August 19 2014
Common Core Math: Both Harder—and Easier—than it Should Be
Vicki E. Alger
Last fall Marina Ratner was helping her grandson with his sixth grade math homework. His Berkeley middle school had just implemented Common Core, which had been touted as rigorous college- and career-ready standards that are internationally benchmarked to standards from top performing countries. According to Ms. Ratner, her grandson’s math class spent so much time on drawing pictures that there was no time for serious instruction in core mathematical concepts. As Ratner explained in her recent Wall Street Journal editorial:
… the teacher required that students draw pictures of everything. …A student who gives the correct answer right away (as one should) and doesn't draw anything loses points.
Here are some…examples of the Common Core's convoluted and meaningless manipulations of simple concepts: "draw a series of tape diagrams to represent (12 divided by 3) x 3=12, or: rewrite (30 divided by 5) = 6 as a subtraction expression."
This model-drawing mania went on in my grandson's class for the entire year, leaving no time to cover geometry and other important topics. … It became clear to me that the Common Core's "deeper" and "more rigorous" standards mean … [s]imple concepts are made artificially intricate and complex with the pretense of being deeper—while the actual content taught was primitive.
Ratner is a prize-winning mathematician from UC Berkeley who, like a growing number of parents and grandparents, has legitimate concerns about the so-called rigor of Common Core. She concluded that parents who believe Common Core math will help prepare their children for college-level work will be sorely disappointed because “the new standards represent lower expectations and that students taught in the way that these standards require would have little chance of being admitted to even an average college and would certainly struggle if they did get in.”
Common Core is a nearly $16 billion step backward for American taxpayers who could have adopted high-octane standards similar to ones California and Massachusetts developed years ago that were more rigorous, less expensive, and involved far less federal overreach and intrusion into students’ privacy. The cost to the rising generation of students who'll have to overcome the deficiencies of this latest new math fad is incalculable.