Common Core Math is not rigorous, it is just ridiculous

“In politics, stupidity is not a handicap.” — Napoleon Bonaparte

One wonders if the supporters of Common Core have ever opened a CC-aligned textbook. The math textbooks, curriculum, and homework are so bad that they will leave most kids math-challenged their entire lives.

Can you solve 8+6? Most of us would instantly answer 14 because we learned how to add the traditional way. In Common Core Math, kids are taught to “Make a 10” by adding 2 to the 8, then subtracting 2 from the 6 to get 4, then adding 10 plus 4 to get 14. They are taught to go through three separate steps, including subtraction, to “solve” a very simple addition.

“Making a 10” is just one of the ways Common Core teaches kids to do addition. In 2nd grade, they are taught doubles and “double plus 1”. They are taught that 7+7 is 14, 8+8 is 16, etc. Then they are asked to “solve” 7+8 and explain their result. Well, 8 is 7 plus 1, so now we have 7+7 plus 1. They know that 7+7 is 14, so 1 more makes 15. Let’s see. They are taught 7+7, and 8+8, but they are not taught 7+8; they have to “solve” to get that answer.

When adding two numbers there is no mathematical reason to set an intermediate goal of making a 10, pausing to figure out how much more to add, then finally reaching the right answer. The only reason to pause at 10 is because we have 10 fingers. The authors of common core actually invite students to count on their fingers. “They learn to replace counting the dots by tracking the count on their fingers to find the solution.”

The Common Core Math lessons invite kids to count on their fingers even as far as 4th grade. Is it any wonder that many teenagers and even adults do simple arithmetic on their fingers? Wouldn’t it be better to discourage, not encourage, kids from counting on their fingers?

In 3rd grade, instead of using a “doubles fact” they learned in 2nd grade that 7+7 is 14, they are told to “solve” 7+7 by “decomposing” the second 7 into 3+4, then adding the 3 to the first 7, yielding 10, then adding 4 to get the answer.

Early on, kids are taught to draw a small circle or dot to represent a unit, then a vertical line to represent ten units. They add numbers by counting the dots. If there are more than 10, they draw a new line. That is a good way to explain the concept of addition and place values, but once students understand the concept, they should practice only with digits. Common Core continues those drawings even into 4th grade.

In some textbooks, kids are taught to draw a square to represent a hundred, and a cube for a thousand. To add three numbers they would draw a bunch of cubes, squares, lines, and dots. They would add up all the dots, then combine some of them into a new line, add the lines, drawing a new square, and so on. Then they would convert all these drawings back into digits. A popular video on the web shows a 3rd grader taking 8 minutes to add three numbers – getting the wrong answer. Then she solves it the way her mom taught her in about 10 seconds – correctly.

And then there is the “arrow way”, yet another way Common Core teaches arithmetic. No, it is not worth describing; it is just one more technique they will never use in real life. So, we have at least four ways to do addition: counting dots and drawing lines, making a 10, doubles and doubles plus 1, and the arrow way.

Is it any wonder kids are confused? Not only are they are taught multiple ways to reach an answer, the right way one year can be the wrong way the next. A Manchester father told of his 3rd grade daughter coming home in tears because she was penalized for correctly answering a problem using the way she was taught in 2nd grade instead of the new way.

Through grades 1, 2, and 3, students are barely taught the standard way for addition: add the ones, carry to the tens, add the tens, carry to the hundreds, and so on. Not until grade 4 does the Common Core Standard expect students to become fluent with the standard algorithm for addition and subtraction. They should have become fluent in 2nd grade.

Supporters claim that having to memorize all the one-digit sums is somehow bad. But they have the kids memorize all those that add up to 10 or less, and all the “doubles”, and then learn four useless ways to add. Wouldn’t it be better to have kids learn useful facts instead of useless ways to do arithmetic?

Kids learn differently, it is true. But math fluency is foundational, built brick by brick with repeatable processes (algorithms) and practice. While some kids will learn arithmetic in spite of Common Core, we do them no favors by insisting that they solve 7+8 by decomposing 7 to 5+2, adding 2+8 to make a 10, then adding 5+10 to make 15.

Why Not Common Core?

Extracts from an interesting article by Barbara Haney, PhD.:

If the objective of the K-12 education system in Alaska is to produce students who can excel in the areas of math and science, the Alaska State Standards and the Common Core will not produce that result. These standards are not more rigorous, they are simply ridiculous. They are developmentally inappropriate and do not specify outcomes. Standards specify outcomes, not processes. With rare exceptions, the Alaska State Standards and the Common Core specify processes, not outcomes.
It is noteworthy that states have been fleeing the consortia and the common core. Michigan has paused and is re-writing their standards. Massachusetts has paused implementation. Maine and Florida left the consortia via executive order and they are fighting to get the common core out of their state with the assistance of both the governor and the legislature. Georgia left the consortia and is re-writing their standards. Alabama and Utah left the consortia, and there are active movements to get the common core out of that state. Pennsylvania has an effort to rescind the core as well, because oil companies like Exxon and Anadarko have thrown considerable support behind the core making the job of Senate Democrats difficult. (Note: Mike Hanley’s brother, Mark Hanley, is a lobbyist for Anadarko). New York State has what could be termed as a rebellion, and the rejection of the common core was decisive in the school board elections in Buffalo, New York as well as in the Mayor’s race in New York City. Governor Cuomo is a major advocate of the Common Core nationally, along with his anti-gun agenda.
The developmentally inappropriate nature of the common core has had disastrous results in New York and in other parts of the country. The increase in suicides and clinical depressions that have accompanied the implementation of the common core are well documented. One researcher who has been tracking the impact of the standards on mental health is Mary Calamia. Her research shows a marked increase in self-mutilating behaviors, insomnia, panic attacks, depressed mood, school refusal, and suicidal thoughts during the state exam cycle last spring.

Our Status Quo Governor

Manchester, NH – Gubernatorial Candidate Andrew Hemingway released the following statement in response to Governor Maggie Hassan’s State of the State Address:

“Governor Hassan successfully spoke for nearly an hour without mentioning one accomplishment of her administration. Using the words “solution and innovative” repeatedly does not unto itself mean you have achieved or even proposed an innovative solution. The people of New Hampshire are smarter than that.

“Governor Hassan gave a lot of lip service to the business community, yet every policy she proposed would harm the very community she is praising. Study after study has proven that a hike to the minimum wage harms exactly the people it is trying to help. Increasing the minimum wage causes jobs loss, it drives more people to welfare, it drives up state budgets and raises the cost of doing business. The people harmed the most? Minorities and women.”

“Where exactly are her solutions? She failed to even mention the serious problem with our healthcare situation here in New Hampshire, even though it is arguably one of the largest concerns of our citizens. 22,000 people were kicked off their insurance thanks to Hassan-supported Obamacare; 12 hospitals were removed from the network for anyone on the Exchange, or anyone with individual insurance from Anthem; Anthem is the ONLY provider approved for the Exchange. Where is her plan to bring more insurance providers into the state?”

“On education, Governor Hassan praised Common Core. This bureaucratic mess lowers existing state standards and replaces parents with bureaucrats. Common Core is not right for NH. We have increased our spending on education by over a billion dollars in the past decade; our enrollment is down and our education has not improved. Governor Hassan believes differently than me. She thinks more government control is the solution to everything, I think individual freedom is.”

“We very much are in need of certain transportation improvements for our roads and bridges. I agree with the Governor there. But she failed to tell us how we can pay for that. Just as she failed to tell us how we can pay for her expanded natural gas pipeline, or extending broadband internet. A good idea is only a good idea if you tell us how to make that idea a reality. Governor Hassan didn’t do that.

“Our Governor says absolutely nothing. She maintains the status quo, because as her record has shown, she has no solutions. This ‘do nothing’ leadership is doing nothing to improve things for students, patients or workers.” –Andrew Hemingway, Candidate for NH Governor

Can YOU answer this Common Core question?

This question is from a Common Core quiz book for 1st graders.
How would you answer the question?

8 toys are in the chest.
6 toys are on the shelf.
Which can you use to
find how many toys in all?

A) 8 – 6 = 2
B) 6 + 2 = 8
C) 8 + 4 = 12
D) 10 + 4 = 14

I am at a loss for words.

Education – we can do better

“In 100 years, we have gone from teaching Latin and Greek in high school to teaching Remedial English in college.” — Joseph Sobran

A former Marine Corps Drill Sergeant took a job as a teacher. Just before the school year started he injured his back and had to wear an upper body cast under his shirt. Assigned to the toughest students in the school, the sergeant walked into the classroom, opened the window and sat down at his desk. When a strong breeze made his tie flap, he picked up a stapler and stapled the tie to his chest.

There was dead silence. He had no trouble with discipline that year.

Which leads us, albeit indirectly, to our schools. A website from the NH Department of Education,, has a wealth of data about individual schools, a school district, or the entire state.

I have been looking at the statewide data but similar data is available for individual schools or school districts such as my town of Sunapee, or Claremont, or the Kearsarge Regional School District. What really caught my eye is the student assessments. The 11th grade numbers are particularly disappointing – only 37% are proficient in math; only 40% are proficient in writing. To put it bluntly, three-fifths of our kids are illiterate.

We can and should do better. There are schools in NH and in other states that score higher. We could learn from those schools. Heck, we probably could do better just by listening to our own school’s teachers. I can’t help thinking that some of our problems are due to bad dictates from our state’s Department of Education.

I have talked with some parents and teachers. One comment I heard more than once is that we set the bar too low. One NH school sets the bar so low that two-thirds of the kids are on the honor roll. Some public school teachers send their own kids to private school to be challenged by higher standards. When faced with difficult challenges most kids can accomplish amazing things.

Marva Collins demonstrated that fact when she started a school in inner-city Chicago. Marva took in learning-disabled, problem children and even one child who had been labeled by Chicago public school authorities as borderline retarded. At the end of the first year, every child scored at least FIVE grades higher. The “borderline retarded” girl went on to graduate from college Summa Cum Laude. Mrs. Collins’ curriculum is based on classical literature, including Aesop’s Fables and works by William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer, and even Plato – in 3rd and 4th grades.

Equally amazing is an Alabama family with 10 kids, all entering college by age 12. The first became the youngest graduate ever of Auburn University. Another is on her way to become one of the youngest physicians in American history. A sister became a licensed architect by age 18. One of the boys will complete his masters in Computer Science just after his 17th birthday. The parents aren’t brilliant people. All they did was find out what their kids really enjoyed, and then encourage them to follow their passions. They never pushed their kids to get straight “A”s but just to “have a fun day.” These parents “are convinced that all children have the capacity to learn at the rate theirs have.”

Those two parents and Marva Collins were confident that kids could learn quickly and well when given challenging materials. Internationally, most other countries demand more from their kids and those kids achieve more. High expectations lead to high results. I would very much like to hear from more teachers and parents. Is it just a few, or many, or most of them who think that we should set higher standards?

Which brings us to Common Core Standards. It is touted as setting higher standards but some experts say it actually sets lower standards. The people who developed Common Core had little to no previous experience writing standards. The two most experienced members, Sandra Stotsky and James Milgram, refused to sign off on the new standards and are now actively opposing them.

How is Common Core working out in the real world? The simple fact is that it was never tested in the real world. That is why one Manchester, NH parent complained “Why are you experimenting with my kids? Please don’t tell me this isn’t experimental when my middle school daughter comes home crying because she failed a math quiz because she got the correct answers using the outdated method she was taught last year. This parent respectfully and passionately asks this board to stop experimenting on his kids.”

A mother wrote, “My ten year old daughter asked me what it would take for me to let her stay home from school forever. Forever. Not tomorrow, not this week. Forever. … these Common Core standards … are hurting children, causing them to give up on themselves at ten years old.”

And from a teacher: “Children are drowning in school anxiety, families find their evenings descending into a sea of tears, and the usual joy of school and all it should entail has been vanished … because the “great minds” behind Common Core can’t craft clear homework directions, select age-appropriate curriculum or resist the urge to burden kids with high-stakes testing at every turn.”

Common Core: “If You Like Your Curriculum, You Can Keep Your Curriculum”

Jason Bedrick, a brilliant guy from NH, now at Cato has an excellent article about how Common Core requires schools to change their curriculum – for the worse. Some of his points:
  • The same educrats who said for years that “the standards do not mandate any specific curriculum or prescribe any particular method of teaching” now are saying that “for standards to have any impact, however, they must change classroom practice.”
  • The creators of Common Core use “lexiles,” which measure things like sentence length and vocabulary to rate the complexity of a text. But the simplistic lexile scores absurdly conclude that Sports Illustrated for Kids is more complex than “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Read the whole thing.