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Math Plus Academy, “Here’s Why Math Is Taught Differently Now”: Some parents’ criticisms of Common Core math techniques are continuing to draw attention, including a recent viral post in which an Ohio father wrote a check to his son’s school made out “using Common Core numbers.” But Raj Shah, founder of Math Plus Academy, explains the purpose behind the shift to new problem-solving methods in this helpful video. “Teaching people just to memorize algorithms and execute procedures hasn’t worked,” Shah says. “We didn’t teach kids how to think, we just taught them how to do.” Using some examples, Shah explains how new strategies push students to “think and understand” the mechanics behind numbers and functions, developing stronger building blocks for higher level content. Research shows that a conceptual understanding empowers students to tackle more difficult problems and explain their reasoning. Parents’ frustration with new techniques “proves the point” that old models of instruction limited “flexible thinking.” “Teaching math this way can bring back a lot of the fun mathematics,” Shah concludes. “By and large, the goal is to help [students] to understand…and create a better mindset for mathematics.”

What It Means: Common Core State Standards encourage the use of multiple approaches to learning math. While some of the approaches may be foreign to adults who learned under old models, they are intended to help students build a stronger conceptual understanding of numbers and functions. In addition to traditional problem-solving methods, like memorization and algorithms, Common Core math introduces students to a range of techniques intended to build fundamental skills. It isn’t “fuzzy math,” as critics allege. Jason Zimba, one of the lead writers of the Common Core math standards, explains that, under Common Core, students are learning concepts “at the proper time, instead of everything being done at once,” in order to develop strong building blocks for higher level material. Parents who want to learn more about changes happening in their kids classroom should check out


Correcting the Record:

Merced Sun-Star, “Common Core Leaves Significant Gaps in Math”: Common Core Standards threaten to exacerbate “class differences” in education, making “an already bad situation worse,” writes Barbara Riis-Christensen, local chairperson of the group “Unveiling Common Core.” “No set of grade-specific standards can fully reflect the great variety in abilities, needs, learning rates and achievement levels of students in any given classroom,” the piece states. Citing James Milgram, an outspoken critic of the Common Core, Riis-Christensen says the math standards leave students years behind those in most high-achieving countries by seventh grade. Using a sample question that asks students to use a base-ten system, Riis-Christensen asks, “Does teaching this way make sense?” “Business and government are now the customers for education. If what we’re doing in the classroom is designed to benefit them rather than the child sitting at the desk, can we really call that education,” the piece concludes. “Education has become a business.”

Where They Went Wrong: By setting high, consistent learning goals for all students, Common Core Standards ensure more children will get and stay on a path of college- and career-readiness, regardless of their social and economic circumstances. In addition to traditional learning techniques, the standards emphasize conceptual understanding to help students develop stronger building blocks necessary to tackle higher level material. Contrary to Riis-Christensen’s claim that the standards are the product of big business or big government, implementation efforts are being led at the state and local level. After two national elections, all but one of the 45 states to initially adopt the Common Core continue to implement the standards or a nearly identical set of learning goals.


On Our Reading List:

Columbus Dispatch, “Critics: Ohio’s Student Testing Ratings Will Be Confusing”: Ohio education officials’ decision to set proficiency benchmarks at levels that include a higher percentage of students than the benchmarks recommended by PARCC could paint a misleading picture for parents, some experts say. “It’s going to be confusing,” says Aaron Churchill, Ohio research director for the Fordham Institute. “Proficiency won’t have much to do with college and career readiness.” The article cites a recent memo in which Karen Nussle says, “The discrepancy suggests that Ohio has set the proficiency bar too low and undermines the promise of ensuring kids are on track for college and career…Ohio parents deserve an honest assessment of student proficiency. ‘Local control’ cannot become a fig leaf that covers up a dumbing down of the system in order to make policymakers look good at the expense of kids.”

EdSource, “Achievement Gap Points to Ineffectiveness of Decades of Reforms”: Achievement gaps illuminated by results from California’s Smarter Balanced assessments this year “point to the ineffectiveness of reforms over the past 15 years,” writes Louis Freedberg, EdSource’s executive director. “The last time there was a substantial narrowing of the gap in the U.S. was from the 1970s to the late 1980s,” Freedberg says. Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the Learning Policy Institute, explains that “test-based accountability” reforms emphasized “tests of low-level skills,” driving schools to teach to lower expectations. “As a result, the curriculum divide grew wider between those schools that were teaching for higher-order skills and those drilling kids on lower-order skills,” Darling-Hammond says. Experts agree states like California are moving in the right direction. While it’s unclear if Common Core Standards will succeed where other reform efforts failed, setting consistently high academic expectations will help kids in disadvantaged schools get to the same level as those in advantaged schools, says Sean Reardon, a professor at Stanford’s School of Education.

Associated Press, “Oklahoma Lawmakers to Begin Study of Education Practices”: The Oklahoma House Common Education Committee announced Tuesday it will launch a two-day study of the state’s education practices, including preparations to implement its new education standards developed after lawmakers repealed the Common Core last year. The new standards are to be implemented by the 2016-17 school year.

Southern Maryland Online, “Md.’s First Common Core PARCC Exam Scores to Be Released in Late Fall”: Maryland’s Board of Education confirmed Tuesday the state will release results from the inaugural round of tests aligned to Common Core Standards in late October and early December. The Board plans to release and discuss the scores at its next two monthly meetings, held on October 27 and December 8. High school students are scheduled to receive take-home reports on November 3, while elementary and middle-school students are expected to receive their results on November 30.