Is there anything good about Common Core?

Most of the anecdotes about Common Core seem to have been overwhelmingly negative. Are there any good things about it, and what do Common Core’s defenders usually say?

As described in another thread

For starters most of the complaints (which I have seen at least) are about “common core maths” which is not really a thing, none of the techniques being criticized are particular techniques enforced by common core.

But even if you accept the term, the techniques described make a lot of sense in the days of ubiquitous calculating machines. Teaching someone to do long arithmetic has zero practical use, teach someone the principles behind math is far more important.

This article is good one that also answered my OP above:

That said I have not seen anyone explain why this marking is anything but very wrong and bad maths.

No, you are correct. Whoever marked that test clearly has no clue what they are doing.

Not that I’ve heard of. Even granted that some anti-Common Core ranting doesn’t understand what the standards are and blames them for everything that goes wrong in schools, the fact remains that:

Textbooks adopted as a result of Common Core are low quality and not aligned with the actual standards.

It’s leading to even more time and focus put on mind-numbing standardized tests.

Contrary to endlessly repeated claims that Common Core raises standards, in many places it instead lowers standards and does not prepare the typical student to be competitive for spots at top colleges.

Claims that Common Core is “evidence-based” have little basis in reality. There is no scientific evidence that the standards set by Common Core are somehow more right than what came before.

Is it because the teacher wants the problems to be read as “5 bundles of 3” and “4 bundles of 6” while the student has presented “3 bundles of 5” and “6 bundles of 4”?

Arrays are a tool to teach multiplication. To teach that 6x4 is not the same thing as 4x6, is fundamentally wrong and will only make it more confusing when you teach about things like matrices where NxM!=MxN.

To add to that, multiplication is multiplication. There is no reason why students should be forced to demonstrate that they can perform single-digit multiplication by twenty different methods. If they can get the correct answer, that should be all they need to do.

I’ll step up … the problem with Common Core is not Common Core but poor execution.

Having a set of minimum standards that apply across the system, a clear set of expectations of what we should expect students to learn and by what points, is a good thing. Setting up a standardized system to evaluate how well those goals are met is necessary if we are going to able to figure out what works well and what fails miserably. From what I have seen there is nothing wrong with the standards created.

Executing the plan by making a system such that the evaluation process becomes a major time consumer, creating an undue observer effect, and granting the standardized measurements greater validity than they deserve, is where it has gone wrong.

And teachers who do not understand that 3x5 = 5x3 and that getting students to understand that is one of the basic standards is not the fault of having the standards. That sort of poor execution occurred before common core as well.

The Common Core started out as a common sense solution to a nagging problem.

Every state has standards. The problem is that these vary drastically in quality. Some states have beautifully designed standards founded on the soundest research and best practices. Some states have standards that were slapped together by a random contractor 20 years ago. And some of the standards were very, very low, and not setting students up to succeed in college. And each standard has a standardized test. Some were easy, some were hard. And it was impossible to measure states against each other to see what was working and what wasn’t.

50 states with 50 standards also meant it was difficult to collaborate across state lines. Textbook companies have to publish a range of versions, each modified to fit individual states. On a grassroots level, teachers were finding that it was only practical to share lesson plans and other resources within their state-- a great loss of shared knowledge in a world where online teacher exchanges are booming. And of course, transfering a student across state lines almost always meant they’d completely miss some things and end up repeating other things.

So the Board of Governors got together and decided to build the Common Core, focusing on math and English, which are areas that are less likely to have real variations between states. Addition in Alaska is basically the same as addition in Arkansas.

They took the best standards from the US and around the world-- the standards that were behind the most successful kids-- and looked for what was common between them. Then they worked with universities to define what a “college ready” student should know. This became the foundation of the standards.

The initial hot issue was reading. Specifically, the Common Core places a strong emphasis on nonfiction, based on the fact that colleges widely report that students are not coming in ready to read academic and professional materials. This didn’t sit well with many English teachers, who love their novels.

Then, just as the standards were coming into implementation, a group of Tea Partiers in New Hamshire seized on to it, writing blog posts about how the standard were a UN plot and that they required TV cameras to stream images of your kids directly to the Gates Foundation (you can’t make this stuff up.) For whatever reason it stuck, and the formally bipartisan effort quickly became a hot button issue. It helped at that time that people weren’t particularly familiar with the standards, and thus were open to believing anything about them. Soon, everything that anyone didn’t like became the fault of the “Common Core,” and it’s basically lost all meaning.

That’s not true either. Being able to do 4x6 in your head doesn’t mean you’ll be able to work out 4234x632 (or understand why NxM!=MxN if N and M are matrices).

Being able to multiply 1-digit numbers is a necessary first step in the process of learning to multiply longer numbers. For a student who already knows how to multiply 1-digit numbers by memorized tables, learning a dozen other methods for multiplying 1-digit numbers does not bring him or her any closer to multiplying longer numbers.

The point is that the point of learning the other ways to do it is not to better master multiplying 1-digit numbers as the goal but to develop mastery of other principles that are easier to master and to visualize when multiplying 1-digit numbers than when dealing with longer numbers (such as the various multiplication properties … the Commutative Property being one that that teacher failed to understand).

IOW being able to multiply 1-digit numbers is a necessary first step in the process of learning to multiply longer numbers AND learning the different ways of being able to multiply 1-digit numbers is a means to teach basic concepts needed to master other more advanced math concepts.

Of all the subjects in education to worry about, I wonder what it is about arithmetic techniques that seems to provoke such an emotional response in people. It seems like 99% of the complaints I see about “Common Core” are about grade school arithmetic.

I disagree. Memorising a lookup table does not help you to multiply larger numbers unless you understand the system the lookup table describes well enough to extend the table yourself. Memorising a table that tells you that 4x12=48 does not tell you that 4x13=52 until you know why 4x12=48.

As the parent of an 11 year old it’s pretty frustrating to not be able to do your child’s math homework. But I don’t feel that way at all about the English. It’s nicely integrated. They learn the definitions of the words on their spelling list and then read stories that contain them. Spelling reinforces vocabulary which reinforces reading comprehension. It’s much better than when I went to school and we had to learn all of that separately.

I guess I don’t really know if that’s part of common core. But it certainly is an improvement.

I disagree. Teaching maths is hardly ever about checking that the kid arrived at the correct answer - it’s about verifying that the kid has, and is able to use, methods.

I always tell students that they have a variety of methods to choose from to solve a problem. They should choose a method that:

  1. Gets the right answer.
  2. Makes sense to them.
  3. Doesn’t take too long.

Different methods will work better for different students. Some students can use the advanced technique of choosing a strategy for solving a problem based on the specific problem (I’d solve 145 + 398 differently from how I’d solve 357 + 432, for example). But every student should have at least one strategy that meets those three criteria.

Standardized tests are a problem, natch. I guarantee that my kids are going to see problems on the end-of-grade math test that ask them to analyze which number line correctly represents a particular subtraction problem, or which set of decomposed numbers can be used to solve a particular addition problem. I think those are lousy questions, since they test use of a specific strategy rather than testing core ability. And to the extent that common core requires students to be able (for example) to represent subtraction on a number line, that’s a problem with common core.

This appears to be a case of anal retention. Whether 5x3 is five groups of three or three groups of five is irrelevant.

Common Core seems to be a bogeyman of the right. Why, I’m not sure. I think national standards are a good idea, some of the contortions they go through in arithmetic seem quite nonsensical.

Not if you’re deciding how many bags you’ll need. I would assume that the student was taught 5x3 means ‘five groups of three’ and didn’t grasp the lesson.

I got the right answer in a pre-calc test in high school using a physics approach; didn’t touch integrals, just the formulas that would have fallen out of the calculus if I’d done it. Right answer, wrong method. This is the same thing.

I wonder how much of the opposition is because states now have a national standard for their educational curricula, and now the issues they had with low standards have been put into the spotlight. After all, <insert state here> doesn’t want to admit that their schools are dumpsters and they’re only graduating 70% of their students because they set the standards incredibly low.

Having a nationwide minimum standard is a good thing. Presumably nothing about common core prevents a state from going above and beyond.

As for a lot of the complaints about math, I also think a lot of the opposition is “Well, that’s not how I learned it, so it must be wrong” or worse “I never learned it, and now my kid is realizing I’m kinda dumb, so it must be wrong” or better but still not good “I’ve forgotten what it’s like to not know the basics of multiplication, so I’ve forgotten that learning the method and background is important, and I just want to skip to the right answer, and that’s not enough for my kid”. Again, not actually a complaint about common core, more a complaint about changing methods of teaching math that happened at the same time as common core. The two got conflated due to temporal proximity.