third and final trimester she was expected to teach decimals.
So the order in which certain math concepts are taught will be, for lack of a better term, out of order.
Add in the emphasis on the process of coming to the right answer while doing math rather than the correct answer, itself, and you have a whole lot of confusing math, don’t you?
Take a simple addition problem like 8 + 2. If a student can draw the bubbles illustrating the equation of 8 + 2 and tell the teacher why that is the proper process in solving the equation then they get credit. Even if the answer they come up with is 11. Yes, the bubbles and drawings to explain math with words that they won’t know how to spell because English Language Arts focused on Early World Civilization and not things like, say, spelling, are going to be much easier than the traditional and quickest way of doing simple addition and subtraction called stacking.
In a ridiculous example of what kids will be tested on for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) assessment, it becomes clear as mud for parents. Check out one of the questions for third-graders from the New York State Common Core Sample Questions (page 8):
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?
That’s a really convoluted way of asking a child what 54 divided by 3. And, by the way, someone had to tell me what they were asking because I’m not one to process extraneous information very well when trying to take the shortest route to the right answer.
Call me crazy but I’m pretty sure that if a student fully knows the process to the solving the problem that their answer will be right. Math is pretty black and white, people.
The reality is that in 10 years we will see a whole new generation of mathematicians. They may be able to whip up a stellar Venn diagram or possibly do simple Algebra in their heads but the fact is they won’t know how to add 2 and 2 or make change from a dollar bill.
No, the standards are not going to change math instruction from “mile wide, inch deep” to a more focused approach that will rely on depth of understanding. Instead, it will go to “foot wide, inch deep.”
Common Core lacks common sense.