Thanks to The N&O for exposing the political agenda and lack of transparency of yet another legislative-appointed group, the Academic Standards Review Commission, in the Nov. 29 news article “Common Core ignites math war.”
Curriculum standards in mathematics have evolved (with refinements approximately once a decade) based on research and the demands of higher-level mathematics and the workplace.
The 1989 NCTM standards prompted math wars because they were based on an extreme constructivist paradigm where students were to invent their own knowledge (similar to the way the Americanized Montessori approach is applied in some schools).
The 2000 NCTM standards brought more balance to mathematics curricula, emphasizing learning for understanding while including important fluency and procedural mastery goals. Unfortunately, those standards were not specific to grade level (until 2006) and were not easily accessible to the public.
The Common Core State Standards for Mathematics of 2010, also more balanced, were initiated by states in an effort to provide a shared set of standards so that students in the U.S. would have similar mathematics experiences in preparation for college and careers and could compete with their international peers.
The developers were concerned that mathematics texts were “a mile wide and an inch deep” in order to include each state’s standards. The CCSSM never included lesson plans, instructional methods, homework, classroom materials or assessments, simply the goals for each grade level and the critical processes of mathematics such as problem solving and reasoning.
Well-informed teachers know how to balance the use of models and inquiry learning with explicit connections and other instructional support. The CCSSM do not dictate how high school mathematics courses should be organized; that is each state’s decision.
North Carolina’s problems have resided in not investing enough time and other resources in teacher and parent education during the introduction of the Common Core, exacerbated by various groups on the left and right trying to politicize something that should not be political.
Susan Perry Gurganus
Professor emerita, College of Charleston
The length limit was waived.