If you’re a parent of a school-aged child in the United States, you’ve no doubt heard of the Common Core standards. To date, 43 states have adopted these standards, which aim to better prepare students from kindergarten through 12th grade for higher education and career success.

As a lead writer of the Mathematics Common Core standards, I hear a lot of talk about Common Core. And based on that talk, it seems that people think everything is new about these standards. The truth is, while some aspects are new, many are not.

So let’s start with what is NOT new about Common Core:

  • children in elementary school still have to learn to add, subtract, multiply and divide, the same way their parents did;
  • children in middle school still have to learn about ratios, rates, and proportional relationships;
  • children in high school still have to learn to solve equations.

Indeed, there is a greater focus on these core topics than was typical of state standards before the Common Core.

This brings us to what IS new. To put it simply: the standards expect students to understand what they are doing so they are able to use and apply mathematics when they leave the classroom.

Who doesn’t want their children to think about what they are doing? Teachers and parents have been aiming for this for years. We tell them, “Think about what you’re doing!” in other situations all the time: as they’re crossing the street, as they’re learning to play an instrument, as they’re making an important decision. Now teachers and parents are supported by standards that lay out clear and coherent trajectories toward building a better understanding of mathematics, so children are less likely to lose their skills after graduation.

For example, many of today’s parents learned to add whole numbers by using the so-called standard algorithm: lining numbers up vertically and adding each column, carrying when necessary. This traditional method is still required by Common Core. But how many of today’s parents understand why it works? If you learned this way, it’s likely that the “how” of doing the calculation has been drilled into your head, but the “why” has been lost. Knowledge not supported by understanding is fragile.

Today, through the standards, kids learn mental strategies for addition and subtraction that help them use the standard algorithm with common sense about how those operations work. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to use the standard algorithm to subtract 998 from 1001, when you can see that 1001 is 3 more than 998, so 1001 – 998 = 3. Mental strategies based on understanding make procedural knowledge flexible, applicable to other disciplines and situations.

Teaching at the university level, I see the consequences of learning mathematics without understanding all the time. Students whose knowledge of algebra is based on a million meaningless mnemonics often crumble when faced with problems posed in an unconventional way or using unconventional notation, as they inevitably will be in their classes in a wide variety of subjects.

The students who do well understand that the letters in their equations are just numbers, and that the things they can do with equations follow the same arithmetical properties they learned in elementary school. The Common Core standards explicitly focus on those properties in order to prepare students for success in college. And as a result of the math standards, you can expect to see your child learn a better balance between procedural fluency (the “how”) and conceptual understanding (the “why”), so that she will develop the ability to apply mathematics in solving all kinds of problems. And that’s a skill that will serve your child for the rest of her life.

So, what do you as a parent need to know about the Common Core? Here are three things to remember:

  1. The Common Core standards are not curriculum. Curriculum is what teachers actually follow, or do, in the classroom, and what students do at home. Standards simply say what we want students to learn. Common Core establishes a set of goals for learning. But without good curriculum, the standards are just that: goals.
  2. Through the standards, your child will be able to explain the math, not just do the math.” For example, through the standards, students will now understand how our number system is based on ten, with the digits in a two-digit number telling you the number of tens and the number of ones. This goes well beyond being able to simply read and say the number out loud, or to point to the “tens digit.” It means being able to break the number up in ways that are fruitful for addition or for other operations. You can also expect your child to be able to explain how she knows what she knows, show how she thought about an answer, and choose different strategies for different problems.
  3. The math problems that you remember are still important. Chances are, you’ll recognize these problems as similar to the ones you completed as a child. If none of the homework problems your child brings home seems familiar to you, try asking her teacher about what’s happening in the classroom, or check out the resources below.

The Common Core standards are both old and new. As a parent, you should expect many things from these standards, but above all you should expect your child to reap the benefits of what’s new.

For more information about the Common Core standards, visit CoreStandards.org. And check out these links for additional information:


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  • Dontrepresentme

    Seriously? My mathematics education was fairly average (it ended in College Calc II). I haven’t taken a math class on over a decade, and many of my advanced skills are gone (surprise, surprise, I don’t use them every day……or ever for that matter.) Most adults don’t use anything past geometry on a daily basis. If I know how to line up numbers in my check book and balance that %$^&, why should it matter if I can write a sentence explaining why it works? I understand that you’re on the defense here, but isn’t it time you just admitted that you made some mistakes? Math homework for some families was already impossible, and now you want to add essays to word problems? If you want students to love math, don’t focus on the rigor. Focus on the fun. People love puzzles. That’s why Sudoku books sell. Math is a puzzle. To this day, when I get stressed out, I like completing a sheet of simple algebraic equations. It’s time for curriculum writers to get out of their own heads and witness the real world: not every business owner can explain how their ledgers work, but most can complete them. Not every student is going to be a programmer, scientist, or even a lawyer. Give our kids what they really need: math they’re going to need and personal finance education.

    • Ethan Mackey

      I think that while the math requires a more engagement from students at this level, the point is understanding underlying principles behind what you’re learning. I can’t tell you how many university-level classes I’ve taken where it was just memorization and regurgitation of lists, facts, dates, and simple formulas. These kids aren’t just learning math, they’re learning to look for patterns, to intuit, to REALLY learn rather than memorize.

      • Dontrepresentme

        Sorry, but memorization is part of learning. Math is made up of rules (remember the order of operations?). If you know the rules, much as you have to know the rules of English (grammar), you can complete the problem. I don’t need to write a paragraph to tell you how I answered an equation and why it worked…….if I got to the correct answer, let me show you through my answer.

        • Ethan Mackey

          Fair enough–I certainly wish my memory was a big sharper at times ha! I wonder how this common core stuff will play out.

          • Dontrepresentme

            It might work better if it were clearly authored and teachers had explicit and in-depth training on it. As it stands, the majority of teachers I’ve worked with don’t even understand the work they’re handing out anymore……I see a major failure on the horizon if that isn’t addressed.

          • cmjapnea


        • Shakita Jones

          Do you know how stressful common core is. Most teachers hate it and so do the parents and kids. ADD is going to be on the rise…Kids learn by having fun. This math sucks chicken butt :)

      • George Spatz

        I’m sorry but at the 2nd grade level I fear that is pushing the bar beyond reality. Let them get to know what the answer is and wait on the (why and “how”) of it when they are older and thus better able to understand the how and why !!!

      • Daiseymae

        I am glad common core is not in the state of Virginia. We all did fine without it.

      • Irene

        “Students should know why they do what they’re doing” I feel that such type of knowledge comes with experience, through trial and error, as you live you reflect back and things make sense.

        Some of my students disliked math before, now a lot of them truly despise it to the point I have had kids crying in the classroom because they simply cannot explain to you why 10 is 10!

        One thing is to learn to compute 2+2, another thing is making a six year old go through the task of not just learning what 2+2 is, but also trying to make him/her explain to you why 2+2 is 4 and why 4 is 4 in the first place! That approach has turned a positive educational experience into something they absolutely despise!

        The common core was designed to emulate South Korea and Singapore’s math curriculum. What our law makers can’t seem to understand it’s that not everyone needs or wants to be a mathematician, an engineer, or a calculus professor!

    • Shakita Jones

      I agree give them real world problems. Like how to balance a check book. How to communicate effectively. Percentages. Stuff they can really use. Teach them world things foreign language’s. Teach them real skills to make it in this world. How to save money at an early age and the reason why. All the crap we adults had to learn the hard way.

    • Gamy Eli

      I definitely agree. The vast majority of children will not need beyond the college algebra. They should focus on the basic skills.

      I passed the college algebra no problem after I took trig.func. and calc. .

  • Dejahthoris

    Our public school system is horrible for students. We are teaching to the test, and using outdated and expensive textbooks that are obsolete before they are printed ( and damage students backs) instead of tablets. School curriculums and methods are constantly changing, which confuses parents, students and teachers. Kids hate school and have way too much homework. Not even considered are tried and true methods of education such as differentiation, hands-on learning, outdoor classrooms, reading and kitchen gardens, unschooling, recess, practical education, the learning of life skills, digital learning with tablets, and allowing teachers autonomy and authority to pass students. Overeducated idiots are making all the choices in our Public School system. We need to be doing what works in other countries and helping kids love to learn and love school. Instead we are making it restrictive torture for everyone where the main driving force is obedience to authority. Creativity and individuality are not even considered as good attributes for students or teachers, because they disrupt the strict submission to all important authority. Everyone is brainwashed and intimidated. No wonder so many or our poor kids are on some kind of medication. It makes me sad.

    • Dontrepresentme

      I grew up in private schools…..we had the best European models and derived the work ethic of the Asian models. I’ve taught public school….it’s hell. I’ve never held any other job where my intelligence, education, and experience mean nothing to the person who hired me. I’ve never held any other job where people (with no education or teaching experience) feel entitled to tell you how to do your job and spit on you for wanting to work harder. The system has driven out any teacher worth paying……enjoy your mediocre economic future, America.

    • Shakita Jones

      I totally agree. It’s all the same racist hidden agenda that’s all ways been there. There’s no resources to even help struggling kids. America school gets an F… We screwed up as a country when we took God out the classroom to begin with. Now look at our schools our country.

  • Alastair Stell

    Entirely misses the point.

    The biggest fallacy of modern education is that all children learn through exactly the same process. This is a necessary delusion since otherwise education would need to be tailored to the individual rather than a class of thirty or more students.

    For me school and especially University was a disappointing experience. I found that lectures imparted very little information since the pace did not match the absorption rate of my brain (and especially my subconscious). For me understanding the principle of a thing (such as calculus) was critical to subsequent learning and hence required the most focus in time. I needed to feedback to my lecturer exactly how I saw the topic in order to validate my thought process. However once I had done this I needed no examples, no rote learning, and I could derive almost any equation necessary (often in my head but otherwise on paper margins on a test).

    I also discovered I do much better if I focus on a subject. So a typical school day covering multiple subjects was entirely counter-productive. Once I understood this about myself I simply picked up a book and read it cover-to-cover much as most people read a novel. Then I knew the subject and could essentially coast through classes and lectures (which I found mind numbingly boring in any case). As an example I learned about calculus (from scratch to second order integration) in less than two weeks (at age 12) yet I am not a genius by any stretch of the imagination. But this approach works for me – not many other people. I do know, however, that if I had not taken control of my own education I would’ve failed at school and failed at university.

    The bottom line is that the whole idea of uniform teaching of students is a lie. Until educators truly appreciate how different each of us is, we simply cannot make a major breakthrough in education.

    • Beel

      You deflect with your point – entirely missing his points regarding Common Core.

    • Alastair Stell

      No I am not missing his point. He actually is the one deflecting because guess what, I’ve heard EXACTLY the same things said by educators in previous generations. So they adjust the curriculum, mess with the teaching methods; all achieving absolutely nothing. I’ve seen 5 decades of this ridiculous approach and it simply doesn’t achieve anything. The key, the absolute key to successful education is to stop thinking that all kids respond to the same fundamental teaching methods. They don’t – and until you get this point anything else is irrelevant. Mere window dressing.

  • Judi Morgan-Fuller

    I am a 75 year old grandmother and do you mean to tell me that entire generation of students have been taught some of the dumbest math as shown in the article above? No wonder we are so behind so many other countries. When did they stop teaching the principles behind what we do with even simple math? I was taught all the “fun stuff” one could do with numbers as well as how to make math work. For example today I can’t find one single person who knows what cancelling with 9’s is let alone how to use it. My grand children we not even taught how to rapidly and easily memorize the times tables. I had to show them. After weeks of struggling at school trying to get them I showed them in one afternoon. What the heck!!!!!!!

    • Lisa

      I understand why understanding why multiplication works or how it works, but at some point the students need to have those tables memorized. When they are doing Algebra, if they have to stop to figure out what 7×6 is, they aren’t going to finish the test and may well forget what it is they are trying to do.

      • Judi Morgan-Fuller

        I quite agree that children need to memorize the tables. They are the tools for the tools box(the brain) and these tools can be successfully picked up by the end of 3rd grade. All that is required is due diligence on the part of the parent, teacher, and student. A student cannot move forward without continually adding new tools to the tool box. At some point, and it earlier than some people think, in the lives of the children they start picking up tools on their own, but this too must be taught how it is done. They must learn how to learn and that it is fun to step up to the challenge and own it. Students need to learn how to find science, history, literature, and writing as such wonderful stuff and that it makes the life they have to live better.

        Memorizing the tables, a bit of poetry, lines from a play, the preamble to the Constitution of the United States, Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, King’s “I have a dream” speech, all are good training for the brain and good for the children in so many ways. This part of education should never stop. There simply are somethings we need to remember and learn how to remember otherwise we are reinventing the wheel everyday.

        • https://www.youtube.com/user/kilroy238 Kilroy238

          Memorize memorize memorize .., That is what all drones learn from school in China. Sit down shut up and repeat what the teacher says.

          Personally I want kids to have some critical thinking skills and truly understand things

          Why don’t you?

          • Daniel Walker

            China, as in Hong Kong? The place with the second highest math scores in the world? Hmmm….

            I understand your sentiment, but critical thinking is something that will be done according to the level of accountability that is in place in order to ensure one’s own success. Changing the learning process to a way that only furthers the gap of understanding between parents and children is not the way to encourage critical thinking. Teaching how to arrive at the right conclusion is paramount to all thinking. As a parent I haven’t seen anything from this but kids being more confused and discouraged from thinking any more than they have to about these retarded reasonings.

      • Becca

        At some point the common core standards include having math facts (aka time tables) memorized – this is called fluency in the common core standards.
        In fact here’s the standard that states that: “CCSS.Math.Content.3.OA.C.7
        Fluently multiply and divide within 100, using strategies such as the
        relationship between multiplication and division (e.g., knowing that 8 ×
        5 = 40, one knows 40 ÷ 5 = 8) or properties of operations. By the end
        of Grade 3, know from memory all products of two one-digit numbers.” Common core isn’t completely scrapping all the “old” “traditional” ways of doing things it’s trying to supplement those with more of an emphasis on understanding. I’m glad this article unlike so many others explicitly states that there is a difference between standards and curriculum. Typically parents who are frustrated with what work they see their students doing are not frustrated by the standards they are frustrated by the particular curriculum that the school or school district is requiring their teachers to use – not all curricula are good some are just plain awful others are great foundations for a teacher to build on.

        • Lisa

          I recognize the difference, but since the problem seems to be how the CC is being implemented, it seems that the powers that be should fix that before they start rolling out the program. Otherwise we are going to have another large groups of adults with gaps in their education from an experiment gone wrong. It’s not a new problem, there are areas in the South that chose to refuse to integrate and closed schools for up to a couple of years… so now we have some senior citizens who never ‘caught up’. I was a victim of the ‘open classroom’ concept in the mid-70s for two years of middle school (after we moved), luckily I had had the Sisters of St. Joseph to lay my foundation for six years, so I didn’t suffer as much as I could (it is rather scary when a seventh grader can feel her own study skills slipping). I have worked with high school students who needed a calculator in a county fair booth to add up the cost of a couple of burgers, fries and a soda when all of the prices ended in multiples of .25 (they didn’t know intuitively that five sodas costing 76 cents a piece would be $4… they needed calculators). The senior citizens in the booth could do it in their heads… perfectly.

          • thedeathstar

            Clearly you’re not one of those senior citizens who can do it in your head, unless the entire older generation independently and “intuitively” got the wrong answer, and you’re proving the point about where these gaps actually exist.
            Regardless of your inability to use an example to prove your own point, common core has nothing to do with high schoolers not being able to do math without a calculator, as common core was never taught to them.

          • Benna

            Well, 5 sodas costing 76 cents a piece, ISN’T $4

          • Lisa

            It’s $4.04. When typing this, some of my fingers were buddy wrapped after a fall and that was a typo… my bad.

          • Benna

            Um no, it’s not $4.04 either. Let me help you out…
            5 × $0.76 = $3.80

      • Sage Bias

        calculation is faster than memorization
        learning to calculate 7*6 is easy if you are taught how.
        It takes longer to write than it does to calculate in your head. Once kids learn the principles, they can calculate way faster than they can memorize. Memorization tables is the reason why kids come to hate math.
        You may not understand it, but common core is a step in the right direction.

        • Arch00

          Not if you already memorized it. Why 7*3, instead of 3*2? for me, it would have been 7*6 = 42. I see no problem of memorizing multiplication tables. Eventually, the student will realize the reason why.

        • disqus_bFXHHP3bse

          Your reasoning doesn’t make sense. A student is supposed to memorize (in your example) the product of 7*3 & then add in another step of multiplication; why not just memorize the product of 7*6? Common core is taking something simple and complicating it.
          You said “calculation is faster than memorization” & maybe the first couple of times that could be true. But memorization is definitely quicker when you factor in a lifetime of math.

  • Mary Holmes

    Math is a powerful tool that is needed to be skillfully handled it’s a necessity.”

  • Amy

    Those of us who have advanced degrees in science and math seem to have done quite well with a traditional math education. Common Core is turning students off to math, and the future consequences for our science and engineering communities will be far reaching.

    • Katie Nystrom

      Common Core is only just beginning. How can you see it turning students off to math? I am a math teacher, and I see it making wonderful changes in kids. Last year, before many in my state were introduced to new standards, students just gave up if the problem looked too difficult. Some would even give up if it had words! Now students are given situational problems and asked to find much more complex solutions. Often they work in pairs or teams to share their ideas. How many current or future jobs require one to communicate their thinking to a colleague of team? Students, even after just 1 year of using some new strategies, are able to persevere with a difficult problem. Common Core (and others) call it productive struggle. This is what our kids have been lacking. Most parents will agree. Kids don’t know how to struggle and work through something to solve it. It hasn’t just been in math. It’s been in life. Teachers and parents have been stepping in too early to “help.” We don’t like to see them upset. But in my 6th grade class, my students are learning how to learn. How to try something. And they know if they’re wrong, it’s ok. It just means that way didn’t work and to try something else. Its not easy for me either, as a teacher, to make these changes, but when I see them working, I am thrilled! I see amazing things coming from our kids in the future of we just give it time.

      • Concerned mother

        I think common core is a way for teachers to get students to leave them alone and figure it out with their classmates. Working on teams in the work place is essential but I want my co-worker to be able to work on his/her own without needing to know what’s my answer all the time . I don’ know which parents you have been talking to but my co-workers and I (I work in the accounting department) are baffled about how to instruct our children when they aren’t really being taught the rules of mathematics. When I instruct my child with math problems, I teach it the way I learned and he umderstands it a great deal more than what he got from his teacher.

        • Shake Zula

          If your impression is that the standards are another way for teachers to “get students to leave them alone”, then I think you illustrate a very important problem…some teachers may not be skilled enough or prepared enough or motivated enough to effectively communicate the material, and parents are left to pick up the slack. (Of course, this is a problem with the educational system more broadly and has nothing to do with the Common Core.)

          But isn’t the point of a public school education to level the playing field a bit? Isn’t it sad that kids who succeed are (generally) the ones whose parents have the educational background and free time to intervene?

          Kids are at school 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. That should be more than enough time to impart information and develop problem-solving skills. We shouldn’t be relying on parents to pick up the slack at home.

      • Lisa

        Well, it my daughter’s school, CC is NOT working because the teacher doesn’t explain how to do the Algebra and sends homework that does not show any examples… since I last did Algebra like this in 1977 (and I have worked in a ‘science’ field, but I use ratio & proportion and statistics), I don’t have a clue how to do it. It would help if there were a text and not just worksheets.

        • Katie Nystrom

          Lisa, I’m sorry you’re having that experience. To me, that seems like an ineffective teacher, NOT a problem with Common Core standards. We still use a textbook, and students take moderate to extensive notes for each new lesson before homework is given in Algebra. I don’t believe students should have homework except just as reinforcement of what they have already been taught. Homework is not a place to do new learning, but just to practice a bit more than there is time for in our short classes.

          • Lisa

            My understanding is that these sheets are actually from a text they are considering to follow CC. Maybe it is a misunderstanding of the idea of students determining the ‘way’ that works best or makes sense for them – I was taught a few ways and allowed to use the one that made sense for me – unless the point was to be sure we could understand and use all of the ways presented.

            I think that standards make sense. I don’t like the way they are being implemented … or the fact that publishing companies are using them as a gold mine.

        • Lawana

          Lisa, parents can’t help because THEY don’t understand it. These kids are just out there alone struggling to find sanity.

          • Lisa

            Exactly. I’m not an idiot; I took college math ending at Calculus I… but that was almost 35 years ago and lots of it is stuff I haven’t needed since (mostly needed ratio & proportion for pharmacy; and stat for graduate work). I do however need a text for refreshing my memory – and they don’t provide that.

      • Judi Morgan-Fuller

        This is great I guess for a majority of kids, but if I was forced to learn this way when I was in school I would have gone into total melt down. The other kids in my group, I would have considered just so much clutter to wade through. I would have to find a corner somewhere and solve the problem myself, that is of course is if I was shown the tools I needed to do it; which from what I read from some of the parents, the tools simply do not show up. I am so glad I no longer have kids in school, even then it was a constant battle; not with my kids they loved learning, but with the school, the teacher, and the curriculum. We ended up teaching them at home and sent to be warehoused at school as per the law. Four children; one is an engineer for Boeing, one holds a master in English, one is a writer, and one is an artist. All from learning the disgusting old fashion way.

      • Lawana

        Katie, I strongly disagree with you. Don’t know what school you are in or what parents you are getting to agree with you but that certainly is not what I’m hearing from parents and teachers in my district. These children that you say are left to figure it out , struggle I think you said, and the same kids you will see on early drop out lists and on welfare lists because they just give up. common Core stinks!

        • Lisa

          The idea of common standards isn’t the problem – it’s the way it’s being implemented in many places. In the school my children were in prior to last year, the curriculum was rigorous and made the students college ready. That school system is just now getting ready to adopt CC – and I hope the teachers are able to continue with the methods that they have proven work in the past.

    • Daiseymae

      I wholeheartedly agree with you. My father was a pilot for Pan American, my brother was a scientist for NASA, and my sister is work on her second PhD. I haven’t done too bad either. They all did quite well in math. My brother had a degree in mathematics and computer science. He has a degree in aerospace engineering. He never had common core math.

  • Becca

    Common core is not a curriculum. It is a set of goals for each grade level and quite frankly these goals are not that much different than the previous goals. The 3rd graders I am teaching are doing the same math I did 20 years ago in 3rd grade. 20 years ago I too had to write out explanations for how I got my answer. It’s called asking for evidence/proof. Being able to explain your thinking well and offering up evidence and proof are some of the most important skills a person can have.

    Honestly, I think attitude toward math has a greater effect on students learning than the actual methods used. I love teaching math and as a result my students love learning it form me. There is so much negativity about math, even super young students pick up on that. When I worked in pre-k it was typical for my 4 and 5 year old students to tell me that math is hard and that they don’t like math… um this perception didn’t come form them actual experience learning math, It came form listening to the people around them speaking negatively about math.

    There is no such thing as useless knowledge. All knowledge helps build a better stronger brain.

    Some people are going to be successful in leaning math or any other subject regardless of how the subject matter is taught. That’s great that you did just fine learning it the “old way.” I did just fine too, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t or shouldn’t work to improve so that more people can be successful. As Jean Piaget said, “The principal goal of education is to create individuals who are capable of doing new things, and not simply of repeating what other generations have done.”

    • Lisa

      The standards are not the problem, it’s the ridiculous curriculum that is being built around it.

  • Englishish
  • cmjapnea

    PBS and Bill McCallum are drinking the Progressive koolaid. A bunch of psycho babble to push their agenda.. Backed up by The Gates Foundation’s $$$. (and probably McCallum”s) The kids need to learn math skills, not be in tears when they have to do a math problem that should take 2 steps, and instead takes 10 steps plus explanations. Not to mention the data mining of our kids.

  • Meadia66

    Having been both an instructor and administrator in Higher Ed, I find that many students have no perception of math, history, geography, economics, government, etc. Of course that could be the great education system in Texas of recent years. Probably teaching kids just how to figure very basic things in math such as percentages or how to balance their check book or understand their credit card statements would help the great majority to a better life. I do like the statement “Knowledge not supported by understanding is fragile.” Sounds like every argument I hear from the right-wing Republicans regarding such things as climate change reflect this to a huge degree.

  • Also curious

    No one who wrote math CCSS is an educator, nor have any of them had any documented classroom educational experience. This is why most early childhood education experts find CCSS math (and CCSS language) developmentally inappropriate, as do many elementary educators. Lots of money, however, is being made in CCSS, but none of it is going to actually help our students. I am really bothered that PBS would tout CCSS as something our children need, without doing their own research on it.

  • Amber Mixdorf Young

    I understand the meaning behind common core math but it’s still ridiculous. It’s great to understand “why” we do what we do but understanding the why is useless if it takes you 30 minutes to do a problem that should take 1 minute. Watching my son find more and more convoluted ways to answer simple math problem makes my brain hurt. I understand why we line the numbers up vertically and carry number etc. and by memorizing times tables etc. it’s just second nature to do it.No one cares why one method works faster for me and another works faster for another, in the real world, they just want to know it does and that we get the information we need in a timely fashion. Common Core is a nice concept but it’s being executed all wrong and the foundational learning and memorization that sets children up for quick memory recall later on as adults is being lost.

  • Shakita Jones

    America is the most backwards stupidest country in the world. Now you want to teach ppl how to think…when ppl have been spoonfed since for ever. This concept of math may be great for kindergarten but kids who have been spoonfed all these years struggle and feel stupid and so do parents. I mean there are no resources to help struggling students. The rest of the world is so far ahead of us…speaking several languages, using the same math systems that the rest of the world uses. We one day will have a bunch of sick unhealthy unhappy dumb fat ppl running the country with the ways things are going with education,lack of medical,and process food. On top of the continued hidden racism. America the great will be no more because she cares to much about money and not ppl.so continue to screw our kids up Rich ppl. God sees you! You will pay for what your doing… Smh. Don’t use our Kids for guinea pigs to see rather common core works so when it fails you now have these lost kids wondering around aimlessly. Just to go back to spoonfeeding dummy!!!

    • Minda Ess

      Actually, the mobility of our future generation will decline because the education system will scare their mind that they are not smart enough to be in college someday.

      Thank goodness that I learned math in my adulthood. lol. BTW, I didn’t have parents to educate me, so I was busy working to feed, dress, and shelter myself. I hope that our future generation will have a better lifestyle than ours.

  • AG

    Common core is pretty much only useful for kids who go to extra schooling and prepping, where they’re doing the rote memorization. The understanding comes after the elementary practice, and that’s what missing from these horrible common core curriculums that parents and students are subjected to. If you are spending a lot of time as a teacher trying to teach children short cuts and explanations that would naturally follow after rote learning, then something has to give. There is only so much time in the regular school day and the kids excelling in this environment are ones who are forced to have extra schooling, which is common practice in some cultures. It unfortunately changes everything for everyone. I think common core will most certainly be gone one day. If this is America’s way to compete with countries who score high in education, it is sad and misguided, as for example, you cannot compare the US and Singapore, so what works in Singapore may not necessarily work here. Imitation is not a true path to success.

    • Rose

      Exactly – I learn by rote and then after some time I grasp why. It is not possible for me to get mathematical understanding from someone just explaining it to me. I need to see an algorithm that works for a while first.

      I remember in grade school splitting up numbers such as 123 = 100+20=3. I don’t know why the CC supporters say that we never taught such understanding in schools before. Maybe in their memories since teachers love to keep coming up with new methods. Arithmetic doesn’t change. If something worked for me (over 50 and Judi who’s 75) then why not go back to that?

  • Barry Garelick

    Oh come on, Bill. Even Jason Zimba is saying there’s nothing wrong with teaching the standard algorithm first. Doing so, and achieving mastery at it, actually makes it easier for students to see the various “short cuts” the impart further understanding which you talk about. You assume that the standard algorithm does nothing to impart understanding. And how much “understanding” do you want from 6 and 7 year olds? If they can solve problems and use the appropriate methods to do so, what is the problem with that?


    • Bill McCallum

      I agree with Jason on this. After all, it was on my blog that his comments on this first appeared. I did not say anything about the order in which things should be taught. I do not assume that “the standard algorithm does nothing to impart understanding.” It depends how it is taught. I think it’s great if kids can solve problems and use the appropriate methods to do so. You have constructed a fictional picture of my beliefs not supported by what I have written.

  • RCraigen

    McCallum: “Knowledge not supported by understanding is fragile.”

    Holy smokes! So THAT is why people are forgetting all the time how ride bikes, drive cars and surf the web. I always wondered about that.

    And I, like Newton who never professed to understand it, keep getting confused whether gravity is an upwards or downwards force. And, every time I need to remember sin(A+B) = sin(A)cos(B)+cos(A)sin(B) I have to draw a diagram and derive it from scratch using analytic geometry. ‘Cause lacking understanding leads to forgetting.

    It’s also why … dang! In my work, I just keep forgetting the four-color theorem — Now I know that I need to go through the proof line-by-line so that I’ll understand it … I never knew remembering that hard fact could be so easy. If only I’d thought of that. I’ll have to try the same with the Fundamental Theorem of Algebra and Fermat’s Last … uh, I mean Wiles’ Theorem. And the important classification of finite simple groups. And let us demand that these be no longer taught except accompanied by proper proofs.

    And cognitive science is wrong when it tells us the importance of learning to perform basic skills without thinking about the nitty gritty details; as in this video, “When skills are made automatic, your mind is freed up to think creatively … think more deeply.” http://www.societyforqualityeducation.org/index.php/blog/sunday-at-the-movies-practice-perfect

    And Alfred North Whitehead was simply dead wrong when he said “It is a profoundly erroneous truism … that we should cultivate the habit of thinking of what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.”

    So I should stop telling teachers that today’s overemphasis on dwelling on “making meaning” for the most elementary processes of mathematics is creating in students the habit of focussing attention on the wrong level of meaning from a mathematical perspective”; students should learn to do everything with sticks, venn diagrams and base-10 blocks. (Aside: it’s a wonder that guy at the bank can add up my cheques without a set of base-10 blocks on hand … !)

    Uh, wait … the opposite of all that.

    • Bill McCallum

      Barry Garelick has suggested that I should read this comment to understand RCraigen’s objections. But I see no argument here, just a series of fictional beliefs which RCraigen seems to attribute to me, but which I do not in fact hold, and which do not follow from the sentence of mine that he quotes.

      • RCraigen

        I would be interested, in any case, Bill, in what exactly you meant by “fragile” here. I took it to mean “easily lost”. As mathematicians we both have a commitment to the importance of understanding, but it is evident that knowledge can be quite robust even when understanding is not in place. I can never, for example, recall the details of the demonstration of the Fundamental Theorem of Algebra and have to review/reconstruct it when called upon to do so. Yet I never have the slightest problem remembering or using it. I have never read the entire proof of the four colour theorem (nor have you, I wager), nor could I personally execute that proof, and so do not “understand” the result in the one way that in a certain sense matters the most in mathematics and yet I can recall and apply it as needed at the drop of a hat.

        I mocked the quoted statement because it sounds very much like a contention I often hear educationists make — that understanding must always precede knowledge, and that knowledge acquired through (mere) practice and repetition tends to be ethereal and transitory. When I say “educationists” I wish to emphasize that this idea is rife in that world. The first time our ministry of education invited our group of mathematicians to their “math leader’s summit” a few years ago I found almost any statement we put forward concerning things we believe ought to be returned to the curriculum was met with strenuous debate that always seemed to come down to the same line: You can’t teach them that … until they first have understanding! I believe it is circular thinking like this that led to the exclusion of long division from our curriculum (I’m speaking here of Western Canada): for, if understanding must precede the learning of that procedure, how is understanding to be had? One ministry official — a leader in the Curriculum Branch, declared that she had NO problem with long division being taught or used but she would only insist that first, a child must “demonstrate understanding of the method in three different ways”. (Aside: three? wouldn’t one suffice? And I wondered if she herself could complete that quest). But the conclusion was self-evident: as that was clearly not going to happen (the same official declared, based on what I don’t know, that even teachers don’t understand long division), the algorithm therefore ought not be taught. It’s a chicken-and-egg thing: The child must “show understanding” of the algorithm before using it, but must somehow acquire that understanding … without having been taught the procedure. Prior to CC in the US numerous popular resources and methodologies espoused the same idea. TERC Investigations, for example. I’m afraid I get a little testy nowadays when I detect the faintest hint of this idea, and I’m sorry if I have misrepresented your view.

        • thedeathstar

          LOL at Bill saying you completely misrepresented what he said, yet your response is still a defense to your initial histrionic sarcastic rant that he ALREADY SAID HE AGREED WITH.

          If you want to realize how stupid this argument, look no further than how everyone must first distinguish their accolades in the fields of math and science before drawing the conclusion that math only makes sense the way it was taught to them.

          “Knowledge not supported by understanding is fragile.”

          What’s so difficult about that to understand? The things most people learn in math mean absolutely nothing to them because in the real world they never see math problems they way they did in a math book. Most people can remember that they for some reason need to carry when looking at a multiplication problem, but not be able to figure out a 15% tip.

          Your trig example is perfect despite the fact that it isn’t relevant since not even half of kids will ever take the class. Most people wouldn’t be able to solve sin(C) if it isn’t explicitly given out to them in the form sin(A+B)=… Even still, I don’t have every trig identity memorized so if I was ever in a situation where I didn’t have access to the internet or a textbook and was forced to solve a trig problem (as I said, it’s an irrelevant example), I would still be able to solve it because I understand why it works, not just that the formula exists.

  • Lawana

    What should I know about Common Core…NOTHING. This is the biggest joke to be dumped on our youth ever. What a shame that businessmen put the almighty dollar before the education of our kids.

  • Lawana

    What no one here has said and really doesn’t have to do with Math is that they are now tracking your child from kindergarten through high school and they are only offered career choices or classes that the school think they “qualify” for. What ever happened to doing what you like because that is what interest you. Many free thinkers have succeeded in life because they had the guts to peruse their dream not what someone said you could or should do. Kids are not robots.

  • A Jones

    Children in elementary school most definitely ate not taught to add, subtract, multiply and divide like we were taught. They’re constantly taught convoluted methods that take more than double the time. The standards are not developmentally appropriate for elementary, especially the early grades.

  • Kennya Johnson

    I think this math is stupid i am i 7th grade and mathdoes not make any sense to me!!!

  • Francine Fitzpatrick

    The common core was invented so decision makers could participate in improving our education system without getting their hands dirty. Standards are really a set of goals like deciding to go to Mars, attacking Iraq or making everyone buy healthcare under the guise of a tax. In the realm of education its really irrelevant because in the end we’ll know how to add and read. The main issue with education is execution. We can’t differentiate good and bad teachers the way real companies do employees, Instead, Engage NY gets around bad teachers by writing scripts teachers can read day to day and that we can test against under the aegis of a new standards. They also purport to teach people how to think while in reality, a standard can only impose a way to think. If people actually had the freedom to think, there would be no way to force them to just as God can’t force us to be good and give us free will. I can tell you why a math professor is working on common core math. It’s because he’s not working on differential topology

  • Daiseymae

    Common core is nothing but garbage.

  • Laurie Lynn

    This sounds like completely over thinking math to the nth degree. No wonder everyone is confused. You have gone and complicated something that is not complicated at all.

  • Minda Ess

    I didn’t learn complicated math ’till I was in college. When I took the college algebra, it wasn’t that hard. I passionately enjoyed learning how to figure things out.

    The old math taught me to multiply, divide, subtract, and add. Other than these concepts, I didn’t know shit. I’m grateful that I stepped in college. I’m proud to be the first generation to graduate.

  • Arch00

    Do European countries use this common core math? Does Japan and China?

  • Arch00

    Is Common Core a standard, or a teaching methodology, or both?

  • Beth Gardner

    I am hearing things for and against it. I can offer only a few solutions. If you don’t like it, find a school that doesn’t teach it. Homeschool your kids if you can’t find one, or find a way to deal with it. Kahn Academy is a great place to get math help for your children, that doesn’t use common core. It’s just your basic math you grew up with. I have 2 little ones now in school and have 4 grown children who are adults. Crazy, I started over again, but with these two I am seeing that they are very good at math. I don’t think it is because of common core that they are good but because they have good reasoning skills. Find what works with your kid. Talk to the school. If there are problems, there need to be resources available to deal with this.
    The saddest thing is that I heard that this program was not recommended by the educators who tested it and they went ahead and implemented it anyway. Anyone else hear that?
    I still managed to retain my basic math skills after all these years and even went back to school to take a pre calculus class and aced it. I don’t think the math we learned in school was inadequate.

  • Ral Neek

    In this video a student perfectly explains the history of Common Core and the truths behind it.

  • Minda Ess

    It boils down to profit.

  • Veroorm

    For a parent, it’s truly an important thing if they have this kind of ideas that will be going to help their kids to learn math even more. Also, it will not just focus on the typical topics in math that their kids should know about.

  • Steve Bridenthal

    Common core; a rebirth of what they called “new math” when I was completed high school. Luckily I missed out on that! However I have a younger sister that wasn’t so lucky, she was able to get well educated in that so called “new math.” She went on to graduate college being well educated in “new math,” and she doesn’t even know how to count money.

    Since this “common core” is no more than the old “new math” rebooted how can you consider it so great? There are a number of people I know, besides my sister, who cannot count money, all with a diploma and educated in “new math.” This “common core” math is just another reason why my grandchildren are home-schooled and I personally oversee all aspects of their education including math. I refuse to have any morons in my family, even if I have to teach them myself.

    In closing I would like to inform everyone that even though I am not educated in either “new math” or “common core math,” I got college degree and worked in the robotics field. Building, programming, and repairing, each aspect requiring a considerable amount of calculations. Everything had to be done accurately with zero room for error, thanks to the so called old school math I was on the top tier where I worked, not only on the top tier but at the top of the highest pay scale in that company. That would not have been possible if I had no mathematical experience.

  • Tory Ruger

    I believe China is top in mathematics. China’s culture and values play a large roll in their success in education. Failure is not an option. I’m not a teacher, but I have worked with child for over thirty years. Our traditional math curriculum isn’t the problem. What I noticed, the kids in this generation lack important skills such as self discipline, short attention span and delay of gratification. If society will prioritize and put education first, our children will rise to our expectations.

  • Jordan Davis

    Hey everybody! Actual student here, and I currently exist one year ahead of the sweeping tide known as CC In my school. Boy am a glad for that, cause while I’m not great at math, (I existed in a strange place in my school’s system.)I know full well I would have drowned in it, as have several other students and even teachers. An entire grade of students who’s grades all just dropped in math and several very displeased math teachers who had to rework years or their curriculum, (which worked.) just to fit new standards. As to the use of it all, (speaking very broadly here.) I’ve spent the last 5 years learning how to use a graphing calculator as effectively as possible and lo and behold, when the system keeps prodding me to just keep regurgitating what is mostly worthless data, (I’ll only really need the statistics.) I fail uterly to find any real motivation to bother memorizing another equation I’ll only need for the final. If you want something to absorb and release data on command, we’ve already got those. We call them conputers. Great invention, but I don’t see the use in trying to create human ones. (Very ineffective) critical thinking is probably the most important thing a math class will ever teach you. It’s a rather critical part of being a human being. Anyway thanks for your time, and I hope you a have lovely days! Bye!

  • Gilly Gi
  • Robert

    I don’t care that you, sir, the curriculum developer think so highly of Common Core. I think you are the biggest fool on the planet. Children need to memorize the basic math facts in order to know what the basic facts are, in order to be able to move on to more advanced concepts.
    You are being completely disingenuous with your article that waxes poetically about the system you created. When you are in as much love with your product as you are, you cannot see the fatal flaws in the system. I may just have to homeschool my children because “Educators” like you have broken the trust people used to have with public schools.
    I hold a B.S. in Ocean Engineering and a M.A. in Strategic Security Studies, so I have done some math in my day. Not as much as a PhD in mathematics, but enough to know when a system is full of baloney.

  • joannroth

    This is just another way of taking the time children should be learning things that will help them in college and life beyond. This does ZERO other than to throw ingredients into a cake mix like motor oil or drill bits. This crap is why we are so far behind in education! Go back to what actually worked. Go back to the 50s and 60s when kids came out of high school and could read write and actually do math without a piece of paper and it not taking a week to do! Hell, I remember when we had time in our day for home economics, shop, higher math, languages other than Spanish, typing, shorthand and classes like Great Books, oh those now horrible books that we are now banning. All of that AND we had a freaking study hall! We came out ready for college able to do 10 times more than we can now. Now we teach to a test and spew crap like this. Someone with a brain needs to take over the common sense of education and stop the joke they are playing on our children known as common core!