A rose by any other name.. .

by Kate Abell

My heart sinks every time I hear someone complain about “Common Core Math.” To talk about Common Core Math is akin to talking about the “debate regarding climate change.” There is no debate about climate change. There is only the undisputed data showing the correlation between human activities, rising carbon dioxide, and higher temperatures worldwide.

And there is no such thing as Common Core Math. There are only the relationships between quantities, which serve humans in their attempts to solve problems, and the trajectory of sense-making, which humans pass through as we move through childhood and become adults.

The Common Core for Mathematics is unprecedented in the history of US education as a tool to make visible the patterns and structures that allow us to manipulate relationships among values. It is written to highlight the progressions people need to experience in order to develop their mathematical thinking. No matter where you are on the mathematical trajectory the Common Core makes explicit the connections between things you already know and things you are just learning about. That is the way all humans make sense.

I am sorry that, due to political pressures, New York State has adopted a new set of standards. But I am heartened by the fact that the Next Generation Learning Standards are heavily indebted to the Common Core, despite lack of attribution. And, it is clear that those involved in the revisions worked hard to make the standards user friendly. Most of the clarifications seem mathematically helpful.

I also welcome the intention of the NYS Education Department to provide training in the new (“new”) standards for teachers. But it is important that we understand this as  help in deepening understanding of the through-lines of mathematics, not training in a brand new set of standards.

In the meantime, we can get on with the work of understanding our students’ thinking and acting accordingly,  by continuing to study the progression of ideas laid out by the writers of the Common Core—now with a name and format that make them feel safer.


Read the Math Collective’s analysis of the Common Core vs New Generation Learning Standards  and find out what impact the changes might have on your school or grade curriculum.