# Deeper Understanding in Common Core Math Not True

The talking points of Common Core supporters have worn thin. Many have been blasted out of the water, but if you are still thinking about diving head first into using the standards, remember this image.

Professor emerita of mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley Martina Ratner wrote an op ed in the Wall Street Journal about her experience with the CC standards in California. Spoiler alert – it was not glowing.

She has the credentials to take on the standards themselves and pick apart their weaknesses. In particular she writes about the false claim that the standards are more “rigorous” and require “deeper thinking.”

It became clear to me that the Common Core’s “deeper” and “more rigorous” standards mean replacing math with some kind of illustrative counting saturated with pictures, diagrams and elaborate word problems. Simple concepts are made artificially intricate and complex with the pretense of being deeper—while the actual content taught was primitive.

Ratner provides examples from the standards themselves to illustrate this problem and examples of how this is playing out in her grandchild’s classroom.

“The students were constantly told to draw models to answer trivial questions, such as finding 20% of 80 or finding the time for a car to drive 10 miles if it drives 4 miles in 10 minutes, or finding the number of benches one can make from 48 feet of wood if each bench requires 6 feet. A student who gives the correct answer right away (as one should) and doesn’t draw anything loses points.”

Here is an example from the Engage New York math curriculum, developed to align with the Common Core standards, to show that the problem is not confined to California. FYI – some school districts in Missouri are using the Engage NY curriculum in their schools.

Note that it uses pictures to illustrate the concept of subtraction, which is fine, but it sticks with this method of teaching by requiring the students to now do the drawing. Questions 14-16 ask them to “Make a math drawing.” This student lost points for those questions because he didn’t feel like drawing when he already got the standard algorithms above correct. This focus on drawing to supposedly show the “deeper understanding” does not go away. Ratner’s grandson spent an entire year doing this drawing which cut into time that could have been used to teach other concepts like geometry. But then again we are also promised the standards are “fewer” and now we know why.

Ratner rejects the claim that CC are just standards and don’t tell teachers how to teach. As we repeat every time that statement is made by a CC proponent, if phrases like this are used IN the standard for fractions “e.g., by using visual fraction models and equations to represent the problem. For example, create a story context for 2/3 divided by 3/4 and use a visual fraction model to show the quotient . . .” then clearly students are going to be expected to use visual models for math and teachers will be required to teach them how to do this, even if doing so is not absolutely necessary to master the specific concept being taught.

Ratner predicts that “The Common Core standards will move the U.S. even closer to the bottom in international ranking,” despite the fact that one reason they are promoted is to make U.S. students more competitive on international tests.

There are now several good reviews of the CC math standards and almost all of them find the standards lacking.

- www.educationnews.org/ed_reports/94979.html
- J. Goodman, Courant Institute 2010
- Stotsky & Wurman, Pioneer Institute 2010
- R.J. Milgram for the Stanford California Academic Content Standards Commission 2010
- A.C. Porter el al University of Pennsylvania 2011
- Schmidt & Houang Michigan State University 2012

This would be good review for folks who wish to attend a moderated discussion between James Schuls of Show Me Institute and Barbara Reys of the University of Missouri Columbia on September 8th in Columbia on the Common Core Standards. Unfortunately it is on a Monday so k-12 teachers and probably many in higher ed as well won’t be able to attend. Check into Dr. Rey’s background. She led the effort to write the Missouri Math Standards that Fordham rated a D. She is a Pearson Learning author. Knowing who she is can help make sense of Ratner’s comment.

I found hardly any academic mathematicians who could say the standards were higher than the old California standards, which were among the nation’s best.

A phrase that should be remembered when the Missouri Standards Work Groups dive into developing Missouri Show Me Math standards. Common Core is for those who want to wade into the shallow end first. If you want to be able to dive deep, consider other standards like California, Indiana or Massachusetts pre-CC first.

This is a perfect example of confusing knowledge, wisdom, intelligence, purpose and politics. It is unlikely that the vast majority of academia could fail to grasp the points made in this article. But apparently enough of the academics are so engrossed at looking at their reflection in the pool of what they think is knowledge that they cannot deduce that they are but useful idiots in BigED’s plot with Big Gov and Big Crony to befuddle and beguile the American public with their oh-so-necessary dreams and schemes.

To wit: Where was it proposed in the very first place that the Chinese, or the Hindis, or anyone else had a “deeper understanding” of math concepts than American kids? It was not, as far as I recall. It was merely that 2+2 had not been sufficiently drilled into their little heads so that upon matriculation they didn’t know and didn’t care, enough of them at least. So whatever the measurements were at the time, and correct me if I’m wrong but they weren’t measurements of “deep understanding” but measurements of competency, American kids could be demonstrated to be “lagging”.

So how difficult is it to ask the question “Why then the emphasis on bringing out the “deep understanding” genius factor? Are we short on theoreticians? No, we’re actually not even all that short on mathematicians, according to one of the leading practitioners of that art (starts with a G; won’t come to mind right now.) What we need is number crunchers who can grow up to use calculators to do the crunching for them.

And thus what is really needed is logicians in academia to step forward and put the lie to all this crapola. WE have a few, but just as in the global warming scam, too many are dependent on Big Gov for the grants and bennies and we, the folk, suffer.

My grandson will start third grade in a few weeks, he hates school so much because of common core. In second grade his homework in math was drawing a lot of boxes and other things, and almost every paper had “test prep” on it. He learned nothing that I can see in second grade, except to hate school, hate math and hate learning. Thank you so much for trying to stop this invasion of our schools. Praying for all our children.

Rosie, I’m so sorry for your grandson. See my story below.

Best, Sandra

My teen son struggled (Fs) through the class. Then passed after taking them a second time. My son hates school so much because of this one subject. He took to just ditching it, because he knew that the time with the tutor is better spent. I dropped $1000 in 4 months on a tutor, PhD, College professor, High School teacher, who said, “stupid… ridiculous… you would never see a problem like this in real life.” The tutor said he had grasped the concepts, but he kept failing the tests, because the questions are overly complex and requiring entirely too much graphing. There is a standard track in our school district for the “advanced” students and there is the common core track for “not advanced” student. My kid is a “not advanced” student and now he gets to compete to get into college with the kids who are in the less complex, more straight forward standard track. I met with the Math Dept chair in my son’s high school and found out that typical A students are pulling Cs and that most kids, even the best students, are getting Bs or less, so they are having to grade on a curve (adjusting grades up to 11%). Seriously? This is broken and needs to be fixed.