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Why are the Common Core State Standards for Math important?

From the beginning of civilization, we’ve set measures to ensure that whatever we’re making or doing is created correctly and works as it should. We use standards every day to weigh items, tell time, communicate, and to make sure devices work together.  

Why do we need standards for math education?


Chart source: A First Look: 2013 Mathematics and Reading, National Assessment of Educational Progress at Grades 4 and 8, page 7

We need math to work and be high-functioning as individuals and as a nation. Understanding math conceptually and practically is the prerequisite for high-paying jobs now and in the future. There is some research that shows that higher math scores in fact correlate to higher incomes. Our nation’s prosperity is closely linked with excellence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. You can look more about the importance of STEM here.

So, how are our children doing?  US 2013 national math scores as measured by the NCES, while they have improved, show that the majority of students achieve below basic or basic achievement results. Scores for the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) ranked US students 26th in math in a field of 65 countries. We can do better.

There are many reasons to have Common Core State Standards for Math (CCSSM) to benefit the nation’s 54 million schoolchildren. Here are some of them: 

  • We move. A lot. Let’s start with an extremely practical reason: mobility. The U.S. Census says that in 2010, more than one in 10 U.S. residents 1 year or older moved within the previous year. With every move a school age child makes, unless they are homeschooled, they will have to settle into a new school. Clear benchmarks make transitioning to a new school, new district, or new state when the math skills are consistent in every zip code. The CCSSM are also consistent with international standards.
  • Higher achievement. William H. Schmidt of Michigan State completed a research study and provided details in his briefing video Common Core State Standards Math: The Relationship Between High Standards, Systemic Implementation and Student Achievement. The study shows that states with math standards similar to the Common Core, after controlling for other potential influences, registered higher National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores in 2009 than states with standards divergent from the CCSS. The implication was that the math standards of CCSS would boost state math performance on NAEP.
  • Preparation for a competitive world. Bob Riley, Republican former governor of Alabama, in a March 2014 article in the National Review, states his reasons for supporting the Common Core: “The standards demand accountability. They give the things that really matter — reading, writing, and arithmetic — priority over subject matter that does little or nothing to prepare kids for college and the workforce. And ultimately, the Common Core standards will make American students more competitive with their international peers.”
  • Shared understanding. The national PTA in a policy paper that supports the Common Core states that “Clearer standards will benefit parents, teachers and students. One of the benefits of adopting clearer standards is that parents, teachers and students will have a shared understanding of what is expected in school. Studies have shown that when parents are actively engaged in their children’s education, student achievement outcomes are improved.”

The hallmark of a good standard is the benefits – or well-documented potential benefits – to be achieved by users. And sometimes, no matter how perfectly a standard may describe a routine for achieving a task or process, it can sometimes take time for it to be accepted. Read the CCSSM here.

Looking for CCSSM teaching resources? DreamBox has free teacher tools, lessons and lesson plans.

 *Featured image taken from comedy_nose on flickr via CC*


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