Tag Archives: Math Standards

What is the problem with Common Core math in Utah? What is the solution?

First, a teacher comment we received this week:

“It just seems like a lose-lose all the way around. 

It may interest you to know that all of us math teachers got an e-mail from Diana Suddreth (state math curriculum rep) about the attack that cc has come under in our state government. The e-mail was saying how concerned she was that the state reps are starting to listen to the parents and was asking for teachers state-wide to start speaking up for the core and defend it to our reps to let them know how great it is. 

We here at ____________ got that e-mail and laughed out loud because it would seem a little funny to defend it when we’re on the side of the parents…

We have a storage room full of old Alg, Alg2, and Geometry textbooks that sit no longer in use because of cc.”

I want to be very clear about something right from the start. The anti-Common Core movement is not just about the standards. It’s about the entire nationalization/globalization agenda that goes along with it. However, this article serves to show the weakness of the Common Core math standards themselves and what it means for Utah students.

In 2007, Utah adopted new standards which were rated an A- by the Fordham Foundation. This was a big improvement over our prior standards which Fordham rated a D. They later rated the Common Core math standards an A- after receiving several hundred thousand dollars from the Gates Foundation to do a review. Money talks. The Gates Foundation is very interested in getting everyone on these standards, and so is the federal government. If you don’t know the connections, watch this video. In their analysis comparing Utah’s math standards and Common Core, they stated:

The Bottom Line

With some minor differences, Common Core and Utah both cover the essential content for a rigorous, K-12 mathematics program. Utah’s standards are briefly stated and usually clear, making them easier to read and follow than Common Core. In addition, the high school content is organized so that standards addressing specific topics, such as quadratic functions, are grouped together in a mathematically coherent way. The organization of the Common Core is more difficult to navigate, in part because standards dealing with related topics sometimes appear separately rather than together.

The chief weakness in Utah’s standards stems from the lack of specific content expectations in the development of arithmetic, and in the failure to make arithmetic a focus in the appropriate grades. Common Core provides admirable focus and explicitly requires standard methods and procedures, enhancements that would benefit Utah’s standards.

In other words, our 2007 standards were pretty good and could have used a little tweaking to make them stronger. If the USOE had actually implemented the external reviewer’s suggestions, we would probably have had some of the very best standards in America.  Dr. Hung-Hsi Wu, math professor at Berkeley and Utah’s external reviewer of the 2007 standards, was shocked months after reviewing the final draft of our standards, that the USOE had failed to implement any of his recommendations. Commenting to the USOE he wrote:

“Nicole [Paulson at the USOE], Thank you for your courteous note. I can understand your consternation upon reading the quote in Jim Milgam’s letter of my reaction to the revised standards (incidentally, he quoted me correctly), but if you realize that I had taken for granted that most of what I recommended would be implemented, then you would also understand why I was so shocked when I was reluctantly made to read the revision.”

What followed was a list of several critical items that should have been included but the USOE left out. Why did they leave them out? It’s unknown for certain, but it is known that they hated the fact that we succeeded in making them raise Utah’s then D-rated standards. Standards are not a priority for the USOE, getting federal money was the driving incentive for applying for Race to the Top money where we agreed to adopt new untested Common Core standards, sight-unseen.

Dr. David Wright in the math department at BYU, was one of the few mathematicians that worked on the Utah 2007 math standards. I recently corresponded with him comparing where Utah was at with those standards, and where we are now with Common Core.

Under the 2007 standards, most students would take the following schedule of classes:

7th grade: pre-algebra
8th grade: algebra 1
9th grade: geometry
10th grade: algebra 2
11th grade: pre-calculus
12th grade: calculus

Some students who are well prepared could take algebra in 7th grade allowing them to accelerate. Some students, myself included when I was younger, double up and take geometry and algebra 2 together in order to accelerate. That option is no longer possible under the new integrated approach to Common Core.

Under the new Common Core standards, students get an integrated approach to math meaning there are no longer discrete years of math, but a blend of subject matter.

Math 7 (7th grade): contains some pre-algebra/algebra
Math 8 (8th grade): contains some algebra
Secondary Math 1 (9th grade): Finish some of algebra 1 and some geometry
Secondary Math 2 (10th grade): Finish algebra 1 and some Geometry and some algebra 2
Secondary Math 3 (11th grade): Finish algebra 2, geometry and some Pre-Calculus
AP Calculus: It is the hope of the USOE that students will be prepared for AP calculus without a year of pre-calculus. In reality, many students will struggle without precalculus.

According to Dr. Wright: “If you are not in honors Math 1 by ninth grade, the USOE does not see you prepared for calculus.  Many students who take the honors Math 1, Math 2, and Math 3 would still be better off in pre-calculus instead of calculus because their algebra skills will not be good enough.”

Some students will be able to take Math 1 in 8th grade, if they accelerated early, but for most students they will either have to skip pre-calculus to take calculus in 12th grade, or take pre-calculus in 12th grade and wait till college for an authentic calculus course. Honors students get a little more content depth but no real acceleration to advance faster.

The problems of Common Core math in Utah are two-fold.

1) In spite of the Gates influenced Fordham grade of A-, Common Core sets the United States back from where we should be. The Common Core proponents used to tout how the standards were internationally benchmarked. That’s been proven false and those statements removed. Dr. Jim Milgram, Stanford math professor and the only professional mathematician on the validation committee, has written standards and worked with international standards for many years. Here are a couple of comments from him:

“The Common Core standards claim to be ‘benchmarked against the international standards’ but this phrase is meaningless. They are actually two or more years behind international expectations by eighth grade, and only fall further behind as they talk about grades 8-12. Indeed, they don’t even fully cover the material in a solid geometry course, or in the second year algebra course.

“While the difference between these standards and those of the top states at the end of eighth grade is perhaps somewhat more than one year, the difference is more like two years when compared to the expectations of the high-achieving countries — particularly most of the nations of East Asia.”

2) The USOE is constructivist oriented. They told Utahns that we would have portability of students with other states as a feature of Common Core, but then adopted a different schedule of learning which will not allow for it. They did this to implement constructivist math across the state. Trainings by the USOE for teachers have included the nonsense that students don’t need to learn their times tables. Good teachers will ignore that, but the fact is, the USOE actively looks to promote this philosophy in their teacher training.

Teacher comments from trainings

USOE constructivist curriculum on video: which do you want for your child?

The bottom line is, Common Core math is not internationally benchmarked, not going to prepare as many children for an authentic calculus class by the end of high school as our 2007 standards would, not allow for portability of students with other states because only Vermont adopted the integrated method with Utah, and the push for constructivism will further damage our children’s math skills and thinking. The best thing Utah could do is immediately go back to our 2007 standards, and implement the changes suggested by Dr. Wu, the external reviewer. Readopting those standards would be superior to Common Core and they would be honest Utah math standards.


STEM is Dead in Utah Courtesy of the USOE

dixiecupcalculusSeveral years ago I was involved in what has been called “The Math Wars”. Alpine School District had quit teaching the times tables, long division, and some other basic math skills, to children under the promise that a constructivist (ie. children need to construct their own knowledge) approach to math would deepen their skills. This was an abominable failure. Even at BYU where 2 math education professors got permission (by someone over the math department’s dead body) to teach a class of honors calculus to freshmen with this method. The result was a disaster. Honors calculus students measuring Dixie Cups with rulers while regular students were learning how to integrate. Predictably to everyone but those 2 professors teaching the constructivist class, their students scored below all 17 sections of non-honors calculus on the final exam. Their final defeat? Blame it on the test writer who had been creating the same test from the same objectives for years.

Unfortunately, with adoption of Common Core, the state of Utah took a bad idea that parents in Alpine School District hated, and decided to spread the love around the state. As parents slowly wake up to the horrors of constructivist math and wonder what happened to their child’s love of math, there will begin a new revolt that will bring tens of thousands of angry parents raining down on the heads of the state leadership.

Don’t believe me? Consider how upset a parent is when their child goes off to college with straight A’s in math and winds up in remedial math. At last look, UVU has a 70% remediation rate for incoming freshmen in math. In fact, it’s so bad, they don’t just have remedial math classes at UVU, they have a remedial math DEPARTMENT. SLCC has roughly the same percentage of remediation. That’s a pathetic waste of taxpayer dollars that when tens of thousands of students arrive they can’t do high school math and need remediation, and before someone suggests it’s because young people are arriving after serving LDS missions and have simply forgotten how to do math, that’s been examined and it’s a trivial reduction in the percentage.

Let me illustrate with a video. I recently sat down with an anonymous but very involved person in the Utah education arena, and reviewed a few books. Interactive math, Saxon math, and the Utah State Office of Education’s (USOE) own home grown math book. Watch the horror show demonstrating these textbooks and then read below.


Here’s what the state shows on their RIMS database for schools and districts to pick textbooks from. I’ll start with Saxon.

Saxon math-Recommended Limited

“Evaluation: Textbook review for Saxon Algebra I. Overall, the program matches the Utah Core Standards for Algebra 57.75%. The following is a breakdown of the evaluation by individual Utah Core Standards for Algebra I: …(removed specific line items for space…read it on the site) This program does not develop concepts for deep understanding. It provides few examples and the flow of the program is missing, very disjointed.

If you didn’t watch the video, you’re missing out. Saxon is full of examples while the other programs have NONE.

This isn’t the first time I’ve witnessed a hit job on Saxon math (link 2). Saxon was developed by an Air Force Engineer turned educator and a few years ago when I evaluated the top 10 scoring schools in Utah for math on standardized exams, 7 of the 10 schools were using Saxon. It’s a great program that builds skills and depth of understanding. It’s the type of math most of us grew up on and that we can look in the textbook and remember how to do a problem and help our children. In short, it shows how to do a problem, explains the concept, and gives students an opportunity to practice what they learned so they can obtain mastery over the knowledge.

Contrasted with…

Interactive Math-Recommended Primary

This non-traditional text approaches the study of mathematics through student-centered exploration and meaningful tasks. Teachers would begin the lesson by presenting the task for the day, and students and teachers would work on the tasks together as they develop their mathematical understanding of the topics. The format of this text encourages active learning of mathematics. Each unit in this text has a central problem or theme and focuses on several branches of mathematics including algebra, geometry, probability, graphing, statistics, and trigonometry using an integrated approach.
This text covers more than 80% of the 2012 Utah State Core Standards for Secondary I or Secondary I Honors.
Lessons consist of single-page individual or group tasks without traditional mathematical instruction or explanations. Mathematics is learned through the culture and practice that is developed within the classroom as students work on the various tasks.
Although topics are not easily~recognized by lesson titles, this text includes an index of mathematical ideas which makes it easier to find particular ideas. Problem sets are minimal but build depth of understanding. A nice glossary is included at the end of the text.”

church-of-constructivismRemember from the video above, Interactive math has declared the most important purpose of their book is to make math fun!!!

There is no line-by-line evaluation of the shortcomings of Interactive Math as there is with Saxon. It’s pathetically obvious from looking through the book that it’s devoid of content and yet the reviewer, obviously a disciple of religious constructivism, announces this text will produce “depth of understanding” from minimal problem sets. This comic is worth 1,000 words.

Finally we come to the third book, the USOE’s own creation which is similar to Interactive Math and it’s constructivist approach.

Open Education Math – The Mathematics Vision Project- Recommended Primary

This “textbook,” and I use that term very loosely since there is no instruction or examples, was also given a rating of “Recommended Primary” by the USOE. Convenient that you can rate your own product… It was developed by 5 school teachers, who as far as I know have no prior experience in writing textbooks, at least 3 of which are known constructivists, 2 from Alpine School District.

“Evaluation: The OER Secondary I textbook is designed to be an online textbook that may or may not be printed. The textboook will allow for future updates and improvements as well as teacher customization. The first edition of this online text addresses the first third of the 2012 Utah Core Standards for Secondary I Mathematics. The content of the text is accurate and represents the current research in mathematics. Each lesson begins with a task to help students develop an understanding of the core concepts to be learned. Teachers may need professional development to teach using tasks. There are extensive instructions and teacher notes to guide the teacher to teach each task. Some of the tasks have a lot of reading which may be challenging for ESL students. ~ The homework has three sections. The Ready section has problems that will help the student for upcoming concepts. The Set section contains practice problems for what is being developed in the current lesson. The Go section has problems that help students review concepts learned previously. The homework sets are not long and tedious so students can focus on what is being taught. ~ The Getting Ready Unit reviews ideas from previous courses that begin to connect the content that will be taught in Secondary I. This section may help during the transition to the~new core. ~ Each lesson begins with a task to help students develop an understanding of the core concepts to be learned. Teachers may need professional development to teach using tasks. There are extensive instructions to guide the teacher to teach each task. Many of the tasks have a lot of reading which may be challenging for ESL students. There are no materials at this time to address special educaiton students and ESL students. ~ There is an extensive section for parents that includes online resources such as the Kahn Academy videos and worked out examples of procedural problems. ~ ~ This book would require that teachers allow time for students to think and have a lot of discussion in the classroom.

Wait a minute…this book relies on the Khan Academy videos to teach procedures? That’s convenient. Lets write a textbook and say, “we just want depth of learning, you go somewhere else to learn HOW to do math.”

Require teachers to allow time for a lot of discussion? What if those students actually want to learn math and not have their peers discussing what they ate for lunch?

Now the big lie. Current research says there are NO studies that support constructivism. Dr. Jim Milgram, Stanford math professor who has been and may still currently be the only educator invited to serve on NASA’s advisory board, noted that if constructivist math were a success, NASA would be looking for students that went through that pedagogy. The fact is, BYU’s math education professors’ failure is typical of constructivist programs.

There is only one conclusion. Following the USOE’s math recommendations will kill STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) initiatives. All you business leaders and technology oriented professionals supporting Common Core are going to be in for a rude awakening as this machine destroys love of math, destroys math skills, and destroys any edge Utah has for technology…unless…

Utah must drop Common Core and restore local control. The USOE is hell-bent on constructivism and unless there is a major personnel change at the USOE, it’s going to rest on the shoulders of parents to take their children’s education into their own hands (literally), and leave those who can’t get the support at home to drown in fuzzy math.

In 2006 or so, Brett Moulding, state curriculum director at the USOE invited me to his office to ask a simple question. “Oak, you’re a parent who is very involved in your children’s education. How can we replicate that to other parents?”

“Easy,” I replied. “Just implement Investigations math statewide and you’ll have all the parental involvement you can handle.”

True story. I just had no idea they were going to take my suggestion literally. Parents, you may seriously want to consider The Great Escape…Homeschooling.

Dr. David Wright vs. USOE …(8-0 for Dr. Wright)

With permission, I am posting this letter that Dr. David Wright, math professor at BYU, and one of only a couple mathematicians that helped create the A- rated 2007 Utah math standards, wrote to legislators concerning the problems of Common Core implementation from the USOE. We have previously published several posts about significant problems with the USOE math texts.  You can read here about Dr. Jim Milgram’s statement on the low quality of Common Core math compared to high achieving states, and former Department of Education math expert Ze’ev Wurman commenting how Utah’s implementation plan outlined in our No Child Left Behind waiver application would actually hurt math in Utah. It matches up with exactly what Dr. Wright is saying in this letter. This letter is stunning because it also reveals a problem that may prove to be the dismissal of several USOE employees.


Dear Senators Osmond and Weiler,

I see that Diana Suddreth sent a “Your Action is Needed” email to defend the Utah Math Common Core.  She is encouraging letters of support for the Utah Common Core and is concerned that the Common Core is under a “vicious attack.”  She is inviting her supporters to send letters to both of you.

As a mathematics professor and someone who is very aware of the details of the Common Core, I would like to comment on what I feel is the awful way the Common Core Math Standards have been implemented by the USOE.

1.  The Core was implemented before there were textbooks.  In fact, some of those who favor the Utah Core do not even feel that textbooks are important.  When I hear Suddreth say,  “And teachers are empowered by creating units of study for students that go beyond anything their textbooks ever provided”  I know something is seriously wrong.

2.  The Core was implemented before there were assessments in place.

3.  The standards do not dictate any particular teaching method, but rather set goals for student understanding.  However, the USOE has used the implementation of the new Core to push a particular teaching method; i.e., the “Investigations” type teaching that was so controversial in Alpine School District.

4.  Evidence of the type of teaching promoted by USOE comes from the textbook used for the secondary academy, 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions (Margaret S. Smith and Mary Kay Stein) as one of the primary resources.  The book is about the kind of group learning envisioned by Investigations and Connected Math (the sequel to Investigations).

5.  The Mathematics Vision Project was created in partnership with the USOE.  It has developed  integrated secondary math material for the Utah Core. They openly admit that their “teaching cycle” is similar to the model of the Connected Mathematics Project.  Here is a statement about their teaching method:

As students’ ideas emerge, take form, and are shared, the teacher orchestrates the student discussions and explorations towards a focused mathematical goal. As conjectures are made and explored, they evolve into mathematical concepts that the community of learners begins to embrace as effective strategies for analyzing and solving problems. These strategies eventually solidify into a body of practices that belong to the students because they were developed by the students as an outcome of their own creative and logical thinking. This is how students learn mathematics. They learn by doing mathematics. They learn by needing mathematics. They learn by verbalizing the way they see the mathematical ideas connect and by listening to how their peers perceived the problem. Students then own the mathematics because it is a collective body of knowledge that they have developed over time through guided exploration. This process describes the Learning Cycle and it informs how teaching should be conducted within the classroom.

6.  The USOE does hold students back.  This is not the intent of the Common Core, but it is Utah’s implementation.  I regularly judge the state Sterling Scholar competition.  Almost all of the bright kids take AP calculus as a junior or even earlier because they were taking Algebra 1 by seventh grade.  Now it will be difficult to get that far ahead.  The National Math Panel made it clear that there was no problem with skipping prepared kids ahead.  The Common Core has a way for getting eighth graders into Algebra 1 which the USOE has ignored.

7.  The USOE chose the “uncommon” core when they picked secondary integrated math.  Hardly anyone else is doing this program.  So there are no integrated textbooks except the one that the USOE is developing.  I have been told that this is the “Asian” model, but I am very familiar with the textbooks in Hong Kong and Singapore.  The Mathematics Vision Project Material does not look like Asian material, it looks like Investigations/Connected Math.

8.  There is substantial information that Diana Suddreth, Syd Dickson, Brenda Hales, and Michael Rigby of the USOE participated in unethical behavior in the awarding of the Math Materials Improvement Grant.  The USOE chose reviewers (including Suddreth and Dickson) who were conflicted.  Suddreth helped the University of Utah choose a principal investigator who was her own co-principal investigator on a $125 K  grant .  According to the USOE internal email messages, the required sample lesson of the winning proposal contained “plagiarized material.” The sample lesson had “no text” instead it contained 79 pages of “sample materials” (some of which was plagiarized) for a teacher study guide including problems for discussion and homework.  The adaptive performance assessment program for the winning proposal was non-existent.  The principal investigators redefined “adaptive assessment” to be something that was never intended.


David G. Wright

I am a Professor of Math at BYU, but this letter is written as an educator, parent, and concerned citizen and does not represent an official opinion from BYU.

Brigham Young University has a policy of academic freedom that supports the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge and ideas. The university does not endorse assertions made by individual faculty.


This comment from Michele Alder was recently made and ties right into this: “My kids are in a charter school that teaches an advanced curriculum, and the school is being pressured to change their methods and curriculum which would be a big step back.  My neighbors from France have their kids go to the same school as my kids and they found this advanced curriculum a year behind where they were in France.  This means that the (Utah Core) Public School Math is now two or more years behind Europe, a fact that the presenters to this SAGE/AIR meeting contended saying, ‘these new standards will help us keep catch up with Europe.'”

Setting the record straight – a rebuttal to Joel Coleman’s post

[Quick note by Oak Norton: Before presenting Lisa Cummin’s rebuttal to State School Board Member Joel Coleman’s article, I wanted to comment that Joel and I have known each other for some time. He’s well aware of my efforts with others in 2007 to raise Utah’s math standards and the success we had going from D rated standards to an A- (according to the Fordham Foundation ratings). For Joel to publish that opponents of Common Core are “people who don’t want any standards at all” is a shocking misrepresentation. I cannot understand how he could possibly make this statement when he knows we have always been for stronger statements and considered the Common Core standards mediocre. He knows better and should immediately apologize for this clear misrepresentation. Please read Lisa Cummin’s excellent response below.]

Originally posted at: http://pcandg.com/setting-the-record-straight-a-rebuttal-to-joel-colemans-post/

Yesterday, Utah State School Board member, Joel Coleman, wrote a blog post about the Common Core Standards and where he thinks the mis-understandings lie.

In his opening paragraph he says: “it has become increasingly apparent to me that some of the strongest opponents of Utah’s core standards are people who don’t want any standards at all. Some of them have children that don’t even attend public schools, and therefore are not subject to the standards we are required to implement, anyway.”

Joel, allow me to correct you. We do want standards. We have standards, both in the religious aspects of our lives as well as in our homes with our children. It’s how we know we are progressing towards our goals. In the 1828 Noah Webster’s dictionary definition #3 for “standard” states: “That which is established as a rule or model, by the authority of public opinion, or by respectable opinions, or by custom or general consent; as writings which are admitted to be the standard of style and taste. Homer’s Illiad is the standard of heroic poetry. Demosthenes and Cicero are standards of oratory. Of modern eloquence, we have an excellent stand in the speeches of Lord Chatham. Addison’s writings furnish a good standard of pure, chaste and elegant English style. It is not an easy thing to erect a standard of taste.”

Standards define a moral and chaste people; of course we want standards. Do not attempt to belittle us to the public on this.

It is true that some of us have pulled our children out of public and charter schools. That is our right, as parents to do so and should not be looked down upon. But there are two other points that Joel neglects to mention. Speaking for myself, I pulled my children out of public school because of Common Core, as a whole, not just the standards. I am not a standards expert. However, I have been taught that you don’t phase out the classics as you get older, you must encourage others to read them more! I also know that introducing classics as abridged or in parts, is not teaching the classics, it’s taking out the most important details that builds the emotion or passion of the story. Both points which David Coleman, noted author of the ELA standards and current President of the College Board, absolutely abhors and find unnecessary for learning. Dr. Sandra Stotsky (a standards expert) would not sign off on the English Language Standards because they do not meet college and university level required reading. Phasing them out to 30%, in 12th grade is horrible to the development of children, even through their teen years!

The second note is that we as homeschoolers will be subject to the “standards” as homeschool publishing companies are aligning their curriculum with the standards (including Saxon and Singapore Math, Excellence in Writing and others), as well as the college entrance exams will most likely provide low scores from our children’s testing. So again, please don’t belittle the effect it will have on homeschooling.

In Joel’s comments, he stated that the Common Core Standards were required by law to be adopted which, is simply not true. In fact you can hear the audio of the Board, on August 6th 2010, saying that they are the ones adopting the Common Core, not the State legislature. State legislatures were not involved with the Standards themselves and in fact didn’t become involved until they started passing laws regarding grading of schools, computer adaptive testing, data collecting, and anything else involving exchange of monies. Now No Child Left Behind is a law, but that is a Federal law, not a state.

Mr. Coleman mentions that the explanations in his post where sent to him; that he is not the original author, I’d like to know his sources, as these should be transparent.

Continuing from his post we find: “The purpose of Utah’s core standards is not to drive everyone to achieve the same specific goals for each student, or for them to achieve at the same pace. It is not designed to promote sameness.” Question: If the students don’t achieve the goal of the teacher, school district or State Board, who fails? According to current law, SB 271, it is the teacher and eventually the school.

In continuing my research, I found Senator Neiderhauser’s, current sitting President of the Senate, blog post on “The Senate Site” B 59 will change that definition so that a school’s grade is based on more tangible benchmarks.”

SB271 is the Amended portion to SB59.

It is based on tangible benchmarks or standards. It is a system of one size fits all, or the teachers and the schools will fail. They are tied together. Bad standards will lead to bad assessments. Bad assessments will drive bad curriculum. Bad curriculum will drive the students to test below college and university levels, which mean the teachers and the schools will receive an “F” or worse. This is not just about standards. The picture is much bigger than that, and the State knows it.

Mr. Colman shared his blog post on his Facebook page, and I found Senator Moss’s response rather interesting:

“Carol Spackman Moss: Thank you for the post, Joel. You are exactly right! The CCSS do not limit students, they set standards that allow students and teachers to have some idea what they should aiming for. It doesn’t set curriculum or teaching style. I’m frustrated with the fear mongering and the insistence by some that these standards will have deleterious effects on our students. Why are some folks fearful of more rigor? If we want our students to be able to compete with students all over the world, we need to raise the bar. Thanks for taking the time to educate and inform. (Your friend and high school English teacher).”

As I speak to various people about Common Core and describe the whole picture, I am amazed that our meetings are much calmer, than those that the State hosts. We lay out what we have found, including original sources. I asked in that same Facebook thread where the evidence that these standards are rigorous was. Where is their research? Post it! Who conducted the research? Who participated? My friends and I have yet to receive an answer to these questions. What we can show you is that they haven’t done the research. We can show you the timeline, and how it was time- sensitive and money driven.

These standards are nothing wonderful! Otherwise there wouldn’t be so much opposition to them nation wide!

Glenn Beck Slams Common Core

On Glenn Beck’s show today, two Utah teachers, David Cox and Christel Swasey, joined Emmett McGroarty of the American Principles Project and Sherena Arrington in a discussion about Common Core State Standards. The show was excellent and if you would like to watch the entire show, sign up for a free two week trial on Glenn’s website and look for the episode from today (3-14-2013). Here’s a few clips from the show.


Segment on Data Collection

Segment on Math Lunacy and Freedom Issues

Milgram on CC vs IN Math Standards

Indiana parents Erin Tuttle and Heather Crossin were distraught over the low quality textbook their school was using for Common Core implementation. It was of the “fuzzy math” constructivist variety. They contacted their local legislator and complained about it and began a dialog into the Common Core standards. This legislator had a few questions and they pointed them to Dr. Jim Milgram at Stanford, the professional mathematician on the review committee and one of our nation’s leading authorities on math standards writing. The Q&A below further illustrate the low level the Common Core standards were written to.


1. Why would we want to adopt Common Core Math Standards over Indiana Math Standards?

Mathematically, there is no good reason to adopt Common Core Math Standards over the Indiana Standards.  Indeed, the Indiana standards were/are? one of the top 4 or 5 state standards in the country, and are approximately at the level of the top international standards. The Common Core standards claim to be “benchmarked against international standards” but this phrase is meaningless.  They are actually two or more years behind international expectations by eighth grade, and only fall further behind as they talk about grades 8 – 12.  Indeed, they don’t even fully cover the material in a solid geometry course, or in the second year algebra course.

2. What are the differences between Common Core Math Standards and Indiana Standards?

Basically, the differences are described above.  Both standards were authored with the help of the professional mathematics community as distinguished from the mathematical education community.  But — as someone who was at the middle of overseeing the writing process – my main duty on the CCSSO Validation Committee — it became clear that the professional math community input to CCSSI was often ignored, which seemed not to be the case with the Indiana Standards.  A particularly egregious example of this occurred in the sixth and seventh grade standards and commentary on ratios, rates, proportion and percents, where there are a number of serious errors and questionable examples.But the same issues are also present in the development of the basic algorithms for whole number arithmetic – the most important topic in grades 1 – 5.

It was argued by some people on the Validation Committee that we should ignore such errors and misunderstandings as they will be cleared up in later versions, but I didn’t buy into this argument, and currently there is no movement at all towards any revisions.

3. How do they compare with international standards?

As I indicated above, they are more than two years behind international expectations by eighth grade.  The top countries are starting algebra in seventh grade and geometry in eighth or ninth.  By the end of ninth grade the students will have learned all of the material in a standard geometry course, all the material in a standard algebra I course, and some of the most important material in a standard algebra II course. This allows a huge percentage of them to finish calculus before graduating high school.  (In a number of the high achieving countries, calculus is actually a high school graduation requirement, but where it is not, typically, half or more of the high school graduates will have had calculus.  Also, it is worth noting that in these countries the high school graduation rate is typically 90% or higher for their entire populations.)


Jim Milgram on the Common Core Math Standards

After the Common Core standards were drafted, they went to review committees. In the prior post we showed the comments and testimony of Dr. Sandra Stotsky on the English standards.

Jim Milgram on Common Core StandardsFor math, the only professional mathematician and expert on content on the review committee was Dr. Jim Milgram from Stanford. He has long been involved in writing standards and evaluating international standards of the high achieving countries. A few years ago he was instrumental in providing testimony that Utah had very poor standards and this helped bring about our A- rated 2007 standards. His review of Common Core concludes:

“So it seems to me that you have a clear choice between

  • Core Standards – in large measure a political document that, in spite of a number of real strengths, is written at a very low level and does not adequately reflect our current understanding of why the math programs in the high achieving countries give dramatically better results;
  • The new Texas Standards that show every indication of being among the best, if not the best, state standards in the country. They are written to prepare student to both enter the workforce after graduation, and to take calculus in college if not earlier. They also reflect very well, the approaches to mathematics education that underlie the results in the high achieving countries.”

You can see more of his comments here:


The Common Core Presentation

On Tuesday, July 10th, four experts on Common Core from out-of-state came to Utah to speak with the Governor, legislators, and the public. The videos below show two of their presentations. The audio on the public presentation is better than the legislator luncheon video so you may want to watch it.

We hope you will watch this presentation in its entirety to become better informed and educated on this vital issue of our day. If you would like to make a contribution to assist our efforts in spreading the truth about Common Core, please click the Contribute link to the right and select Common Core in block F. We appreciate your support and encourage you to share this video and other resources with friends and neighbors.

90-second Teaser from the public meeting Tuesday night


Full public meeting presentation


Full presentation to legislators

Utah Math is not accelerated under Common Core

Ze’ev Wurman is a former senior policy official in the US Dept. of Education under George W. Bush, and served on the California Academic Content Standards Commission which reviewed the Common Core standards for California. He was recently sent a couple pages from Utah’s No Child Left Behind waiver application which talked about how Utah was going to accelerate math under their new integrated approach to Common Core. Those of you that missed reading the article on how the integrated approach is going to hurt math in Utah, please read Reigniting the Math Wars over the Death of Calculus.

Ze’ev generously responded with the following analysis.

Comments on Utah Waiver Application, Pages 24-25.

Ze’ev Wurman, Palo Alto, Calif.

July 2012

(Blue italics are direct quotes from the Waiver Application)

Myth: The structure of the new math standards are in line with that of countries with high mathematics achievement.

Fact: CCSS are not any closer to high achieving countries than Utah’s 2007 standards. CCSS stopped claiming that they reflect what high achieving countries are doing and now they only claim that the standards are “informed by top-performing countries,” whatever it may mean. In particular, the high school programs of the high achieving countries closely resemble the 2007 Utah traditional sequence (Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II) and are completely different from the CCSS integrated Math-I, Math-II, Math-III sequence that Utah recently adopted.

Myth: The rigor and complexity of the new standards begins in Kindergarten and continues to accelerate through high school using an integrated approach. For example, students in ninth grade will be studying topics formerly common in Algebra, Geometry and Algebra 2.

Fact: It is true the CCSS are quite demanding in the early primary grades, but they significantly slow down by the third grade, and by grade eight they are one to two years behind what top-achieving countries expect of their students. The only mathematician on the CCSS Validation Committee refused to certify the Standards writing: “…large number of the arithmetic and operations, as well as the place value standards are one, two or even more years behind the corresponding standards for many if not all the high achieving countries.” (Appendix B, http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/common_core_standards.pdf )

Myth: The new core’s structure allows more flexibility to accelerate learning for students as they progress through their secondary education.

Fact: The new high school core is, if at all, less flexible and less demanding than the previous one. It is composed of loosely defined “integrated” courses in contrast to previous traditional coherent curricular courses of Algebra I and II, and Geometry. Further, these integrated courses exclude chunks of content that was traditionally taught in Geometry and Algebra II such as logarithmic and trigonometric functions and identities, complex number arithmetic, conic sections, infinite geometric sequences, mathematical induction, and more. As the result, it is expected that with this curriculum students will have more difficulty to take Concurrent Enrollment courses, or Advance Placement Calculus, in their senior year.

MythThe new core includes Honors courses beginning in seventh grade and provides higher level math courses such as Calculus or AP Statistics for students who are ready to accelerate.

Fact: The accelerated (“Honors”) program in the seventh and eighth grade that is newly offered by Utah is a poor replacement for the honest pre-Algebra and Algebra courses that Utah offers today. The proposed seventh and eighth honor program adds content about history and uses of mathematics, and about set theory and different counting bases, that are poor preparation for acceleration of algebra, geometry, and pre-calculus that are key to STEM education.

Myth: In seventh and eighth grade, Honors courses contain extra topics not included in the former core. These topics include elements from discrete mathematics, non-traditional geometries, different counting systems, and other mathematics that would be interesting to advanced middle school students. … These courses have increased rigor and advanced content that will challenge the minds of high-ability students.

Fact: The seventh and eighth grade Utah’s Honors curriculum touches on discrete mathematics and different counting system and in that reminds us of the original 1960s failed “new math.” It also includes elements of graph theory that students are unequipped to handle at that point yet which it grandly calls “non-traditional geometries.” This assemblage of quirky bits and pieces of applied mathematics does not support accelerated and/or deeper acquisition of algebra, pre-calculus, and calculus. Consequently the promise to productively challenge high ability students rings hollow.

Myth: Courses for all students are much more advanced than in previous class work. Students on the regular pathway will be prepared for Pre-Calculus, AP Statistics, or CE in their senior year. In the accelerated pathway to high school (AP), calculus is a compacted version of Secondary I, II, III and Pre-Calculus and will begin in ninth grade. This pathway allows students successfully completing the three high school Honors courses to be ready for AP Calculus as seniors.

Fact: As already mentioned before, the new CCSS high school core has eliminated significant content in comparison to the 2007 core and, contrary to the claim above, are not “much more advanced”. In fact, just the opposite is true – the regular three CCSS integrated courses are at significantly lower level than the current core. Consequently, students taking the regular program will not be able to access AP calculus at they are now, using the 2007 core.

The suggested Honors program does, in fact, in theory prepare students for AP Calculus in their senior year. But it should be compared with the current sequence that potentially prepared all students, rather than only Honors students, for AP Calculus as Seniors. In fact, the current core also prepared accelerated students for AP Calculus already as Juniors.

But the new proposed Honors program is highly ambitions and untested, and faces significant challenges. Rather than use grades seven and eight for deeper preparation of Honor students in algebra and geometry, it spent those grades on inessential activities of counting in different bases and games-related bits and pieces. Consequently, it now needs to push a lot of content, including content that CCSS forgot like parametric equations, infinite series, polar coordinates, etc., into three heavily packed years. Time will tell how many students will be able to scale this steep three-year HS challenge, all to end up where the current core already gets them in much more relaxed rate starting with pre-Algebra in grade 7: to be ready to for AP Calculus as Seniors.


Given the abundance of lofty claims unsupported by the actual new Utah core, one should treat the picture on p.24 that pretends to summarize the differences in rigor between the old (2007) Utah Core and the newly adopted CCSS Core as a work of fiction. The implication that old core’s 12th grade is equivalent to the new core’s 10th is beyond ridiculous. Anyone with more than a bit of understanding of actual mathematics rather than of educational mumbo-jumbo can easily satisfy himself that just the opposite is true for the regular CCSS Core, and that they are effectively equivalent in case of the Honors Core.

Controlling Education From the Top: Why the Common Core is Bad for America

There’s a wealth of clearly written and referenced information –much you may not know– in a white paper released this week:   Controlling Education From the Top: Why the Common Core is Bad for America.  (by American Principles Project and Pioneer Institute)  http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/state_edwatch/Controlling-Education-From-the-Top%5B1%5D.pdf

The first section focuses on the mediocrity of the standards, which have redefined “college readiness” as preparing students for non-selective two year colleges, and not for four year universities.

The paper details the circumvented federal laws, the loss of sovereignty and family privacy, the costs to taxpayers, the misleading and imposing upon states by the U.S. Department of Education, and more.

A highlight of the paper is the observation of math standards by James Milgram, Common Core Validation Committee Member, and by Ze’ev Wurman (mathematician, Senior Policy Advisor in the U.S. Department of Education 2007-2009, and California Common Core Standards Commission Evaluation member.)

The mathematicians point out that Algebra I is not introduced until ninth grade under Common Core (previous to Common Core, in Utah, Algebra I was introduced in 8th grade).  Common core starts teaching decimals only in grade 4, two years behind standards for high-standard states and countries. Common core fails to address mathematical induction and parametric equations, fails to teach prime factorization and barely touches on logarithms. It also fails to include conversions among fractions, decimals, and percents.  Common Core de-emphasizes algebraic manipulation, which is a prerequisite for advanced mathematics, and effectively redefines algebra as “functional algebra,” which does not prepare students for STEM careers.

The list goes on and on and on. There is so much to learn in this white paper.

Many of us are printing hard copies, highlighting them, and hand delivering them to local school board members, teachers and administrators.

Please read the document for yourself and share it.