Don’t Blame Common Core State Standards for Confusing Math Problems


A video by the Independent Journal Review shows four adults struggling to make sense of a confusing math problem allegedly aligned to Common Core State Standards. “What I’ve heard about Common Core is that adults can’t do it,” one man says at the outset. Another participant concludes, “I wouldn’t teach [students] with this.”

There are many examples of confusing homework problems that opponents have used to criticize instructional changes happening as schools implement the math standards. In a recent Salon Magazine article high school math teacher James Goodman went through a number Common Core math posts shared widely by disgruntled parents on the internet. He explains that some examples are instances of real, valuable skills being taught and others are local implementation problems not necessarily related to the Common Core math standards.

As former Alabama Governor Bob Riley points out, parents’ concerns should be directed at local school boards, which make curricula and material decisions, not at the standards themselves.

“The decision to use my grandson’s textbook was not made by some central federal entity that dictates what our children and grandchildren read,” Riley wrote last year. “If an Alabama parent or group of parents has an issue with a specific book in their local school, they do not have to lobby Washington for change. They don’t even have to call Montgomery. All they have to do is tell their concerns to the local school administration.”

Likewise, former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett wrote last year that accusations about the Common Core, like those made using puzzling homework questions, have “obscured” honest debate. “As is often the case, sensational, even if false, news stories attract far more attention than nuanced policy debates… It is time for integrity and truth in this debate. The issue of honest standards of learning for our children is too important to be buried in an avalanche of misinformation and demonization.”

If you have questions about your child’s math homework, ask the teacher! Or visit resources like