Home » Common Core » A Fourth Grade CCSS Aligned Math Problem in 108 Steps

A Fourth Grade CCSS Aligned Math Problem in 108 Steps

4th grade CCSS math problem

Can you guess what 4th grade math problem this is solving?


This Arkansas mom explains to the Arkansas State School Board how a math problem is solved in Fourth grade CCSS aligned curriculum:



I have a Math question for you board members, are you ready?  Get your pencils out.  I’m not kidding.  Are you smarter than a Common Core fourth grader?  Let’s find out.  The problem is:  Mr. Yamato’s class has 18 students.  If a class counts around by a number, and it ends with 90, what number did they count by?  I’ll restate the problem.  If a class counts around by a number, and it ends with 90, what number did they count by?

Does anyone on the Board have an answer?  (Board member says “5”).  That’s right!  And may I ask, Madam, how did you come up with that answer?  (Board member says she divides 18 into 90 and comes up with the answer “5”).  You know why?  Because that’s what makes sense, right?  That’s the way we were taught to do it at the fourth grade level.

This (holds up worksheet), however, is what the Common Core expects our fourth graders to do.  If they solve it in those two steps they get it marked wrong.  They are expected to draw 18 circles with 90 hash marks in exactly 108 steps.  Board members, this is not rigorous.  This is not college ready.  This is not preparing our children to work in a global economy.  Skipping rote memorization tables of multiplication tables is hindering their ability to master long division and fractions later on in the semester.

Now our children who were testing in the 80th or higher percentile in math last year are now coming home with Cs, Ds and Fs on their report cards.  Not because as Arne Duncan would put it, “it’s the white suburban mothers who think their children aren’t as brilliant as they thought they were”, but because….(interrupted by Board member for time)…thank you.

I encourage you to listen to us when we send you our emails despite the comments that were made by our Chairperson here today.  Our concerns are not based on hysteria or propaganda, they are based on fact and we are prepared to present those facts.

Can you see the trembling in my voice?  Parents have not had a voice here and you need to listen to our concerns.  We are moving forward with our legislature to make some very serious changes to this and all I ask is you bend your ear and take us seriously.  We are college educated parents and I come to you with 12 years of college education and a former member of the National Honor Society when I tell you this is not working.  It’s not what they told you it would be.  We will save the privacy concerns and our testing concerns for our legislature.  But when it comes to standards, that’s your ball  court, and we need you to help us with this, because this is dumbing our children down.  Thank you.


There is no video I could find showing the Chairman of the Board’s comment that the mom referenced.  The State Board Chairman is Brenda Gullett.  From the Arkansas State Board of Education website:

Brenda Gullett, a former state legislator, wants the State Board to do everything it can to “support and empower” schools as they implement the Common Core standards. “I believe that this board has taken tough stands to resist educational options that would not be in the best interest of the students,” Gullett says. “I am very proud of that.”








Gullett belongs to the National Association of School Boards (NASBE) and has been involved with the National Governor’s Association (NGA) in its support of the CCSS Initiative.  She was a moderator at a NASBE conference with attendees including Linda Darling-Hammond, David Coleman, and Missouri President of the State School Board, Peter Herschend.  The sessions were sponsored by such organizations such as:

  • AdvanceED
  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • The Wallace Foundation
  • Mylan
  • The College Board
  • ACT
  • Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt
  • Wireless Generation
  • Pearson Foundation
  • CTB/McGraw-Hill

Could an Arkansas citizen obtain the video or transcript with Ms. Gullett stating that CCSS concerns are based on hysteria or propaganda? This mom shows what CCSS looks like implemented in 4th grade math.  It doesn’t look hysterical or like propaganda to me, does it to you?

Is Ms. Gullett relying on propaganda when she states her support of the standards?  Where is the research and data on which she bases her support of the corporate push of the standards?  Can she prove that the math problem the mom referenced is developmentally appropriate, ensure college readiness (for a 4 year university) and prepare kids for a global workforce?  Where is her data proving those claims?


Share This:

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS
  • Google Plus


Our comments are moderated. Please keep comments civil and on topic. Occasionally thoughtful but lengthy comments get caught in our spam filters and may take longer to post.

8 Responses to A Fourth Grade CCSS Aligned Math Problem in 108 Steps

  1. Bruce Dunn

    December 17, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    I am so happy that our “progress” in education has brought us to the level of math where counting on the fingers is celebrated. The fact is that math facts make all of these little cute tricks a waste of time.

  2. Concerned

    December 17, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    The quote about white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were comes from Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education.

    • Lucian

      December 17, 2013 at 8:22 pm

      It clearly states that in the article. But thanks.

  3. Jennifer

    December 17, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    I’m from Arkansas, and I’ve read some of Brenda Gullett’s emails. She does say that all the hype against Common Core is just from propaganda.

    Several in my group have emailed the state school board and the governor’s office and gotten an identical response from Ms. Gullett, which was copied and pasted from the Common Core website. You know, Common Core is just standards, state-led, blah, blah, blah.

    I haven’t seen a video of her response to the math question yet.

  4. Jan Woods

    December 17, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    The comment from the board member that we can’t hear, I believe, was just a reminder that the speaker’s alotted time to speak–3 min.– was up. Good video. Credible evidence of the “dumbing down” that is Common Core.

  5. Shannon Harvey

    December 18, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Here’s a link to the meeting. Hope this helps. You can watch the video. I didn’t have time to watch the whole thing to find the comments you were looking for.


  6. James Dunning

    December 21, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    I avoid snarky as much as possible online, but this speech and the supportive reactions to its viral social media slog really beg me to ask of its author—

    “Do you think you can get a refund for the cost of that 12 years of college education you say you’ve got? Because your confusion about things learning—as evidenced by your speech—pretty much contradict your claims that the downward spiral of public education will begin with Common Core (and not earlier).”

    Don’t get me wrong: I am against the current deployment of Common Core standards throughout public education for reasons of morality and utility.

    Which is why I blench when I see opponents ineptly attempt to counter it with misguided and irrelevant arguments which only seek to perpetuate a status quo in much need of improvement.

    This Arkansas parent (fairly eloquently) protests Common Core based on her assertion that a 4th grade math lesson requires students to utilize 108 steps to solve a division problem:

    “I have a Math question for you board members, are you ready? Get your pencils out. I’m not kidding. Are you smarter than a Common Core fourth grader? Let’s find out. The problem is: Mr. Yamato’s class has 18 students. If a class counts around by a number, and it ends with 90, what number did they count by? I’ll restate the problem. If a class counts around by a number, and it ends with 90, what number did they count by?

    “Does anyone on the Board have an answer? (A board member says ‘5’). That’s right! And may I ask, Madam, how did you come up with that answer? (The board member says she divides 18 into 90 and comes up with the answer ‘5’). You know why? Because that’s what makes sense, right? That’s the way we were taught to do it at the fourth grade level.”

    Wait! One-hundred-and-eight steps to “solve” this problem! What the hell is she talking about?

    Then it struck me that Ms. Lamoreaux is confusing the learning process with the algorithm used to solve such problems: the students aren’t taking 108 steps to solve this straightforward division process (straightforward, at least, to we adults); they are engaging in a process that uses 108 pencil marks on paper to understand the concept of division of large numbers, or, rather, sharing, which is what the lesson is about.

    This methodology is no different than using the example of dividing a pizza four ways to understand division and fractions, something every math teacher does; in this case, we’re just using a much larger pizza to demonstrate that division also works on “large” numbers as well.

    While she claims Common Core is “dumbing” down our children, I have to wonder how her “12 years of post-secondary education and once being in NHS,” fails her when it comes to seeing the difference between the number of steps it takes to learn and understand a concept and the number of steps we use in the algorithm when solving the problem on the page or the office computer.

    Either this mom is intentionally misrepresenting the Common Core lesson to further her agenda or she is ignorant of the learning process. Either way, she needs to get out of the way of those who can competently debate the pros and cons of education policy and practice.

  7. David Johnson

    May 15, 2014 at 10:06 am

    Thanks James. I don’t think that the common core was done well. I also understand that most people do not understand math well enough to make a proper critique. People keep saying that it was find the old way. The same people who do not like that their children can never get algebra and joke about it as if it were mystical. The common core’s goal is algebraic in focus. The reason you don’t just teach a kid 90/18=5 is simple if you 1) understand math having taking advanced level math and 2) having taught in public schools. I am not sure how many have done those but I have. It is not a perfect system but here is the thing. A kid who can quickly tell you that 90/18=5 can be very inept when asked years later (15+x)/18=5 what is x. The answer is quite simple when you really understand division. But most kids do not. So the algebra teacher spends a lot of time teaching “the simple” “straight forward” way of solving said problem. Then student gets to Calculus and has no clue what is going on. Because at no point along the way did she or he have to understand math. Just because some people are good at it and figure it out, does not mean all will. I did not understand that we have a base ten numeric system until I was in second grade and my dad challenged me to count to a thousand. That was a 1,000 step math problem, how dare he!!! Oh but then I went on to be a pretty good math student the rest of my life. Sometimes you need a lot of steps to understand. It is that simple.

    Also, the old way was not develop by teachers and NCLB was just as impractical and money driven as this system is. Stop acting like your political rivals are the only ones influenced by the wealthy and powerful. Everyone is. The old way has been complained about by the national council of teachers of mathematics for years, at least for Texas standards. Because no one is asking mathematicians everyone thinks it should be common sense as if they understand math and then will wonder why their children are as equally inept at math as they are.

    I understand that you will hate this and call me a fascist or Obama lover, or idiot. You will nitpick the grammatical mistakes to prove said argument. But I hope that you will make better arguments in the future instead of just relying on tired arguments and character attacks. I believe you all are concerned intelligent people. Let’s work together to get at the better solution and not cling to the old way.