My view: What's wrong with Utah's math core?


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  • caf Bountiful, UT
    Oct. 6, 2013 9:53 p.m.

    Another VERY critical observation. My daughter's high school Secondary Math II teacher cannot teach some of the new basic Common Core standard subjects. She assumes that the Junior High Teacher has taught important concepts and refuses to "re-teach" what they should have already learned. Hmmmm....obviously they have not already learned the subject matter. The class is doing miserably as a whole. These are bright students who did fine when they were learning a specific subject like Algebra. Now they are sinking with 'Integrated Math'. I have begun hearing radio ads offering math tutoring for our children so that they don't fail the new Common Core standards. SAY WHAT?! What kind of math standards cause so much confusion that there is a need for mass tutoring help?
    Dr. Wright, do you realize that our State Board thinks that those of us with concerns are just unenlightened crazy people? Governor Herbert pulled a fast one on us when he bought in to the Common Core rather than making our districts and schools more accountable.

  • Mamma C HEBER CITY, UT
    Aug. 5, 2013 8:39 p.m.

    I spoke with a teenager today who has been in "Common Core math" for almost three years. The teen said that this is how it works: the math teacher withholds information. The smartest kids use trial and error to invent some kind of algorithm while most of the class doodles and yawns for the majority of the class time. Then the smart kids "teach" their findings to the other kids in a twisted, confusing way. Lastly, if they are lucky, the teacher tells the students how the algorithm really goes. What a waste. We long for the olden days (four years ago) when teachers taught.

  • That Guy From AF American Fork, UT
    Aug. 5, 2013 7:11 p.m.

    The new core standards do not require teachers to teach purely through the discovery process. They still have very specific standards to teach in terms of mathematical concepts. If you were to walk into a math classroom in my school, you would still see a lot of the traditional methods that have been used for years. The difference is that more emphasis is being placed on critical thinking, problem solving, and application of math concepts. They also want students to see that, in many cases, there are multiple ways to solve problems and arrive at the same solutions, but this is just one piece of a much larger set of teaching methods and "pedagogy". With future jobs and careers being comprised of problems and tasks that haven't even been discovered yet, it is imperative that we improve our students skills in these areas, and the common core standards try to achieve this goal.

    I think a lot of people have really misrepresented or put their own "spin" on the facts, and we take a lot of unnecessary flack in public education because of it.

  • Vladhagen Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 5, 2013 6:59 p.m.

    @Mr Beal. I think that your thoughts on math professors are quite flawed. This would be like arguing that Jerry Sloan is a horrid basketball coach because he couldn't teach a 5'7" guy to succeed in basketball. Believe me when I say, my math professors far outstrip most math teachers I had in high school both in level of total ability and teaching prowess. Would you trust the editorial more if it was written by a ballet professor? Who besides a man who has devoted his life to teaching math would you trust?
    Perhaps your thoughts on mathematics stem from your own lack of success in mathematics?
    @SLDad. The first thing we need to do is find math teachers that actually know the fundamentals of mathematics. Right now, Utah is sort of lacking in that department. Keep in mind that my mom taught high school math, now teaches elementary school, and that I went to school for 13 years in UT public education. I have seen the sad state of affairs first hand.

  • Vladhagen Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 5, 2013 6:47 p.m.

    I have to wonder what would happen if we just let nature take its course with math. I am a successful graduate student in math currently. Did I learn much math from public school? Nope. I went to school before a lot of this mandate and control on curriculum came down. We need to strip away all this pedagogy and just teach the core principles of mathematics.
    I think that in a sense, Ajax has a point. Some of these statistics about other nations and their mathematics scores is quite skewed. i worked for a period of several years in South Korea and found that only the best and the brightest go on to take math (and hence benchmark tests). The data from some of these "super math" nations is not as accurate as the total aggregate used in the US. In the US, everyone takes math to some level (albeit quite low). Many other countries never even have low kids take math tests. Hence their scores seem higher.

  • Chuck E. Racer Lehi, UT
    Aug. 3, 2013 5:18 p.m.

    To Howard Beal:
    You are correct that the block system is a failure. It was a result of the state board sticking their noses in what should have been a local board responsibility for credits needed to graduate. As a result (again of the state board's interference) and to make it possible to also have electives, the local boards went with the block schedule.

    The professors who don't know how to teach are the the Math Education professors, who are only about pedagogy and who teach teachers - not math. The professors who DO know how to teach are the real math professors, who do know their math AND teach it. So Dr. Wright IS right!

    The way we are going now, we would be better off going back to what we had before "Nation At Risk" rather than all this convoluted accountability junk, but we would have to get rid of the negative influence of the education professors first.

  • Ajax Mapleton, UT
    Aug. 2, 2013 7:33 p.m.

    Has anyone considered the possibility that our kids don't do well at school, not for insufficent funding, larger classrooms or misguided curricula, but because they're dumb?

  • Redshirt1701 Deep Space 9, Ut
    Aug. 2, 2013 10:06 a.m.

    To "SaltLake Dad" lets just take a step back and look at this objectively.

    Was the "No Child Left Behind" program a success or failure? If you consider it a failure, do you honestly think that the politicians who had their hand in this one got it right?

    Why should we be supporting a program that is using experimental teaching methods on our children that math educators say will put our kids further behind in math?

    Why support a math program that makes math harder to understand because it sacrifices repetition and mastery for a chance to teach more advanced principles?

    How does teaching advanced concepts help our kids perform better when they do not have an understanding of the basics (this is what occurs in language arts and math under common core)?

    Various professors of mathematics have clearly stated that the common core program for mathematics will make our kids even less prepared for college level math than they currently are.

    Knowing and seeing the problems of CC first hand, the opposition isn't because of where it came from, but because of the dumbing down that it brings.

  • SaltLake Dad ,
    Aug. 2, 2013 9:41 a.m.

    The opposition to common core seems to be more of a visceral response to anything that seems to come from outside the Utah community. Never mind that Utah is near the bottom in student spending and not anywhere near the top when it comes to student performance. If we had a great system, then by all means we should protest fixing something that is not broken. Until then it is a disservice to Utah students and the community to oppose something just because it did not come from "local" sources. If we knew all about fixing education "locally" then why do we not have a high school graduation rate that is close to 100%. Accoding to numbers from 2011, we are higher than only 14 other states when it comes to high school graduation. Why do we have so many freshman college students so unprepared for college ?

    With all due respect to math professors, being good at math and writing textbooks is very different from sitting down with 30+ distracted kids and teaching them the fundamentals of math.
    Unless we overhaul math education in elementary, middle and high school, we will continue to send under-prepared kids to college.

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    Aug. 1, 2013 11:20 p.m.

    The talk about the common core is always interesting but well before its implementation, math scores were plummeting. Again, most people don't know what is really going on in our schools.

    I wonder in Singapore if their students come from many diverse backgrounds (culturally, linguistically, economically).

    Does Singapore put 40-45 students in their classes?

    Does Singapore high schools have the block schedule meaning that teachers only meet with students maximum of three days per week, two times every other week (and this is if the student doesn't miss a class). Yet, there is no discussion how the block schedule sabotages math teaching (and teaching in many other subjects as well as 1) students (and adults for that matter) don't do well learning in 90 minute increments and 2) students need to meet with their math teachers for instruction and more guided practice at least four times a week, preferably five in a normal school week.

    But instead, at least at secondary level, too much time is spent on talking about curriculum.

    P.S. Most math professors can't teach math, look at their own success rate with non-Math majors, so this alone makes me question this editorial.

  • Dr. James Rawson Orem, UT
    Aug. 1, 2013 4:37 p.m.

    It's obvious that the majority of responsible parents, do not want their children participating in Common Core. Thanks Dr. Wright for a provocative, factual analysis of this "screwed up" Math pedagogy. I've instructed my children to place their children in private schools that teach Math as it should be taught; not dumbed down, or the current investigative method I call the, "by guess or by golly," method of teaching and hoping our children will succeed in learning Math. Common Core is a dumbed-down pedagogical form of education that will continue to send our children in a downward spiral so that very few will be successful at the college level. Obviously, the USOE has an agenda.....and refuses to acknowledge parental and educator desires for a higher approach to teaching Math and; the facts that stare them squarely in the face. I will not support Common Core at any level and will continue to speak out against it and encourage families to remove their children from the state's public schools. There are online programs that far exceed and are pedagogically more sound than Common Core will ever be, that are offered by private schools.

  • RedShirt USS Enterprise, UT
    Aug. 1, 2013 4:10 p.m.

    To "CaptainKirk" the problem is that Utah can't. The Common Core standards cannot be changed or altered by a state. (According to the Common Core Public License) That means Utah cannot adopt Common Core AND make the changes to it so that it won't be a disaster.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Aug. 1, 2013 3:26 p.m.

    What's wrong with Utah's math core is... it wasn't mandated by Obama or the Brainiacs in Washington DC!

    Utah hicks just don't know yet that you can't do nothin right unless you do it the way they want in Washington!

    Move to Common Core or you will ALL continue to be mis-educated! Do it NOW... before it's too late!

    No seriously, Common Core may be the best thing since sliced bread. I just hate mandates from Washington DC and the condescending attitude towards any State that doesn't conform. As if Washington DC is super-good and has a great education system and has everythign figured out just right, and Utah can't figure ANTYHING out.

    Sometimes I just feel like a pet, that's supposed to just eat what they give me and do what they tell me to do.

  • CaptainKirk American Fork, UT
    Aug. 1, 2013 2:48 p.m.

    David G. Wright knows whereof he speaks. He has a son who is also a Ph.D. mathematician. He has spent years studying high performing school systems such as those in Singapore. He helps recruit some of the best and brightest to study math at BYU. He has authored high school math texts. He has consulted with school districts in Utah and beyond. Few people in the nation know the issues involved in secondary math education as well as Dr. Wright. Utah students will benefit if we implement his suggestions.

  • RedShirt USS Enterprise, UT
    Aug. 1, 2013 12:38 p.m.

    In other words, if Utah wants to have a good math program they need to do away with Common Core.

    The discovery based methods and the way that they teach math are so backwards that it makes math harder to understand.

    The other problem with Common Core is that it sacrifices repetition of basic math problems as a way of mastery in favor of teaching advanced concepts. I am still waiting to hear how teaching advanced mathematical concepts to kids that can barely add 2 numbers greather than 10, and can barely multiply or divde 2 numbers is a good thing.

  • Common-Tator Saint Paul, MN
    Aug. 1, 2013 9:03 a.m.

    I am grateful to have attended school in a district that in the 70s had a rather well-developed mathematics program (Rosemount, MN). In grade school, the basics of mathematics were drilled, to include memorizing addition & multiplication tables (now deemed radical?) ... we even had flashcard competition which encouraged even the slowest learners. Getting down those basics was simply expected.

    In 7th and 8th grade we took basic algebra and geometry. By 11th we were in pre-calculus and in 12th calculus was the natural flow for those who desired. I took the ACT spring of my junior year, and while the 36 I had was a bit of a curve breaker, scoring above 30 was the norm for fellow students. I wasn't selected for the school's "math team", though ours frequently won the state competition. Our top student was a track/cross-country letterman, and I played hoops and baseball. Doing well in math (and other areas) was simply expected in our public school system, and I didn't realize until much later that such expectations were not common.

    They should be!

    "Common Core" will not get us there. We must expect / demand much more, and it starts locally!

  • Chuck E. Racer Lehi, UT
    Aug. 1, 2013 8:53 a.m.

    It baffles me why so many curriculum and teacher trainers become so overboard in the pedagogy religion of Constructivism. It really becomes a religion to them! You can't disagree with them. No amount of proof changes them. They just BELIEVE that everything has to be discovery.

    The reality is that it is NOT the best way to teach. Yes, it can be helpful with very limited usage, but that's not what USOE and the curriculum people are proposing. Their blind doggedness, in pushing constructivist philosophy only, is causing hurt to the institution of public education, and I wish they would back off.

  • Oak Highland, UT
    Aug. 1, 2013 5:55 a.m.

    I share Dr. Wright's concerns and am grateful he has spoken out. This quote is from the American Educational Research Association and contradicts the claims made by the USOE that Common Core was internationally benchmarked. By going down the integrated math hole, Utah claimed that's what the high achieving nations are doing. Comparisons don't support that notion. Common Core is sorely lacking.

    "International Benchmarking
    Wisconsin’s SEC database contains some information on content standards for other countries. In mathematics, there are data for Finland, Japan, and Singapore on eighth-grade standards; alignments to the U.S. Common Core are .21, .17, and .13, respectively. All three of these countries have higher eighth-grade mathematics achievement levels than does the United States. The content differences that lead to these low levels of alignment for cognitive demand are, for all three countries, a much greater emphasis on 'perform procedures' than found in the U.S. Common Core standards. For each country, approximately 75% of the content involves 'perform procedures,' whereas in the Common Core standards, the percentage for procedures is 38%."