Some Thoughts on the Common Core State Standards

The #CCSS promote flexible/critical thinking. But how they're written tempt you to "check the boxes." #mathchatI’ve been waist deep in K-5 Common Core State Standards for a year now. Building a parent involvement site to be aligned with CCSS will do that to you.

So I’m pretty well qualified to share some thoughts on the Common Core.

What are the Common Core State Standards?

The CCSS in math are a set of standards that outline what prepared students know, do or understand in math.

In 2009 by the National Governors Association hired Student Achievement Partners to write the CCSS. It appears they’re research based and the writers “collaborated with teachers, researchers, and leading experts” to create the standards. (ref)

What do I think about the CCSS?

As a whole, the Common Core State Standards promote flexible, novel and critical thinking. But the way they’re presented lead educators to want to play “check the boxes” with them.

The language and sentence structure used to express the standards tend to be confusing and verbose – just the opposite of the (assumed) intention of the writers.

When reading through the CCSS, I find myself looking terms up, thinking about possible meanings and struggling through what they really mean.

Why are the CCSS good?

The Standards for Mathematical Practices are pretty awesome. (But those are just the first and smallest part of the math CCSS.) They say that prepared students think, imagine, create and reason. They say students should be flexible in their thinking, try various ways to solve problems and question the right answers.

I couldn’t have written a better treatise on what math students should look like.


What’s wrong with the Common Core State Standards?

The rest of the standards look like a checkbox outline. If you understand the CCSS to be guidelines, this isn’t a problem. But most people don’t.

And the wording of the content standards can be a little… out of hand.

For example:

Find whole-number quotients and remainders with up to four-digit dividends and one-digit divisors, using strategies based on place value, the properties of operations, and/or the relationship between multiplication and division. Illustrate and explain the calculation by using equations, rectangular arrays, and/or area models. CCSS 4.NBT.B.6

That’s one standard. One.

But again, if you go with the “guidelines” and not checkboxes viewpoint, this might not be bad. But some of these standards gets really verbose and confusing.

What do you think?

I love the idea of thinking instead of memorizing. But I can see how the list of standards can be overwhelming.

What do you think? Do you love the Common Core? Hate it? Are you frustrated, excited or ambivalent?

And how does it impact your teaching?

Share your thoughts in the comments and tweet it out!


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4 Responses to Some Thoughts on the Common Core State Standards

  1. I am old. 64 years old. I have seen an awful lot of education or the lack of it, in my time. my own, my son’s, my daughter-in-law’s, my grand daughter who is homeschooled… one thing has remained the same through out and that is people talking over other people’s heads. if what is truly wanted here in this “common core change for the better”, is a real education for ALL children and to me after all these years that means teaching children to learn how to learn, then might it not make sense to put any new rules into language that is simple enough for all of us to understand? now I love a big high fallutin’ word as well as the next person. they can be fun and once in a while even useful. but when we are talking about educating OUR children.. ALL of OUR children, then it is about time the educators in this country came down off their high horses and addressed these issues and printed the rules that are supposed to be for the good of ALL OUR children in a language that the general public has a better chance of understanding. after all the parents of today’s students were students themselves not long ago. they should all have had enough education to read and write at a basic level. being educators, the people who are producing the common core rules ought to know what that basic level is and speak to it. that way pretty much anyone can see for themselves what their child should be learning. they should not have to spend hour upon hour referring to a dictionary. then if they are really lucky and finally guess correctly they might get the right meaning correct . right now the “educatoreze” that is being used is not appropriate. if I have still not made myself clear, it means that people who are working with the general public and their children for the good of all really should know better than to talk/write over the heads of the very people these “common core rules” are supposed to be helping. it is a darned shame that this is supposed to be a major change in how education works. yet it is still couched in the mystique of a language most people (parents) who need to know how the changes concern them cannot understand without a translator….just a thought I have had running around my head for the last 15 years….nothing new here. same old same old…

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Nancy. You make a great point!

      They don’t seem to be connecting with the audience for whom they are writing – and it’s because of the complexity of their writing.

  2. My wife and I homeschool our two boys ( Grade 2 & 4). I generally teach the math and science portions of their curriculum. I’ve been using various math curriculum products over the years. Recently, I stumbled across TenMarks. Since “word problems” are generally where my boys stuble, I thought TenMarks would be a good way to challenge them.

    We started with TenMarks a few days ago. Overall I like it quite a bit. However, it conforms to the Common Core Math standards. So … It uses lots of big words. In the first assignment I gave my second grader he wathced a helper video for the assignment. It babbled on and on about minuends, addends, etc. I’ve taught my son all of those terms. However, the video threw so many out it was like operand salad. My son turned to me and said, “this video is useless to me.” So it was.

    Funnily enough, after a barrage of mathematical terms, the questions say, “Write an addition sentence…”. Addition sentence? Really? After throwing all those terms in a 7 year old’s face they can’t use the term “equation”? I will stick with TenMarks for now. I think it is very useful as a teaching aid.

    The CCSS has some good aspects to it. However, as with any standard created by a government body or for a government, it is too verbose and speaks over the heads its intended audience.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Justin. That is kinda weird.

      I had to look up summand, addend and minuend too! Nobody I’ve ever known uses those. Quotient, product and sum, yes. But the bits to get you there? Nope.

      I’m glad you’re able to use it as a teaching tool in some way, though. Very clever of you!

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