A ‘Jeopardy!’ Jab at Common-Core Math?

By Mark Walsh — December 07, 2014 1 min read

Did the TV game show “Jeopardy!” take a sly jab at the Common Core State Standards this week?

The first round of Friday’s show, the finale of its “Kids Week,” offered a category titled “Non-Common Core Math.”

Host Alex Trebek didn’t explain the reference, as he does for some cheekily-titled categories, saying only, “You’re going to love it.”

A few clues into the round, 12-year-old contestant Tyler Van Patten chose Non-Common Core Math for $200.

The answer: 1+2+3+4+5. Tyler correctly came up with the question: “What is 15.”

The next clue seemed to confirm that the reason the category was dubbed Non-Common Core Math was that it offered old-fashioned mathematical addition and subtraction, not the esoteric math word problems that critics say have resulted from the common-core math standards.

The $400 clue: 1-2+3-4+5. Tyler buzzed in again, but his time ran out as he appeared to be doing the math in his head. The correct question: What is 3?

Still, Tyler pressed ahead in the category. The $600 clue: 1x2x3x4x5. Tyler again buzzed in, and again struggled to do the math before time ran out. The correct question: What is 120.

“Tyler, you’re at negative 400, you want to stay in the category,” Trebek asked, and Tyler wisely moved to another category.

The young contestants went through all the other categories before returning to Non-Common Core Math at the end of the round.

The $800 clue was -1x2x-3x4x-5. The correct question: What is -120.

Time for the round ran out before the $1000 answer could be revealed. “Maybe it’s just as well that we don’t get to that last math clue,” Trebek said.

When the show returned from commercial for the Double Jeopardy round, I watched to see whether there would be a category such as Common-Core Math, since the show sometimes plays off categories in that way between the two rounds. But, there was no such category.

Tyler, an aspiring attorney, overcame his challenges with Non-Common Core Math to win the show, with $23,801 in winnings.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Education and the Media blog.

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