Experts Agree: Common Core Helps Students Build a Strong Understanding of Math

A report by the American Principles Project argues that Common Core State Standards blur “the line of distinction between standard and curriculum” and offer no evidence they will improve students’ understanding of math. “Analysis of the standards provides no compelling evidence that excellence in understanding or applying mathematics will be attained,” the authors assert.

Educators disagree with those claims. Last year 21 State Teachers of the Year wrote: “The Common Core is not a federal takeover of our schools, nor does it force teachers into a rigid model for classroom instructionIn fact, under the common core, teachers have greater flexibility to design their classroom lessons—and can, for the first time, take advantage of the best practices from great teachers in other states.” (Emphasis added)

It’s important to note that only one of the two authors of the report has any classroom teaching experience. Meanwhile, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics – an organization made up entirely of educators with experience teaching math in the classroom – is fully supportive of the Common Core math standards. NCTM notes, “When properly implemented, the Common State Standards will support all students’ access to, and success in, high-quality mathematics programs. Such programs lead to knowledge of mathematics content and reasoning skills that enable students to apply mathematics effectively in a myriad of careers and in everyday life.”

Objective analysis has repeatedly rejected claims that Common Core State Standards push particular ideologies on students and teachers. “Decisions about curriculum lie where they did before Common Core: with state and local education officials,” a fact-check by PolitiFact in 2013 notes. Chester Finn of the Fordham Institute adds, “[Common Core] describes a destination—again, voluntary for states—not the means of getting there.”

A math check by the Collaborative for Student Success explains the changes to math instruction happening as schools implement Common Core State Standards is designed to help more students grasp math skills. “It’s important for kids to learn multiple approaches to solving math problems so that they can choose the approach that works best for them and so that they develop a full understanding of the concepts before they move on to more challenging levels.”

Jason Zimba, a lead writer of the Common Core math standards, also points out that the Common Core requires students to know traditional problem-solving techniques. “Students are expected to know their sums and products from memory and to be fluent with the standard algorithm for each of the four basic operations (the traditional ‘carry’ method, in the case of addition),” Zimba wrote last month.

To encourage parents to help their children tackle math learning, the Collaborative for Student Success launched a pledge to support their child’s math education. We invite parents to sign it. While these new approaches may be unfamiliar to many parents, we have an opportunity to help our children grow.