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Meet the New Math Instruction, Same as the Old Math Instruction

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Common Core standards have been a political flash point since they were introduced and implemented.  Some believe they’re an unwanted government intrusion into local control of schools, while others say nationwide standards are necessary to ensure a quality education across the country.

Jordan Ellenberg, a math professor at UW-Madison, falls under the latter category.

"Common Core is very limited in what it is. It's not about how to teach the material, it's not about hard work and discipline. It's just about some uniform idea of what third grade math is, what seventh grade math is...we shouldn't make of it more than it is," Ellenberg says,

That’s part of the point that Ellenberg made in an op-ed he wrote this summer in the New York Times, called Meet the New Common Core.

Even as states leave the Common Core behind for state-wide standards, the curriculum and methods are essentially the same, he says, they're simply under a different name. While many parents and students get frustrated by the multitude of new methods for math and other subjects, Ellenberg says taking away Common Core won't mitigate that frustration.

"We're always tinkering with how we teach math and that always creates confusion," Ellenberg says. "If you're helping your kid with their math homework and the kid is learning it in a fundamentally different way from the way you're used to, it is quite frustrating not to be able to help your kid."

The frustration people feel about math homework is often directed towards the Common Core standards, but Ellenberg says that's misdirected. He stresses that whether Common Core stays the same, changes or is dropped completely, standardized tests are here to stay.

"When people talk about being mad about Common Core, often they're talking about being mad about those standardized tests," Ellenberg says. "I think what people need to know is that there are going to be a lot of standardized tests whether or not there's Common Core."

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Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.