Another Reason For States To Back Out Of Common Core

Common-Core-State-StandardsCommon Core fuzzy math are motivating States to back out of Common Core Math StandardsArticle 5 in a series on Common Core Standards by Celeste Busby

As far as curricula for Common Core (CC) goes, there are a couple of major issues that concern parents. One is “fuzzy” math and the other is the CC Reading List that is not always age appropriate, and in some cases, is even pornographic. I’ll cover the latter in Article 6. For now, let’s talk about math and the fact that Virginia’s Math Standards of Learning are closely aligned with Common Core Math Standards.

Prior to about 1958, students were taught what is called Traditional Math, and they memorized the Multiplication Table that gave them a learning advantage, for example, being able to figure simple problems in one’s head and estimating.

Traditional Math taught in mastery fashion, presents math ideas or concepts one at a time, each idea or concept building on the previous one, and with each being practiced until students thoroughly understand it. Of course, some concepts are reserved until the students are developmentally ready for them. According to Maryland Hand in Hand Homeschool, math taught this way is a “good choice for students interested in math, science, or engineering fields.” So why aren’t we using it?

In the 1960s, some say as late as the 1980s, depending on where one lives in our country, Outcome-based Education (OBE) came along with more emphasis on student-centered learning, collaborative learning, group work, constructivist methods, and “reform math,” replacing individual student responsibility for learning. Reform math is sometimes called “fuzzy math” or “New Math.” Education reformers, of that period, felt that traditional math was too skills-based and relied too much on rote learning (memorization) and not enough on conceptual understanding. To date, it appears that this has not been proven to be true. (See Barry Garelick’s piece on this subject.)

New Math, taught in spiral fashion, doesn’t expect full comprehension or doesn’t go in-depth on a topic until later grades, there is minimal practice when an idea is introduced, but lots of repetition over a long period of time. Maryland Hand in Hand Homeschool suggests that this form of math would be a “good choice for students looking to enter a non-mathematical career.” So, why do we continue to use it?  

How is Common Core “Fuzzy” Math Different?

Common Core Math, or “New-New Math,” as it is sometimes called, is even “fuzzier” than before. It is inquiry-based math on the belief that there are no absolute truths. Students must “construct” or show their understanding of math. In addition to the many additional steps of confusing algorithms, elementary students must learn precise “language recall” to explain how and why they got the answer, but they no longer drill on the Multiplication Table. Now, this might sound good, but why reinvent the mathematics wheel that has served us quite well for centuries? And, referring to Article 2 in this series on Common Core, the fact is that student performance has been pretty much flat-lined since the last of the Greatest Generation left school in the fifties, indicating that recent attempts to reform education over several decades have not been a big success.

With Common Core Math the language has also changed. Just to give you an idea:

  • Word problem is now “math situation,”
  • Carry the one is now “regroup ten ones as a ten,”
  • Borrow is now ”take a ten and regroup it as ten ones,”
  • More than or fewer than is now “compare,”
  • Add is now “increase,”
  • Subtract is now “decrease.”

(The Blaze) In a YouTube video, Amanda August, a Chicago suburb curriculum coordinator, explains to parents that the emphasis in CC math will be more on knowing the why and how of a math problem. So, a wrong answer (3 x 4 = 11) may be considered okay, if students can repeat the language for how the wrong answer was obtained. However, should the answer be correctly determined using traditional math or some other math method, the answer would be considered wrong, because the student didn’t use the correct CC procedure to determine it and could not use the approved “language recall” to justify it.

Reports across the country tell of frustrated parents who are not able to help their child(ren) with their math homework, because it is so confusing and unnecessarily involved, thus many have been forced to hire tutors to help their children pass the class.

In Henrico County, Virginia, a number of parents met with school people about this very problem, but didn’t really get the issue addressed. However, apparently, Henrico Schools have advertised to hire math tutors. A survey sent out by a concerned parent found that of the 40 families that responded to the survey, 25 or more were using tutors.

Parents in other Virginia counties are questioning Virginia’s math methods, also. For example, why is it necessary for a simple division problem, like dividing 10 into 50 to have so many steps?

For an example of this, check out this video of Karen Lamoreaux, an Arkansas parent, explaining this same type of problem to the Arkansas Board of Education. She asks the Board to figure her 4th-grade son’s math problem: “If there are 18 students in a class, and the class counts itself by a number that ends at 90, what is the number?” She also explains that instead of two steps to solve this simple division problem (Traditional Math), her son’s math problem took 108 steps (CC Math). (The Blaze)

Partial Quotient Division and Partial Product Multiplication are being taught in 4th grade, in Chesterfield schools. Having no idea of what that was, I went to the Khan Academy web site for how Partial Quotient Division is done. Compare the example below with how you would divide 16 into 1,388 with Traditional Math.


16/1388             Think 16 x 2 =32 and 16 x 5 = 80.  (Can use any figures to multiply by, instead
– 800   = 50       of 2 and 5).
588                     Multiply 32 and 80 x 10 = 320 and 800.  Subtract 800 from 1388 = 588.
– 320  = 20        Subtract 320 from 588 = 268.
-160 = 10          Keep subtracting multiples of 16, until you can’t subtract anymore 16s.
– 80  = 5            The number to the right of each subtraction represent the number of times 16  28                                   went into the number to the left.
– 16 =  1           Then, add the numbers to the left to come up with your answer.  Answer is 86   R 12   86  with R of 12.

It’s important to know that upper levels of CC Math, Algebra I and II, will be moved to high school, geometry will not be a full course of geometry and pre-calculus and calculus will not be taught in high school at all.

What Leading Mathematicians are saying about CCSS Math

  Dr. James Milgram, a former NASA mathematician and currently Professor Emeritus, Department of Mathematics at Stanford University was on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Validation Committee and refused to sign off on the CC Math Standards. He found no supporting research behind them and no international benchmarking as claimed.

At a Common Core Forum in Baton Rouge LA, February 2014, he stated that California tried the same thing with math [like CC] for 18 years and finally determined that it was a failure. Because of it, remediation for 23% of college-bound students started in 1989, by 1997, the need for remediation for college-bound students increased to 56%, well over half of students entering college. Why would we experiment with our kids with methods already determined to be failures?

Actually, in a letter to Diane Ravitch, he stated “. . . there is significant international evidence that major parts of the standards will not work . . . . it was tried on a national scale in Russia a number of years back and was rapidly dropped.”

By the way, Dr. Milgram was the only mathematician with a Doctorate in content on the CCSS Validation Committee, and he states that U.S. math students will be two years behind other high-achieving foreign countries by the end of seventh grade, and even further behind by graduation.

Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are touted as putting more emphasis on STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering and Math—and for making students college ready. In March of 2010, Dr. Jason Zimba, one of the lead writers of the Standards, confessed that CCSS are minimal standards for college-readiness. The minimally college-ready student is one who has passed Algebra II. He said CCSS Math is “ . . . not only not for STEM, it is also not for selective colleges, for example UC [University of California] Berkley.Whether you are going to be an engineer or not, you’d better have pre-calculus to get into UC Berkley.


Dr. Ze’ve Wurman, Commissioner of the California Academic Content Standards Committee that evaluated Common Core in 2010, told the Florida Board of Education last fall that Common Core “actually stacks the deck against disadvantage students. They will no longer be able to rely on schools to provide the needed content as part of the regular curriculum; all the while they will be told that they are on track to be college ready.” In a statement to the Georgia Senate Education and Youth Committee, he said that things were “forgotten” in CC Math like “prime the position of numbers, common denominator, lowest common denominator . . . conversion of fractions to decimals.”

Could teaching methods be the problem with math failure?

Barry Garelick, who writes for several publications (Education Next, Educational Leadership, and Education News) is a math teacher, co-founder of U.S. Coalition for World Class Math and an advocate for better math instruction in our schools. He has written an informative piece “Mathematics Education: Being Outwitted by Stupidity”about the shift in teaching methods for math, the growth of learning disabilities, and the fact that all students classified as learning disabled may not be learning disabled. They may just be low achieving students who would learn math more easily if taught traditional/mastery math. He states, “In 2010, approximately 2.4 million students were identified with learning disabilities—about three times as many as were identified in 1976-77.”

He also shares that up to 50% of students with learning disabilities have been shown to overcome them with “explicit instruction,” and that they did well with word problems and computation. This is true for students classified as learning disabled in math, as well as, those classified as low-achieving students. The “treatment” includes math memorization and other traditional methods for teaching math—methods that math reformers are against.

Furthermore, he reports, “The de-emphasis on mastery of basic facts, skills and procedures has met with growing opposition, not only from parents but also from university mathematicians. At a recent conference on math education held in Winnipeg, math professor Stephen Wilson from Johns Hopkins University said, much to the consternation of the educationists on the panel, that ‘the way mathematicians learn is to learn how to do it first and then figure out how it works later.’ This sentiment was also echoed in an article written by Keith Devlin (2006).”

See: Mathematics Education: Being Outwitted by Stupidity

With Virginia’s Math SOLs so aligned with Common Core Math, and all the research identifying that its methods have been failures worldwide, parents and educators need to stand up, now, for our children. We can’t allow our children to suffer further and fail to the point that it is too late to recover.

Celeste Busby’s Series can be found here.

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