Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Professor Milgram's Nov 4, 2013 Statement on Common Core Math Standards

Many parents across the country are currently expressing concerns over the content of their childrens' math lessons, many of which are said to be "common core" aligned.  The statement below is published with permission of Professor Milgram.  It may provide a little insight on math education issues brought to light recently due to the common core initiative. 

I believe that although the elementary math standards are an improvement over those of many states, unfortunately the focus on the "Standards for Mathematical Practice" - rather than math content - creates an avenue for unproductive folly. (yes, that's my opinion) The secondary content standards are too weak, a point that I've made many times before.

Best wishes to all parents, grandparents and teachers as they seek the truth on the best way forward in improving education for children.  Lisa Jones   

Statement of Jim Milgram, November 4, 2013
I don't endorse a blanket condemnation of the Common Core Math Standards since there are definite positives in the lower grade content standards.  They really are significantly better than the standards that were written by 90% of the states IN GRADES K-6 or K-7. But the problems with the overall math standards are huge, or even more than huge.

First, while some of the Mathematical Practices standards are ok, they provide a forum for the fuzzy math cranks and a path to re-approve most of the horrible math texts we found 15 or so years back and mostly got rid of then. They also provide a poor perspective on "what mathematics is" and should never have been at the beginning of the document where they give the superficial reader the impression that this is what mathematics is all about.  It isn't.

Second, the objectives of the 8 - 12 material are not what one might think they should be. The real intent appears to be a total focus on the "efficiency" aspect of Ed School dogma. Since most students will never "use" higher level math, it is mostly suppressed, except for the part that I more or less forced them to add covering Algebra II. But that material is horribly incomplete and only provides a pathway for most students that leads nowhere and prepares them for nothing but truly dead end jobs.

Third, the standards were put together too fast by McCallum and Zimba, with the obstructive tactics of Daro only designed to minimize content as far as I can tell. All three of them were amateurs at standards writing, and appear to have had little to no idea of what actually goes on in the curricula of the high achieving countries. As a result, there are too many errors and inconsistencies in the standards and exemplars themselves.

So, all in all, I judge that we would be better off if the standards would just go away.


In his first point, I believe that Professor Milgram is referring to the Open Letter to  U.S. Secretary of Education, Richard Riley, from 1999.  Check It Out Here