Home | About | Donate

Common Core’s New New Math Has the Same Problem as the Old New Math


Common Core’s New New Math Has the Same Problem as the Old New Math

Steven Singer

Bad ideas are like unlucky pennies – they keep coming back again.

Take the New Math. Or maybe I should say the New New Math.


It’s unfair to reject the method because it comes with testing or (@modernangel) you associate it with knee-jerk political systems. And it’s unfair to reject the method because an earlier new method was rejected.

First, the odd deconstructive method doesn’t come into it until you get well beyond counting on your fingers. In fact, it makes it possible for kids to use their fingers after they get to double digits and what older generations called “carrying.” It is indeed about understanding how math works so it isn’t just an abstraction or a mammoth collection of “facts” to be memorized for regurgitative performance.

The biggest problem with test-based education is that it emphasizes performance over understanding. The math method is a saving grace from which we aged complainers might have benefitted.


The Common Core is an excellent curriculum and it is a shame that many on the left have been duped into bashing it. Sure - bash the high stakes testing, bash the union busting inherent in using that high stakes testing to evaluate teachers on inappropriate criteria - but the curricula itself emphasizes just the right stuff. As a statistics educator, I am thrilled with the emphasis on reasoning about data in the Common Core. As a progressive person, I want a citizenry that can effectively evaluate evidence and forcefully critique propaganda.
The left should be secure in knowing that the data really does back up our position - and never fear a public that is educated in the science of evaluating that data.


One thing–I don’t believe that CC estabblishes a curriculum. I think that’s why so many districts were complaining about implementation. It only provides a set of standards, which anyone can find online. I found that fourth grade math was teaching multiplication and fractions. Huh. Sounds familiar. The biggest difference I saw between what l learned then and what they’re teaching now is that they want the kids to understand that 7 and 5 are factors of 35, which I’m not convinced is a bad thing to learn at that point.

Oh, and word problems. A greater emphasis on word problems, it looked like to me anyway, which is a good way of knowing if kids actually understand the concept of what’s being taught.


Thanks Vox.

You are right - that it really is about standards - the reasoning skills we want people to have, rather than a prescription for how to get there. Sorry that I conflated the two.

It is the standards that I meant to support with my previous post. I also support finding good curricula to teach those standards - but that is a different issue.


I figured that’s what you meant, it’s just some people get really carried away with this issue, actually claiming that the Federal Gubmint is telling everyone what to teach.

There was no way I was going to click on every link in that piece, but Iclicked on one (toward the end, about who developed the standards) and was taken to an opinion piece on a Wordpress blog. Lots of links make something appear well-sourced, but…no. Just no. And the blog post didn’t even make its point very well, arguing for multiculturalism in English classes, because CC doesn’t restrict that. It was somewhat better when taking on the "close reading"CC advocates, but failed by limiting what that means ONLY to the New Criticism! Talk to any post-strucurallist/deconstructionist and they’ll go on and on about a close reading of the text, to find the rupture, of course (ugh, can we just bury Derrida once and for all, please?)

Sorry to go on like this. It’s a topic that just kind of gets to me.


Yes - many on the right consider the Common Core a Government conspiracy and many on the left consider it a corporate conspiracy. I know the folks that worked long and hard in developing the statistics related standards. They are great people driven only by a desire for kids to know how to reason with/about data; and tried very hard to get quality feedback from educators and the community at every step.


Indeed. It’s widely unknown among the critics of CC that it was developed by state superintendents, not by the fed except as the convener. And it’s adopted or not, adapted or not, state by state. The Common Core is only a target, hoping that all US kids will have the same preparation to lead.


Trump said that the first thing he would do as President is eliminate Common Core.


Not actually within his powers. Shows how little he knows about the job.


One could naively note that if the focus is on required methodology rather than the ability to solve problems, that would promote a bias towards subjective character-based evaluation rather than based on the ability to do a job, and may be unfair to those who, for whatever reason, feel more comfortable with a particular way of doing things.


Do any of you know anything about the “spiral curriculum”? It was the way our guys were taught math. Basically it broke elementary math into separate areas (statistics, geometry, arithmetic, etc) and each year had a unit on those areas. It sounds like a good idea but it didn’t work well for
my guys. Some areas (particularly statistics) they understood easily and we never challenged, while other areas they failed to grasp year after year as the time allotted to the unit was simply not enough, or perhaps because they needed to mature mentally.(One of my sons didn’t figure out fractions or angles until he started doing his own graphics programs in high school). Maybe it would be better to cover each area in greater depth? Or perhaps the answer is just to accept that different kids learn differently and accommodate that, rather than making the kids fit the curriculum.