Utah 2007 Math Standards Timeline of Events

What follows below is a timeline of the events the state of Utah went through to create new math standards in 2007. State officials traveling around the state have been spreading some false information about these standards and this post is an effort to reveal the whole story and expose the state office of education’s utter lack of interest in quality standards. They didn’t care then, and they don’t care about the quality of standards now, and they say that those of us in opposition to Common Core don’t even want standards. The truth is, we’re the only ones fighting for quality standards.

The short background on this is in 2004 I discovered my daughter was no longer being taught the times tables and wouldn’t be taught long division. We took things into our own hands at home to make sure she learned these things. I also went to the school district to complain and ask that they teach these basic things and discovered that due to low state standards, they didn’t have to, and had actually punished teachers who stepped outside the district’s policy of fully implementing Investigations math. So I went over their heads to the legislature to get our state standards raised and this was the resulting timeline of events.



I appeared to the education committee of the legislature to testify that Utah’s standards were inadequate and allowed for programs like Investigations math to be used in Alpine School District. State curriculum director Brett Moulding was in attendance and contradicted me. The result was the legislature considering adopting the California math standards to replace ours.




In October 2006, Utah legislators invited Dr. Jim Milgram to review and comment on our then D-rated (by Fordham Foundation) math standards. Dr. Milgram pointed out numerous problems. West Ed came with a 500 page analysis of Utah’s standards and concluded they were similar to California’s excellent A rated standards. Milgram trashed that notion with mathematical precision. Several times during this meeting, people from the state office of education said that each state should customize standards to meet their own needs. The USOE personnel had also argued in prior meetings and perhaps this one, that creating new standards and implementing them would be costly to the state, especially since they’d done it just 5 or so years ago.




It was a direct result of that meeting that led legislators in this interim session to pass a resolution to redo the math standards and get us world class standards. State office acknowledges this directive and gets on it. You can read the resolution at this link.




State Superintendent Patti Harrington agreed to the task of creating new standards and the USOE put together a committee of people including Dr. David Wright, and Dr. Hugo Rossi. 11 of the 16 members the USOE selected had signed a document in 2006 that Utah did not need to change its math standards. Bad start.


February 20, 2007

– Email provided by Dr. David Wright, BYU Math Dept.

Diana Suddreth sends email to members of drafting committee containing most recent drafts of the core revisions. Email mentions upcoming meetings for the committees and focus groups in Roosevelt on March 27th, and Jordan on April 10th. No focus groups in Utah ever happened for Common Core.




The math standards were written over the next few months and then they were presented in the May 2007 interim committee meeting. At this meeting, Nicole Paulson, USOE state math curriculum director noted concerning the new standards:

Focus groups were held throughout the state
Elementary core is 2 months ahead—In April there were public hearings on the elementary standards
External review occurred as well
June-presentation to state board for final approval
Secondary core
June-request permission for public hearings
August-final approval
Standards will be for implementation of 07-08 school year
Content was reviewed against other states and nations
Clarity and coherence is significantly increased in the math standards

Statements from the meeting:

Senator Howard Stephenson: We talked a year ago about comparing our standards to Singapore and California.  Dr. Wright how would you compare these new standards to Singapore and CA?

Dr. David Wright: Our standards are good, but they don’t have the clarity of California’s standards.  However some of our standards are better particularly when we discussed with Dr. Wu one of the external reviewers who worked on the CA standards the importance of the number line and other items.  If these were given to the Fordham Foundation they might get a B rating, I’d like to get an A rating but we have to start somewhere.  If we adopt CA standards there would be a lot of rebellion among teachers having something forced on them where they weren’t part of the process.  As I said earlier, end of level tests and professional development are also important to the process and I think that we have the potential in this state to do very well indeed.  We have great teachers in Utah who will get the job done.

Dr. Wright also noted that the request of the legislature last year to adopt “world class standards” has not occurred due primarily to the composition of the committee and politics being played between math educators and mathematicians. Dr. Wright also did extensive work in 2006 to get math professors all around Utah to sign a petition to have Utah adopt California’s math standards, an idea the USOE shot down because they didn’t want to have the same standards as another state…

Basically, Utah got much improved standards, but they were never benchmarked against other top performing nations or states. Nicole had told Dr. Wright they would be compared against Singapore’s standards but they were not. Interestingly, Dr. Wright in 2006 got 144 Utah professors of math related fields, to sign a petition for Utah to just adopt California’s excellent standards.



May 31, 2007

– Email provided by Dr. David Wright, BYU Math Dept.

Diana Suddreth emails out the most recent working draft of the standards. Mentions a meeting June 28 in Farmington at 1 pm and notes if they “have a significant amount of public response, we may meet earlier.” This shows they were getting public comment and considering it. Something that never happened under Common Core.


June 20, 2007



Public comments are sought on the new math standards. The USOE posted a survey up and asked for feedback on the standards.


June 25, 2007

– Email provided by Dr. David Wright, BYU Math Dept.

Diana Suddreth emails a reminder of the June 28 Farmington meeting and it’s been changed to a 9 am start time because of the public comments they’d received. That’s 4 hours earlier than the last email noted for a start time. Notes a big complaint that the Pythagorean Theorem was removed. Public hearings this week are in Ogden (Wednesday) and Logan (Friday).


July 5, 2007

– Email provided by Dr. David Wright, BYU Math Dept.

Diana Suddreth emails a final draft of the secondary math core. They plan to meet to make a final review before approving for delivery to the state board.


June 7, 2007

– Email provided by Dr. David Wright, BYU Math Dept.

Diana Suddreth emails with a subject line “Public hearings authorized”, stating in the body of the email, “The Board of Education approved our proposal for public hearings at their meeting this morning.  There is a link on the secondary website for interested parties to submit input.  I will also accept email and regular mail comment.  I will compile all that is submitted for our review at our next meeting.”


August 2, 2007

Legislators are concerned about the new math standards based on feedback from constituents and they invite Dr. Milgram to perform an external review of the new standards.

Dr. Milgram’s report declares the new standards a mess and in need of significant work. Key components were left out of the draft by the USOE and after making a few changes recommended by the first external reviewer, Dr. Hung-Hsi Wu at Berkeley, the USOE introduced new errors into the standards by their poor efforts to make corrections.

This is the letter to the state board from the chairs of the Interim Education Committee


This is Dr. Milgram’s review of the standards. (7 pages)


In Dr. Milgram’s report, he quotes Dr. Wu, the external reviewer, who said, “Except for (I think) three or four small instances involving very simple changes in the standards of K-6, such as the change of one word (e.g., ‘value’ to ‘number’), they left intact almost EVERY objection I made. In other words, the mess is still where it was before.”

Members of the state office of education are apparently stating that Dr. Milgram said this of the 2007 standards and use it to justify the adoption of Common Core as an improvement. Firstly, it wasn’t Dr. Milgram’s statement, it was the external reviewer Dr. Wu that said it. Secondly, Common Core’s math is actually a full year behind our 2007 math standards which put most students on track to complete algebra 1 by 8th grade and to calculus by 12th, while Common Core’s integrated path pushes those classes back a full year for completion of algebra 1 in 9th grade and only pre-calculus by 12th, for most students.

The rest of Dr. Milgram’s report showed specific instances where the language and presentation of the standards was particularly weak. Among statements in his report:

“Prof. Wu strenuously objected to this standard in his report, but his objection was ignored.”

“As I said, I’ve just scratched the surface here. Prof. Wu’s description of the document as “the mess” is entirely apt.”

“It has been my experience that when standards do not spell out, in detail, what needs to be covered, that material will not be covered. Additionally, when there is no coherence

to the standards, there will be no coherence in instruction. Students will simply learn long lists of factoids, and will never develop anything approaching mathematical proficiency.”

“So I am forced to conclude, as I stated in the introduction, that it is impossible to simply revise the Utah document. It must be entirely redone.”

This was harsh criticism. It was somewhat of a surprise after Dr. Wright thought the standards were perhaps B-rated, when the Fordham Foundation gave them an A-. Was it deserved? Considering that the USOE didn’t want to change the standards, appointed a majority of people to the committee who signed a document that our prior D rated standards didn’t need changed, and the USOE brought in West Ed to try and convince the legislators to not change the standards, it’s not much of a surprise that there were some problems in the standards. They were, however, correctable to a large extent if Dr. Wu’s review had been followed…

In fact, of special note is that without Dr. Wu’s strenuous effort, the 2007 standards would not have had exponents included in them. http://www.oaknorton.com/mathupdates/20070811.cfm


August 3, 2007

– Email provided by Dr. David Wright, BYU Math Dept.

Diana Suddreth emails with a subject line “Secondary math core passes”. Body of email says, “The Utah State School Board unanimously approved the Secondary Mathematics Core Curriculum this afternoon.  Again, thank you everyone for your hard work on this.”


August 24, 2007


The state board sent a letter signed by the board president and state superintendent to Utah legislators in response to Milgram’s letter to the committee chairs. They took issue with his comments and describe how the process wasn’t rushed and they had external reviewers vet them. Here are a couple quotes from the letter:

“The Utah State Board of Education and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Patti Harrington believe the new math standards are, in fact, the world class standards that we all want. These standards offer the rigor needed in the classroom and will hold students and teachers accountable for learning. They also offer flexibility to teachers to use their classroom time to the students’ best advantage.”

“Our new math standards will not leave our students behind. This is a curriculum that will prepare Utah’s best to compete with the best in the world in scientific, technological and engineering innovation. It will also equip all Utah students with the math skills needed for tomorrow’s world.”

They were very confident in the new standards.


On or about Sept. 19, 2007


Interim Education Committee meeting.

Testimony was given that the new standards had not been internationally benchmarked, contrary to USOE statements.

Legislators asked USOE officials what the external reviewers thought of the standards and if there had been communication with them. They were told that the external reviews went great, everything was implemented, and no additional communication had been given by the external reviewers after the standards were completed.

At that point Dr. Milgram, present by phone, chimed in that indeed Nicole Paulson at the state office had communicated and received communication back from Dr. Wu at Berkeley regarding a question she posed to him. It seems that when Milgram wrote his review to legislators in the prior month and made his harsh statements and quoted Dr. Wu saying the new standards were in the same “mess” they were in when he reviewed them, Nicole wanted to try and challenge Milgram’s statement as if he had made that up. Nicole emailed Dr. Wu asking him if he’d really said that. She didn’t know that Wu had sent that letter BCC to Dr. Milgram so he would be aware of it. Nicole wasn’t going to bring up to the committee that Dr. Wu had confirmed the standards were “a mess” and that they hadn’t implemented his recommendations, so on the spot Milgram forwarded Wu’s reply email to Nicole, to the committee. Here is the scathing letter they got that was then discussed.



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.

I made seven major recommendations:

(1) on the emphasis of the number line,

(2) on revamping the treatment of area,

(3) on a major overhaul of the treatment of rational numbers,

(4) on eliminating linguistic overkill,

(5) on improving he treatment of transformations and congruence,

(6) on automatic recall of the multiplication table,

(7) on an overhaul of the progression in K-6 from informal mathematics

in K-3 to deeper and more formal mathematics.

In the revision, there was a pro forma attempt to attend to (1), (2) and (5), but little or nothing was done about the rest. Let me explain just a bit about what I meant by “pro forma”. Consider the case of the number line. As far as I can see, two references to the number line were added to grade 1 and one reference was added to grade 2. These only scratch the surface of my main concern, which is that the number line has not been accorded “its rightful place in the school curriculum as a major idea that unifies various concepts and skills”. Moreover, (4) and (6) could have been addressed with ease, but they were not.

Of the other detailed suggestions that I made (over 40), many were not followed. Among those not followed, the most serious are the ones about mixed numbers and addition of fractions in grade 5, and the use of “predict” in connection with data in grade 3. Clearly, the committee and I are not of like minds.

Please understand that I had no intention of returning to the revised standard after writing my review, because doing the review already did me in as I had become way behind in my own work. But then rumors about the revision began to swirl around the internet. Milgram asked me about my opinion, and I was forced to take a look. My initial shock at the extent my comments had been ignored probably prompted me to exaggerate a bit about “Except for (I think) three or four small instances involving very simple changes in the standards of K-6” when I wrote to him. Now that I have tallied more carefully, I know that I should have said “a small number” rather than “three or four”. Sorry about that.

Finally, I must said in plain English that, although the Utah Standards are not by any means atrocious (in the sense that I have seen much worse), they need to adequately address five of the seven major flaws I pointed out before they can be called acceptable (all except (1) and (4)). To achieve respectability, it must address (1) and (4) as well in my opinion. And this does not even take into account of the detailed corrections I suggested. To recall what our joint report wrote about it being “a sound document that, if faithfully implemented, would lead to increased student learning”, it embarrasses me very much to point out that our team, having meet with Brett and having been told how it was necessary to expedite the PR process, decided to go along and only touched on a few criticisms for public consumption but reserved our real messages in our individual reports. In my case, I was very sympathetic to all the work the Steering Committee had done and tried to keep my comments to an *absolute* minimum. I was certain that my self-restraint in expressing my judgment would make it possible for every single one of my suggestions to be adequately addressed. Imagine therefore my shock when I found that almost the opposite was the case. But I am afraid I am now repeating myself and therefore must stop.

Dr. Wu


This is complete proof that the USOE did NOT take seriously their charge to give us world-class standards or the recommendations by external reviewers who are accomplished standards writers, and they finally had to acknowledge that fact. The bottom line is the Utah State Office of Education wasn’t interested in changing standards and certainly didn’t care about the quality of our standards when they were carrying D rated standards for several years.


Fast forward to 2010. The USOE decides to adopt Common Core with great haste. In spite of claiming in 2006-7 that Utah needs their own unique standards, they adopt Common Core along with 45 other states including California, which they said back then they didn’t want to ever do.

They determine that Common Core won’t cost Utahn’s anything, because we would have eventually spent the money anyway, a sharp contrast to their argument against the 2007 standards process they said was too expensive for Utah to adopt new standards.

They declare we need to have common standards to facilitate moving students in and out of the state, then choose to adopt the integrated method of math along with Vermont and put us on an incompatible path than ALL THE OTHER STATES.

Some at the USOE and on the state board have said that we complained about the 2007 standards and so did Dr. Milgram and so they felt they needed to improve on them by adopting Common Core, yet Dr. Milgram has been very vocal in opposition to Common Core’s standards. Why would they listen to Dr. Milgram in one case but not in the other?

What caused Utah to change its tune so easily? The same thing as other states…the potential to get Race to the Top money.

What caused us to adopt the integrated math method? Utah’s infatuation with constructivist math, a proven failure, and destructive to a quality education.


4 thoughts on “Utah 2007 Math Standards Timeline of Events”

  1. Last fall while the youtube video of the high school student from Tennessee passionately exposing Common Core I made comments on my facebook page that public school is more about administrators getting a check than the students. If teachers want to keep getting a check they need to not do anything that will make an administrator feel threatened about getting a check.
    There were some scathing responses from some people involved in the public school system. I am very reluctant to call pubic school education.
    I have often heard the phrase “It is hard to find good hired help.” Who in the public school system is not hired help.
    My question is “Why did it take an unpaid student in Tennessee to expose Common Core when nothing has been openly talked about by the hired help? Where can we go? Who can we depend on?

  2. I do not see an infatuation with constructivist math in Utah. Common Core has no idea what Piaget or Vygotsky wanted in math, and the writers if Commin Core have ignored the most basic, most important parts of the writings of math teaching researcher, Constance. Kamii. I think if they read any of it, it was that they looked at the pictures and ignored the text. Common Core is not using Piaget and Vygotsky friendly math. It is claiming to. Creative math is child led. Creative math is not telling the kids, this is how to solve this, or giving the kids strange graphics they are supposed to figure out how to use. Creative math gives a math problem and says, let us all try to solve this with methods coming from our own heads, and let us listen to everyone’s ideas. Next, we will ask you how you did it. If it is wrong, since math is perfect, the child himself will see it and will say, wait a minute, that is wrong. My point is, since constructivism comes from Vygotsky, who never developed math standards, and Kamii used some of his writings to do her studies, then. Constructivist math is from Kamii, and don’t insult her by saying that what they are doing now in schools is what she would like, because I know she would hate it. It is an insult to all of her work!

  3. Lisa, it might not be statewide, but it’s been in statewide trainings, and in some school districts it is highly favored. The Common Core standards were created with 8 process standards and numerous content standards. Those 8 process standards get a disproportionate amount of emphasis. The Mathematics Vision Project the USOE developed was created by 5 constructivist math teachers they hired. I assume all 5 were constructivist, but am a little unsure about 2 of them. Dr. David Wright at BYU wrote a letter to a couple senators and point 7 is his analysis of this work that it is constructivist like Investigations math. https://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/dr-david-wright-vs-usoe-8-0-for-dr-wright/

  4. I attended the Utah Core Academy last year, and it sure looked like they were pushing a constructivist approach to me. It is also worth noting–given all the talk about rigor–that one of our presenters either didn’t know what the word “prove” means in a mathematical context or didn’t realize she was using it in a mathematical context.

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