Monday, July 22, 2013

Common Core Math Standards Lack Joy and Creativitiy

For years now I have anticipated the coming of the Common Core Math Standards due to be implemented next year. For the past year I have read and reread them as I adapt my courses to address both the math content and practice standards contained in the Common Core Standards document.

The math content required of elementary school students has been pared down so that it is no longer quite "a mile wide and inch deep". Perhaps it is close to being a kilometer wide and a meter deep! The Math Practice Standards too contain reference to dispositions, pattern and structure as well as the less exciting perseverance and precision.

But, and this is a really big but, they are deathly dull and uninspiring. Each of the eight standards begins with the phrase "Mathematically proficient students...." and most contain words like 'regularity', 'careful', 'precise', 'fluent', 'efficient', 'sensible', 'worthwhile', 'diligent', 'efficacy', and 'accurate'. There is absolutely no reference to the joy of discovering quantitative or spatial  relationships, the existence of mathematics in the natural world such as fractals, number patterns and geometric shapes.

There is no reference to anything creative such as the relationship  between music and math or art and math, or using either of these disciplines to develop mathematical thinking in a numerical or spatial sense. There is no reference to the role of language in mathematics or the fact that mathematics can be defined as  a language with semantics, syntax, and structure. There is no creative math equivalent to the poetry and creative writing identified in the English Language Arts Common Core Standards.
Imagine learning to speak, read and write without those creative components that have always been an integral part of that discipline.

The Common Core Math Standards are a great step forward in the identification of what and how students should learn mathematics. It would have been so much better if they could have been a great leap forward. It would have been so much better if they could have addressed the issue of why so many students don't enjoy math. It really doesn't have to be that way.  

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