**A New Kind of Problem: The Common Core Math Standards – by Barry Garelick from**

*The Atlantic***Scroll down to comments: NOTE the Comment by Bill McCallum (one of the authors of the Common Core):** William McCallum barrygarelick • 13 days ago

- It seems strange to me to be basing a claim on a couple of sentences in a draft document about the standards while ignoring the text of the standards themselves. The standards (1)
**do not say that conceptual understanding must****come first, and**(2)**also say explicitly on page 5 that**

**“These Standards do not dictate curriculum or teaching methods.** For example, just because topic A appears before topic B in the standards for a given grade, it does not necessarily mean that topic A must be taught before topic B. A teacher might prefer to teach topic B before topic A, or might choose to highlight connections by teaching topic A and topic B at the same time.”

As for the sentences under discussion, I agree with the commenter who says “**underpin**” does not mean **“precede”. And I would point out that “can” does not mean “must”** in the other sentence: “fluency can be practiced in the context of applications.”

[From a previous article by the same author: *"The document states that 'conceptual understanding needs to underpin fluency work,” or that “[sufficient] fluency can be practiced in the context of applications.” ….It is untrue that conceptual understanding “needs” (implying it always does) to underpin fluency.” *]

###### The Fairfield School District is referenced in this article: A New Kind of Problem: The Common Core Math Standards

“While they still have to memorize or have fluency in key math functions and do the math with speed and accuracy, they will have to demonstrate a deeper understanding of key concepts before moving on.”

**But what does this mean in practice?** Another recent article (*Fairfield Minuteman – Oct 24th report on 8th grade Math Night*) explains, “**This curriculum puts an emphasis on critical thinking, rather than memorization, and collaborative learning.” **In other words, instead of simply teaching multiplication tables, schools are adopting** “an ‘inquiry method’ of learning, in which children are supposed to discover the knowledge for themselves**.” An **educator** quoted in the article admits that this approach could be frustrating for students: “**Yes. Solving a problem is not easy. Learning is not easy.”**

With 100 pages of explicit instruction about what should be taught and when, one would expect the Common Core Standards to make problem-solving easier. **Instead, one father quoted in the aforementioned article complains, “For the first time, I have three children who are struggling in math.” Why?**

For example, there’s nothing wrong with the first point: “”*Make sense of problem solving and persevering in solving them.”* **But these standards are being interpreted** to mean that students “**make conjectures** about the form and meaning of the solution **and plan a solution pathway** rather than simply jumping into a solution attempt. They consider analogous problems, and try special cases and simpler forms of the original problem **in order to gain insight into its solution**.”

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