Standards Letter to the Editor

Math Standards: Too Much What, Too Little How?

August 10, 2010 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

In regard to “States Adopt Standards at Fast Clip” (July 14, 2010):

It seems that the Common Core State Standards Initiative’s focus on content is an exercise in smoke and mirrors. In the project’s final document, released June 2, the Standards for Mathematical Content are not that radically different from any state standards, even states’ whose students are achieving at lesser levels. The real standards, those that matter, are contained in the document, but largely ignored. They can be found in the section on Standards for Mathematical Practice, and detail what a proficient student behaves like in the classroom.

These standards, describing mathematical proficiency and the processes through which it is achieved, are what we should be pursuing by changes in the pedagogy of teachers. Only when teachers support students in making sense of content and using reasoning to personally, socially, and collectively investigate engaging problems will we be able to produce high achievement. That should be the focus of the standards.

The mathematics-proficiency standards are wonderful and reflect the research literature on how students learn best. The National Research Council report “Adding It Up: Helping Children Learn Mathematics” also details mathematical proficiency—conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, strategic competence, adaptive reasoning, and productive disposition. The latter is described as the “habitual inclination to see mathematics as sensible, useful, and worthwhile, coupled with a belief in diligence and one’s own efficacy.”

Wouldn’t it be advantageous for our country to have citizens who believe in their own, personal mathematical competence, rather than making the sign of the cross before they tackle anything resembling mathematics as adults? Please spend some time investigating and reporting on the much deeper issue of students’ embracing mathematics, instead of focusing too much on the new content hoops we are asking kids to jump through.

Frazer Boergadine

Vice President of Programs

Math Learning Center

Salem, Ore.

A version of this article appeared in the August 11, 2010 edition of Education Week as Math Standards: Too Much What, Too Little How?


Special Education K-12 Essentials Forum Innovative Approaches to Special Education
Join this free virtual event to explore innovations in the evolving landscape of special education.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
STEM Fusion: Empowering K-12 Education through Interdisciplinary Integration
Join our webinar to learn how integrating STEM with other subjects can revolutionize K-12 education & prepare students for the future.
Content provided by Project Lead The Way
School & District Management Webinar How Pensions Work: Why It Matters for K-12 Education
Panelists explain the fundamentals of teacher pension finances — how they are paid for, what drives their costs, and their impact on K-12 education.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Standards Florida's New African American History Standards: What's Behind the Backlash
The state's new standards drew national criticism and leave teachers with questions.
9 min read
Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference at the Celebrate Freedom Foundation Hangar in West Columbia, S.C. July 18, 2023. For DeSantis, Tuesday was supposed to mark a major moment to help reset his stagnant Republican presidential campaign. But yet again, the moment was overshadowed by Donald Trump. The former president was the overwhelming focus for much of the day as DeSantis spoke out at a press conference and sat for a highly anticipated interview designed to reassure anxious donors and primary voters that he's still well-positioned to defeat Trump.
Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference in West Columbia, S.C., on July 18, 2023. Florida officials approved new African American history standards that drew national backlash, and which DeSantis defended.
Sean Rayford/AP
Standards Here’s What’s in Florida’s New African American History Standards
Standards were expanded in the younger grades, but critics question the framing of many of the new standards.
1 min read
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the historic Ritz Theatre in downtown Jacksonville, Fla., on July 21, 2023. Harris spoke out against the new standards adopted by the Florida State Board of Education in the teaching of Black history.
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the historic Ritz Theatre in downtown Jacksonville, Fla., on July 21, 2023. Harris spoke out against the new standards adopted by the Florida state board of education in the teaching of Black history.
Fran Ruchalski/The Florida Times-Union via AP
Standards Opinion How One State Found Common Ground to Produce New History Standards
A veteran board member discusses how the state school board pushed past partisanship to offer a richer, more inclusive history for students.
10 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Standards The Architects of the Standards Movement Say They Missed a Big Piece
Decisions about materials and methods can lead to big variances in the quality of instruction that children receive.
4 min read
Image of stairs on a blueprint, with a red flag at the top of the stairs.
Feodora Chiosea/iStock/Getty