Proposed Changes to Common Core Math

Published: Saturday, October 1, 2016

This past spring, I was selected by the New York State Education Department to be one of about 100 people in the state to be part of the Mathematics Standards Review Committee, which devised several revisions to the controversial Common Core Standards. The results were recently released for public comment online. Here's a summary.

Over the course of five days in Albany, the committee met to discuss potential changes. As a member of the subcommittee that worked on the so-called "plus standards" (which contain enrichment content for high school students), I had the opportunity to work with the other subcommittees that focused on the high school standards for Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II.

We quickly found that many of the original Common Core standards were flawed.

Some standards were overly vague (like G-CO.C.10: prove theorems about triangles). Others were too specific, mandating particular ways of solving problems (such as A-APR.C.6: requiring dividing polynomials using long division). The original probability and statistics standards in Algebra II were particularly sloppy and redundant. You could easily interpret them to include the inferential statistics typically covered in an AP Statistics course. My committee, which included AP Statistics teachers, precalculus teachers, and college professors, worked with the Algebra II committee to clarify the probability and statistics standards in a way that I think will make the topic less intimidating for educators.

Other standards were overly specific. For example, requiring that students divide polynomials using long division (A-APR.D.6) is especially tedious when better methods (such as the "box" or tabular method) exist.

Some standards didn’t fit into Regents-level math (such as G-GPE.A.2: writing the equation of a parabola given its focus and directrix, which doesn’t fit into any topic in Algebra II; A-REI.C.6: solving three equations in three variables, which is typically discussed in precalculus using matrices; and Cavalieri’s Principle in G-GMD.A.1, which is typically discussed in calculus courses). Other standards seemed misplaced (such as teaching radians in Geometry when it is generally used in trigonometry, which is part of Algebra II).

I'm pleased that almost all of my committee’s recommendations ended up in the draft revisions released for public comment. Much of the language has been clarified and made more consistent. In particular, more thought was put into appropriate placement of content into high school courses, such as content that was most appropriate for Algebra I versus Algebra II. In addition, I have found the process so far to be relatively transparent - unlike the original Common Core Standards, which for many teachers seemed as if they were imposed from above with no public input.

These revisions aren't perfect, and I wish we could have done much more, but they're definitely a step in the right direction.

You can see the suggested revisions online at http://nysed.gov/draft-standards-mathematics. Comment is open until November 14.