USOE + Common Core = Death of Math

There is a very good reason that there are so many charter schools in Alpine School District that use Saxon math. Thousands of parents fled the district starting around 2001 when the district wouldn’t listen to them that Investigations math was a disaster. The district’s mantra was “all the studies show this is the best way to teach math” but when GRAMA requests were filed, they couldn’t produce a single peer-reviewed study, and in fact studies that do exist show constructivist math programs to be utter failures (link 1)(link 2) and those that support them intellectually dishonest. It took 7 years for ASD to drop the program while children were either supplemented, tutored, or unknowingly falling behind their peers. Common Core now gives the states the opportunity to make sure nobody falls behind their peers by dumbing all of them down at the same time.

Constructivism emphasizes group work, discovering math strategies for yourself instead of having tried and true standard algorithms given to you and learning why they work so well, and a lot of writing, all in the name of acquiring a “deeper understanding” of math. (Example of an epic fail in a BYU Calculus class taught by math education professors)

Jordan and Granite math specialists sent their new Secondary Math 1 textbook to the USOE which sent it out to others on June 4, 2012. The book is a recipe for disaster. It starts off like a self-help book of “I Can” statements for each chapter that students should read (and probably repeat over and over for 21 days to convince themselves they can be confident in their math skills).

“I Can” Statements

1.1 I can solve equations and inequalities.
1.2 I can justify steps in solving equations.
1.3 I can solve absolute-value equations and inequalities.
1.4 I can solve compound inequalities. I can use set and interval notation to describe
solutions to compound inequalities.

There are no math examples in the book for students to learn from. It’s all up to the teacher to teach so well that when a student goes home the parents don’t need to help them with their homework (thus de-emphasizing the role of parents in the lives of their children and making teachers out to be the smart ones children go to for learning as this article points out)

After many of the “math” problems in the book, you’ll find this set of writing and presentation instructions.

1. In your notebook, record your solutions. Explain your thinking with writing, pictures, equations, etc.
2. PRESENTATION of thinking and work: Be prepared to explain your group’s solution and the process
you used to arrive at the solution. Think about how to present your results so the class can see and
understand your work.
3. CRITIQUE and COMPARISON: Observe the other group presentations. In your notebook, write a
short critique; a) write specifically about what is good, b) write questions and suggestions, c) note
differences and similarities among presentations.

Here’s the very first problem in the book. Nothing like jumping in full force to teach children what they’re in for.

0.1 (task)—Lonely Groundhog
(Adapted from Interactive Mathematics Program)

Far, far away, in a land where grassy green hills abound, live small little creatures known as groundhogs. These groundhogs roam the land looking for their shadow to see when winter will end. Once winter is over they live in fancy houses that are decorated with the most beautiful shapes. Since groundhogs aren’t very creative, they live in houses that look just like the house of at least one other groundhog. Groundhogs that live in identical houses always play together. However, one groundhog has a house different from all the rest. Sometimes this groundhog is left all alone. If you can help find the lonely groundhog, perhaps you could introduce it to all the other groundhogs.

The Cards

Your group will receive a set of 40 cards. Without looking at the cards, evenly distribute them amongst the members of your group. Place them face down. Each card in the set will have a picture of a ground hog’s house. One card in the set is a singleton, meaning that there are no other cards with a house exactly like it. Every card other than this singleton has at least one duplicate.

The Task

Your group’s task is to discover the singleton card of the lonely groundhog. When your group thinks they have located the house of the lonely groundhog the task is ended, whether or not you are correct. Therefore, you must be sure that everyone is confident of your answer before you announce that you are done.

The Rules
1. You may not show any of your cards to another member in your group.
2. You may not trade or pass your cards to another member in your group.
3. You may not look at other member’s cards.
4. You may not draw pictures or diagrams of the houses.
5. You may not put cards in a common pile once you have found duplicate houses.
6. You may set your cards face down in front of you once you think you have found a match.

Aside from these rules, you may work in any way you choose. You may begin!

Post Game Discussion (possible questions)

What problems did you have in playing this game?

What were your group’s strengths and weaknesses?

How can you help your group work together better and improve your individual participation? How did you know when you were done?
How confident were you in knowing you had solved the problem?
Why were you so confident?

0.1 (homework)Lonely Groundhog

As you can tell from the activity Lonely Groundhog, people play a variety of roles when they work in groups. This assignment is an opportunity for you to reflect upon the way you participate in groups within a math classroom and outside of a math classroom. Be as thoughtful as possible when you answer these questions because they are designed to help you.

Note: This homework will not be shared with other students if you do not want it to be.

1. a. Think of a time when you or someone in your group was left out of the discussion. Describe the situation. Did anyone try to include that person? If not, why not? If yes, then how?

b. What might you have done to help with the situation?

2. a. What has been your experience when someone in your group has made a mistake?

b. How do you think a group should handle mistakes by other group members?

3. a. Think of a time when you wanted to say something, or you did not understand something, but were too afraid to say something. Describe the situation and why you did not say what you wanted to.

b. How do you wish you would have had handled the situation?

4. Do you participate more or less than other group members? Why do you think you do so?

5. Discuss how the amount of homework preparation you do for class affects your participation in group discussions and how your preparation affects the grade your group receives?

Welcome to touchy-feeley math 101. If you feel like this comic expresses, you are not alone (even if your district math specialist tells you that you are the only one that’s ever complained about the math program, which really happened to multiple parents in ASD).


Constructivist Intolerant


26 thoughts on “USOE + Common Core = Death of Math”

  1. This is secondary math? As in, NINTH grade? And this is MATH? When exactly do they get to the math part of the book?

    I find question #5 especially disturbing. Will the Jordan and Granite districts be grading kids in math based on how their GROUP does? I truly hope this is just a question in the book, and not representative of how these districts will handle the grading of its individual students.

    Please share some of the other lessons in the book. I’d like to get a taste for how this book develops – perhaps a lesson half-way through, and the last lesson, to see where this goes. It truly does make me feel like that fellow in the comic.

  2. The third paragraph above has a link to the book. There are some decent problems in the book but again, there’s no instruction. It’s not a textbook, it’s a problem set.

  3. Any math that sinks into students in this lesson is secondary to the the real purpose of this lesson on communitarian thinking and consensus building skills. The entire group can arrive at the wrong answer in this process, but as long as they all agree, it’s okay. I skimmed through some of the “lessons” and am appalled at the social engineering techniques used. God help the individual student who does not fit or agree with the ideals set forth by the group. They even go so far as to suggest the classroom have a poster that lists 1. Math Norms 2. Social Norms. Social Norms are not math The section on the Question Cube is interesting. (pg14) Students are not supposed to make a statement. All statements must be rephrased into the form of a question. So, in a nut shell, you basically eliminate all absolutes and objective thinking (2+2=4) and subscribe to relevantism. By their logic, 2+2 could equal 5 if that is the consensus of the group. I was reminded of something I read by CS Lewis from the Abolition of Man and it pretty much sums it up….”If they embark on this course the difference between the old and the new education will be an important one. Where the old initiated, the new merely ‘conditions’. The old dealt with its pupils as grown birds deal with young birds when they teach them to fly; the new deals with them more as the poultry-keeper deals with young birds- making them thus or thus for purposes of which the birds know nothing. In a word, the old was a kind of propagation-men transmitting manhood to men; the new is merely propaganda.”

  4. I just bought a used Saxon math book for $4. There’s even a free placement test by Saxon, online. I’m working at home after school on math since my kids are still in public schools. Don’t depend on the USOE to make sure your child learns math.

  5. This is crazy! How many Utah math teachers actually critiqued this and are part of the crowd who loves Common Core? This looks more like a psychology book, not a high school math book. I foresee many kids learning to hate math using this method who might have otherwise been great at it. What a disservice. It’s obvious this is not about the kids or about superior education. It’s about social engineering. I advocate private or home schooling without using an organization which advocates Common Core. Unfortunately Common Core is filtering into homeschooling curricula and online schools at an alarming rate this year.

    1. I couldn’t agree with you more Susie. I had my children enrolled in an online school and pulled them out this past fall for the reasons you state. Even though I was teaching my children, I was spending more time altering the curriculum than I was really teaching them. The school was also invading our space more and more with teacher conferences, testing they absolutely had to do, their time on the computer had increased to a ridiculous level. In essence, they took the “home” out of home school. Parents need to wake up and take notice of what their children are being indoctrinated with. It isn’t about getting an education anymore. This movement is about creating a generation that doesn’t know how to think so they will simply follow what they are told.

  6. If the math curriculum is this bad, I wonder how our children are supposed to be individually tested on this collective group approach.

  7. This is so disturbing. If I did not know as much as I have learned the past few years, I probably would not believe it. Why are so many of our educators blind to this? It is time for parents to take their kids out of the government institutions before it is too late. We need to be fearless in our efforts to protect our children. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. The reason our teachers are “blind” to this is because they are good worker bees. They go to work and do as they are told without asking questions, like everyone else. They look forward to the end of the day, when they can go to happy hour and watch their favorite TV programs, like everyone else. And as for their own kids, as long as their kids get a good letter on their report cards, they pat them on the back and don’t ask too many questions, like everyone else. They implement a curriculum that teaches your kid to be a good worker bee, like everyone else. They, for the most part, couldn’t care less about what they are actually doing.

      People have to understand that their kids’ education is too important to be left to a class of bureaucrats. Most parents have jobs to do and bills to pay, and need/want free babysitting, and really don’t care too much about what happens to their child, so long as he is not molested, while they are in the hands of the anonymous babysitters. In a sense, they are getting what they deserve.

      If you care about your kid, get him or her out of the public school system.

  8. I reviewed the 200+ pages of the online math book from the link above. I have a 2 part math question for you.

    A. How many parents would be thrilled that their children would be asked math questions about borrowing money from crime lords, food shortages and population control, out of control H1N1 viruses on school campuses, driving Ford Focuses and comparing the gas used to the barrels of oil wasted because of oil spills, and how to deal with gun-happy serial killers who terrorize cities?

    What if your child innocently answered this real question from Math 1 book, “#23. A serial killer is stalking the residents of Gloomy Falls, Mass., population 937. Every year the population diminishes by 4.5%. How many residents are left after the killer’s three-year rampage? HOW WILL YOU STOP HIM?”

    Your child is used to hearing about his 2nd Amendment rights at home and he innocently writes his answer down. Because of Obama’s new FERPA guidelines, that data is now allowed to be shared with federal agencies without parental permission.

    B) How soon can you expect a knock from Homeland Security or a Child Protective Agency at your door?

    1. This is funny and yet not. I want to take my children out of this horrible math, yet I am scared I will ruin them. The more I read and learn about this “math” the more shocked I become.

      1. One of the greatest myths of homeschooling is that parents will ruin their students if they homeschool them. There are loads of resources you can use, especially in younger grades. If I were to do a post on this there would be many suggestions posted by people but I’ll toss a couple of resources out that are unique. Singapore math is fabulous especially in K-6 with their Primary Math series (available at You can see samples of it on another of my websites ( Tonight at a neighborhood BBQ, we got talking about the Life of Fred series of books which are fun stories that teach math (I think written by a sci-fi author). Saxon math is very popular in charter schools and with homeschoolers. It’s more of the solid traditional math we grew up with. In Utah, you can dual-enroll your child in school so they take some classes from the district and some through homeschooling. There are also online resources with live teachers… Bottom line is don’t sell yourself short.

        1. So true Oak! I love the freedom of choosing whichever math curriculum is best for each of my children and they are thriving. My 9th grader finished Alg 1 and Geometry last year in 8th grade because she had the freedom to go as quickly as she wanted. We’ve used Life of Fred and lots of Singapore for our math curriculum. She hated being stifled in school when she had a love of learning and wanted to achieve her potential in every subject. SHE begged ME to homeschool…not the other way around. Both girls said they learned more on their first day of homeschool than they did the whole last year in public school. They literally thanked me everyday for taking them out of school to learn at home. They learn at their pace out of the best books.

          We’re only discussing math because of this post, but wait till the English texts start appearing. English is one of those subjects parents need to pay the most attention to, along with History and Science. Most propaganda and controversial and immoral subjects come through English than any other subject. We love using Christian/LDS curricula in every subject. After experiencing the difference a quality Christian-based education makes, we never want to go back.

          Utah permits you to dual-enroll for only one subject or many. This is not the case in many states. Here, you can take your child out of school (or put him in) for just one or two subjects if you want to. There are so many choices. Parents can hand pick what works best for their individual child. The main thing is…never completely leave the responsibility to the school or program. Parents have to stay diligent at all times whichever program they choose.

      2. Dear EA. You will only ruin them if you leave them there. John Holt, of Holt and Holt math books from years ago, stated, at a home schooling seminar that I went to, “That your children would be better off being taken home and taught nothing, than to leave them in public school.”

    2. I just heard on KSL Radio Saturday morning (Sept 8) that Granite School District will be shelving this new online Math Book because of the crazy references to crime lords and serial killers. Yesterday, they made the book inaccessible unless you had a username and password. Today it is gone. It took exactly one week to enact this common sense change because of parents like you. I wonder what they will use now and if Jordan District will follow suit. Parents need to stay diligent looking at EVERY book their children use in school these days. Make sure the books come home periodically and you look at the work assigned.

  9. This makes me sick! In 7th grade here in Washington State my son was given similar questions. When he wrote on the paper -When do I get to do MATH? I was immediately called in for a talk. When I read the “so-called math” questions I wanted to scream. That is when my local district starting informing parents of such material and when I started closely monitoring my children’s school work.

    There are those who wish to use children and schools as social engineers with a view to creating a different society. However, children need to be nurtured, educated and cared for, not thrown into the frontline of social reform. Muddled thinking is guaranteeing failure for the noble aspirations we all commonly hold for the education of the young.

    This is exactly what happened in Washington State during the tenure of Dr. Terry Bergeson (1996-2008) who based her social engineering of school children from the works of Dr. Robert Carkhuff, a self proclaimed social scientist that was kicked out of several research hospitals for experimenting on students with his ideas. Of all his works none have ever been accepted from peers as true science. Carkhuff has been generating “The Science of Human Generativity” for more than five decades. He is probably best known for his “The Science of Human Relating.” Carkhuff and his lifelong associate, Bernard G. Berenson, Ph.D., generated “The New Science of Possibilities” (HRD Press, 2000), which Dr Bergeson based her 3Rs of learning on – Relating, Representing and Reasoning (researched and developed by Carkhuff Thinking Systems). Sadly, Dr Bergeson has moved on to San Francisco where her self-proclaimed propaganda continues to affect school children.

  10. How can you call this math? Especially secondary math. This is something that you MIGHT see in elementary school but hopefully not. This is another reason why, even though it is difficult at times, we home school our children. At least we can have direct involvement in what curriculum we use. It is sad to think that this is the direction the education system of this great country is headed. I just hope there are enough people in this country that will stand up to this atrocity. If the leaders of the education system won’t listen to us, we should show them we don’t like what they are doing by removing our children from the system and educating them ourselves.

  11. We are homeschoolers and use (love) the Life of Fred math series. Just for the record, Stanley F. Schmidt, PhD, is not a science fiction writer. That’s a different Stanley Schmidt. I haven’t been able to find much bio info on Stanley F. Schmidt, the author of Life of Fred, through a search on the internet. What I can tell you is that he was a math teacher in high school for several years, and that is where Fred was ‘born.’

    EA said he/she wanted to take their children out but was scared they would ruin them. I can assure you that that feeling of insecurity as a parent stems from the brainwashing our society has fostered that makes parents feel unqualified to raise and educate their own children. There is absolutely NO SUBSTITUTE for a conscientious, loving parent. No school system, no government programme, no professional, can replace or do for a child what a parent can do. (Of course, this does not include abusive parents.)

    Just remember, everyone who deals with your child is doing a JOB. Everyone has good days and bad days on their job. Do parents really want their children subjected to someone else’s bad day on the job? Parents, on the other hand, do their work out of love. They aren’t getting paid for it, yet they are more committed to their children and meeting their needs than anyone else on the planet.

    It is the system that is ruining our children. Not good, conscientious, loving parents!

  12. I am in a Teacher Training course for my Master of Secondary Education Degree from Grand Canyon University (A private Christian University). The good news is that NOT ALL TEACHERS are on board with the changes to Common Core and I have met quite a few who simply address the standards during Journal time (5 minutes at the beginning of class) and then use the rest of the time to do what REALLY teaches students. Utah SHOULD be VERY scared of what Utah has done with its choice of Common Core math for another reason, though – the fact that it CANNOT be translated when a student moves to another state, since we are one of only 2 who adopted this “leveled” form of teaching math. One of my fellow teachers, who is earning his Master’s Degree in addition to teaching noted.
    ” For example I had several students to transfered from a state in which the science curriculum was integrated to one in which content was grade level specific. with spralling curricula students are introduce to a little bit of the curricula from each of the the middle level sciences based on grade and ability levels. Each year the content is expanded to include more grade / age appropriate information. 8th grade students who transferred during middle school never recieved the proper earth science training because it was assumed that they would recieve another year of preparation via spiralling. As a result the failure rate on high school earth science was extremely high amongtst these students because they had not seen the information since 6th grade.”

    That will be the fate of our math students. I am excited that Utah will be allowing students to choose some online courses… Math had better be one of those!

    I will be teaching Spanish and ESL, subjects desperately needed in today’s society, especially here in Utah. We can do so much better for our students. I am also running for State Senate in District 1 to defeat Luz Robles, who whole-heartedly supports Common Core. So if you live in Senate 1 and would like to help me get into a position to help this cause, please visit my website!


  13. What I find mildly disturbing/entertaining is the group involvement and how it calls to question some other kids involvement in an answer. “Did Billy help? No? Let’s all look at him with disappointed eyes.” To be fair, I did go to a high school, although not too long ago, that emphasized this tactic to an extent. What kind of puzzles me about education in general is why the teacher is so set on knowing why you did what you did instead of being happy that it was done right. “Why do I need to tell you how I did it if I got it right, doesn’t that prove I was listening?” And as I was a shy kid, answering a question out loud was torture, I can only imagine what today’s school system would do to a child like that. Probably prescribe antidepressants…

  14. As a teacher in Utah who first came here to teach in a Core Knowledge charter school but who now teaches in a public school, I want you to know that the vast majority of public school teachers I meet believe in constructivist gobble gook and are thrilled that Common Core will now require it. They have been brainwashed (through repeatedly being told) that they never understood math, they were never really taught math or how to understand it….remember the saying if you repeat a big lie often enough….that they really (with the most pure of intentions) want to ensure this doesn’t happen to students today. They work more hours trying to have activities that don’t teach than they would if they just had a straightforward, traditional math text which required lots of independent student practice. Teachers work harder and longer now making games and cut outs and laminating them and trying to control behaviors of students who are bored and/or off task than they ever have. Then, when their students perform poorly, they are told it is because they are no good at teaching….they are told repeatedly that curriculum doesn’t make any difference….their teaching is the only problem. How demoralizing to hear that when you put in 12 hours per day and some weekends to do what your leaders tell you to implement only to be told that you are the problem. Unfortunately, the public is told this as well and fingers are pointed at the teachers from all directions. Now, teacher pay will be partly based on results. I would be all for that if I were allowed to teach what and how I want knowing that I know better than the constructivist brainwashed principals and superintendants in charge….but to be paid on a demerit system (no increase if my kids don’t perform) when I have zero say on how to teach? I am observed at least once a week for a half hour at a time…often more often…to ensure that I am teaching the prescribed way. That is way too often for me to try to go rogue and do a better job very often.

    I wish I could teach at a charter school, but the pay is usually lower and they can and do let teachers go if their salaries get to high or if the principal just doesn’t particularly like you. I saw that happen in my charter school regularly so I had to leave. It is a no win situation for me and the students stuck in the system.

    More money for charters, local taxes for charters could fix a lot of this. Then teachers on one income could teach at well run charters…and more students could get out. But there is also a ton of charter money being wasted on expeditionary schools. That also has to stop.

  15. I have been teaching middle school math in Utah for 8 years. I noticed a few misconceptions in the comments above and thought I should comment. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Math are remarkably similar to the previous Utah 2007 Core standards. CCSS does NOT advocate for constructivist presentation. Here’s the link to Utah’s version of CCSS Math 7; you will not any requirement or inference to HOW the concepts and materials are taught, only WHAT should be taught.

    In implementing CCSS, Utah had two choices: 1) adopt CCSS with the same structure as the 2007 standards, organized as Pre-Algebra, Algebra, Geometry, and Algebra II OR 2) adopt CCSS integrated version, organized as Math 8 through Math 11. CCSS integrated version has a slightly different organization strategy and moves some of the standards to earlier or later grades. For instance, Functions were introduced of Algebra II (10th grade for most students) in the Utah 2007 standards but are introduced in Math 8 in CCSS. Quadratics were introduced in Algebra (8th grade for most students) but are now covered in Math 9. Geometry, which was previously a separate subject, is now spread across several grades and integrated with other math concepts.

    Utah chose option 2 – Integrated CCSS. That meant it became impracticable for school districts to use their existing math books. An eighth grader would be learning concepts previously taught in three different older textbooks, for example. Instead, Jordan and Granite made a decision to collaborate with BYU to create on-line textbooks rather than purchase new texts. This is purely a financial decision. They did not want to spend the money on new textbooks. However, to work with BYU, they had to embrace the constuctivist approach being researched by BYU. CCSS does not equal constructivist. Jordan and Granite chose to implement constructivist to save money.

    I taught the integrated CCSS standards last year from a remarkable online textbook sold by Glencoe. The students use a 600+ page workbook that is identical the online version. Any of the above commenters would easily recognize a fairly traditional presentation of concepts and vocabulary reinforced by working on problems they would all recognize from a math text like Saxon. These traditional problems are augmented by one or two problems per lesson that will promote critical thinking about the concepts AFTER they are presented in a traditional manner. Definitely not constructivist.

    I have reviewed the BYU work and attended a three-day Jordan School District sponsored professional development that was based on the BYU approach. The material seems attractive because it is relatively interesting compared to a more traditional approach and teachers think it will therefore engage their students. This is a very deceptive premise. Constructivist presentation is NOT a magic bullet that will make students “love” math.

    Thanks for reading.

    1. Thanks for commenting Mark. I think there are some significant differences between the new “Utah core” which is the integrated Common Core, vs. the 2007 standards, mostly due to pushing algebra 1 completion into 9th grade, and then due to the integration of discrete courses.

      I know the standards themselves do not advocate for constructivism, but the Utah State Office of Education is heavily pushing constructivism in training for Utah teachers ( This was facilitated by the USOE choosing the integrated method because no textbooks exist that match this setup. That gave them an opening to push their own agenda and they hired 5 of the biggest constructivist teachers in the state to write the new math texts under the name “Mathematics Vision Project.”

      You are absolutely correct in your assessment at the end that constructivism will not make students love math. In fact, it drives them away because they no longer comprehend math, parents hate it because there’s no textbooks to try and help their children with, and students don’t have textbooks to see clear explanations about concepts they don’t understand from what their teacher taught.

  16. Keep repeating the truth, Oak. Maybe people will wake up.

    BTW, the problem is just as huge in literacy. The common core advocates read, teacher models thinking and connections, children then journal. No tests for comprehension…nada. Read and write, read and write…when we don’t teach grammar or explicitly teach children solid writing foundations. Anyway, since when have 7 and 8 years old truly had thoughts worth writing down that would IMPROVE their reading comprehension?

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