A math educator’s view on where the common core math went wrong.

Confused about common core standards in math? This is what happens when standards for a country of children are written in a boardroom by big business instead of top educators.

David Coleman, et al, delivered the inappropriate math standards with common core. For the root of the problem, you must dig deeper. The written standards may have better grammar and proofreading, but at the base they are developmentally inappropriate, wildly vague in some spots, micromanaging in others, and – overall – poorly designed. While Pearson’s product is indeed less than exciting, no product which followed CCSS would do the job adequately. The standards themselves, are misguided.

If you do not know what the standards are, how can you have an informed opinion on them? Most do not. The stated intent of CCSS does not match the contents. The standards are inappropriate and lack an educator’s careful understanding.

What is wrong with the standards? CCSS *does* attempt to teach kids number sense too early. The method is irrelevant. The complaint – that this is all unnecessarily complicated – is dead on.

The albatross is the lowering of learning standards under CCSS, and by lowering, I mean moving math concepts down two or more grades.
Fraction operations in 3rd instead 5th; place value comparisons in 2nd instead of 4th; number sense in elementary instead of middle school; algebraic logic in 3rd grade … CCSS is fraught with concepts taught too early.
That albatross is exactly where it belongs – around the neck of David Coleman, who brought in NOT ONE elementary or early education specialist. That was a huge mistake.

I am a math teacher too, and I say that you can’t teach the children number sense before they are ready. You wouldn’t expect a 2nd, 3rd, 4th grader to learn number sense just because teachers are introducing it sooner any more than you would expect a 3 month old to walk sooner because you want them to. Developmental milestones exist at certain ages for a reason. So perhaps more accurately, you can spend years trying to teach them before they’re ready, or you can spend 15 minutes once they are ready.

Our country sent men to the moon using pencils and slide rules – we have never lacked for teaching number sense to those who are ready, interested, and able to understand. It’s simply comes later in the game, and usually in a manner that isn’t forthright. But it is there and it has always been there. It’s just the non educators who wrote common core couldn’t recognize it when they saw it.

I, too, like the notion of a federal standard – although I think it should be optional, like NY once had with regents and non-regents diplomas.
But any such standards should have been written by educators, throughly peer-reviewed, and phased in. CCSS was none of these things. Both the core content creation and the implementation were poorly managed. Where is the representation of common sense and proper pedagogy in education? There was no such person involved in the process. CCSS were written by professionals with a true lack of classroom experience. It is hardly surprising that they missed the mark.

Teachers and unions are running for their lives from the ridiculous requirements of NCLB. CCSS, tied to Race to the Top, promised relief. Teachers would have supported anything that promised relief. Only after this monstrosity has been fully installed in the classroom are they learning that it’s worse.

At this point, ask a union president and a union teacher their opinion of common core and you will get two different answers. Leadership is towing the line and pretending that this is a good idea so they can continue to escape NCLB requirements. Teachers are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Many are extraordinarily unhappy that their leadership is not fighting CCSS. Hearing common core math is just standards? Yes, you are hearing falsehoods.

Guest blog by New York common core activist, math educator, and opt out mom, Loy Gross.