Big name Republicans giving their full-throated support to the Obama Administration’s Common Core education reforms don’t dwell too much on what they are. They don’t look good in close-up.

“Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in math were developed to address the criticism that national math curriculums were ‘a mile wide and an inch deep,’” Sarah Perry writes in a Family Research Council (FRC) issue brief. “The drafters sought to develop more focus and coherence through the standards, with the belief that those students who can explain mathematical rules would have a better chance at succeeding in less familiar mathematical tasks.”

They picked an odd way of doing it. “The CCSS cover fewer topics than those covered by traditional math materials, and eliminate topics such as pre-calculus and most aspects of trigonometry,” Perry relates. “CCSS also eliminate concepts traditionally associated with algebra II and geometry, such as complex numbers, vectors, polynomials, logarithms, logarithmic and exponential functions, the Binomial Theorem, composite and inverse functions, matrices, ellipses, hyperbolae, the derivation of area of general triangles, and the concept of ‘pi.’”

Moreover, where yesterday’s standards are actually better than today’s, guess what’s being jettisoned? “Trevor Packer, Senior Vice President at the College Board and in charge of its Advanced Placement (AP) program, speaking at the 2013 annual conference of School Superintendents Association (AASA), relatedly noted that the Common Core is less rigorous than what high schools routinely teach today and, consequently, the College Board is considering eliminating AP calculus,” Perry reports.

The crowning irony is that the goal of Common Core—preparing students for college, careers and international competition—is more likely to be out of reach with the CCSS in place. “Jonathan Goodman, a professor of mathematics at New York University has stated that the ‘college-ready’ standards of the CCSS fall below the admission requirements of most 4-year state colleges, and that the CCSS ‘[have] significantly lower expectations with respect to algebra and geometry than the published standards of other countries,’” Perry notes. “Illustratively, the CCSS defer the teaching of algebra from 8^{th} grade to high school, thereby reversing the 2008 recommendations of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, and putting the U.S. one to two years behind the math practices of higher performing nations.”

“The standards also make puzzling omissions of geometry basics, instead relying on an experimental approach that uses the basis of rigid motions and is internationally untested. All this follows on the heels of a dogmatic opposition to teaching computation skills until the later elementary grades. William Schmidt of Michigan State, has found that ‘internationally, the focus of eighth grade for all students in virtually all of the TIMSS [Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study] countries-except the United States-is algebra and geometry.’”

July 1, 2014 7:34 pm

Where do you get your ‘experts’? To start, Sarah Perry is completely wrong about what Common Core standards omit. She writes, for instance, that they eliminate polynomials. In fact, there’s a whole section on polynomials. Download the math standards, search for the ‘omitted’ terms, and you’ll discover how inaccurate her characterization is.

The CCSS for math are superior to most previous state standards (better than 90% of them, according to CCSS’ most strident CRITIC James Milgram). Every major professional math organization supports them.

Perry misrepresents Trevor Packer’s comments on Common Core. “We’re really excited that the Common Core standards ask teachers to do a few things very well,” he actually writes. “The work that is happening in the Common Core will help students prepare for what they’re going to encounter in these re-designed AP courses.” His point is about alignment, not about rigor (a word he never uses).

My school’s curriculum culminates in a mandatory Calculus/AP Calculus course in the senior year, a course for which CC-aligned courses are excellent preparation. It is widely understood that students intending to have a STEM major, or to attend the most selective colleges, will take higher-level math courses at their high school. Nothing new here with Common Core.

Accuracy in Academia? Not even close.

July 2, 2014 9:18 am

Tom, can you say what you find objectionable in my post? I assume you are responding to my post since you replied to it. Factual would be good, and not merely a rant. Your reply would be fine for Breitbart, but I hope not for a site by and about academics.

July 2, 2014 11:02 pm

Since you have been posting pro-Common Core statements for months now, there shouldn’t be any obvious mistakes. The math teachers around where I live have been to meetings stating their displeasure with Common Core, and have a different point of view than you. Anyone can google common core standards. org and find the general outline. The general outline is not what has people so upset, although it shows how something very simple, like teaching math to first graders can be made very into something very complicated, and for no reason whatsoever.

July 2, 2016 10:33 am

And your last sentence is what is wrong with early math education in the US…..”how something very simple, like teaching math to first graders….” Teaching math to first graders is MUCH harder than most non-math education specialists think or at least it SHOULD be. Early math education lays the foundation for all the math learning that comes after. If done correctly, with lots of hands-on manipulative use and lots of teacher-student discussions about connections and misconceptions, the higher math levels can be taught more quickly and thoroughly rather than constantly having to go back to reteach or unteach. If taught “how it has always been taught” using “the good old-fashioned way”, the non-“CC way”, we can expect to continue with the decades long 50% failure rate in algebra, and the continued decline in non-required math courses taken by high schoolers.