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Topic: What's a Math Educator to Do? RE: Common Core St. Stds Maths.
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
What's a Math Educator to Do? RE: Common Core St. Stds Maths.
Posted: Aug 16, 2012 5:43 PM
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From the Notices of the American Mathematics Society [AMS], August
20,, 2012. See DOI:

What's a Math Educator to Do?

I feel like a schizophrenic. I truly think that the Common Core State
Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM) are a disaster. I think that the
high-stakes tests based on these standards will stultify the
mathematics curriculum for a decade, curtailing any attempts at
experimentation and creativity. I think they will take us back to a
time when the rich got richer and the poor got poorer, i.e., when
motivated math students got ahead and weaker students just dropped
away, knowing little and content to tell anyone who would listen that
they were always bad in math. They're not the standards I would have
written. In the spirit of full disclosure, I was actually on the
writing team for CCSSM. Unfortunately they chose to use only the
prepositions I wrote-none of the nouns or verbs. I have taken to
writing blogs and op-ed pieces criticizing CCSSM and calling for
quite radical change. So why do I feel like a schizophrenic? Because
I am at the same time working to make the implementation of the CCSSM
be as effective as possible!

I don't think that this is hypocrisy. I really don't. These
standards, the tests based on them, and the curricula based on those
tests based on those standards are going to be with us for a long
time. Teachers will be trained in CCSSM both pre- and in-service, and
a huge cohort of students will go through the system that is
evolving. It will not be possible to be a U.S. mathematics
educator-at least for the next decade-and not be involved with the
implementation of CCSSM. I care about that generation of kids. I care
that they learn as much mathematics as they can and that they learn
to use that mathematics as they go on-in school, in careers, as
knowledgeable citizens, and in their daily lives.

And so I will work with the assessment consortia. I will sit on
advisory boards for curriculum projects. I will write reports to NSF
and other funders talking about how to do this "right", even though
in my heart of hearts I wished they'd tear these standards up and
start from scratch or, better yet, breathe new life into the 1989
Standards of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM),
which were never given a fair chance to succeed. In fact, it is the
lesson of the "math wars" that helps to make me as divided as I am.
In the 1990s critics of those standards simply threw rocks. The fact
that 10+ years of attacks did nothing to help the mathematics
education of so many children was not their concern. In their eyes
their cause was just and therefore sacrifices had to be made.

I am not so cavalier. I have strong and fervent beliefs that CCSSM is
wrong-headed, and I will say so in public. But I will also work to
make the emerging system as positive an experience for teachers and
students as possible. And I know I'm not alone. It is always easier
to criticize and be cynical. It is harder to roll up one's sleeves
and get to work. So I will remain a schizophrenic, work for students
and teachers to learn what mathematics they can, and work for the day
that our standards come back to their senses.

Solomon Garfunkel, Executive Director,
Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications

Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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