The Implementation of the Common Core Math Standards is Not Based on Common Sense

By Natalie Brankin, Manchester, NH

Brankin:  Common Sense, not Common Core

Brankin: Common Sense, not Common Core

I regularly receive emails from parents of elementary aged children asking me for help explaining their child’s homework.  As a high school math teacher I usually anticipate that these should be easy questions for me to answer.  Unfortunately, this has not been the case. The reason for this is that math education today is starting to look less and less like actual mathematics.  Nowhere is this made more apparent than with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics.

The standards being implemented in the Granite State are being sold to schools as necessary to prepare students for careers in math and science. Yet time and experience, as well as common sense, have shown that direct instruction using standard algorithms is the most effective way to teach students mathematics. Elementary school mathematics should consist of problems that are readily understandable to the average student. Elementary aged children should be learning basic skills in math in the most efficient way from an instructor who knows mathematics.

More and more students are not prepared for careers in the math and sciences upon graduation from high school. The Common Core State Standards were supposed to be the remedy for this problem.  Yet the standards do not even offer a complete course in Algebra II.  For entry into any math or science related field most selective colleges ask students to present at least four years of high school mathematics including Trigonometry and Pre-Calculus. Even students considering business related careers need to have completed four years of math through Pre-Calculus. There is very little Trigonometry in the standards and nothing written regarding Pre-Calculus or Calculus. Algebra II is no longer sufficient to meet the mathematical requirements of any field of study, including occupationally oriented programs. Thus, the stated purpose for adopting the Common Core State Standards is undermined by the curriculum, creating a situation worse than misleading: it’s insidiously false.

A common misconception by parents who may not have had a solid foundation in mathematics is that their children are best served by leaving math education up to the education professionals.  Sadly, this is not advisable if you desire more for your child than the status quo. It is not a good thing when math problems are incomprehensible to both parent and child.  When your child’s guidance counselor assures you that only taking Algebra II is sufficient for college and career, you should think twice. Do not be fooled by talk of deeper learning, higher thinking, and an emphasis on understanding over procedure in regards to mathematics.  The beauty of math is in its simplicity. It has no need for innovation.  If your child’s math homework is unnecessarily complex, be concerned.  More importantly, do your own research on the standards and how they are being implemented in your child’s school