Real-world problems without much math

The new math skills map produced by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) does not help teachers teach Common Core State Standards (CCSS), writes Ben McCarty, a University of Memphis math professor, on the Common Core blog.  McCarty, who’s taught mathematics to first, second, and third-graders and to pre-service elementary teachers, says P21′s exercises are ill-defined, imprecise and not aligned with content.

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The 8th grade example on page 12, for instance, engages students in a wonderful discussion about the health content of a typical fast food meal, but mathematically, students are only computing percentages and comparing them to daily values. That’s it. This activity is well below the 8th grade content standards in the CCSS.

Worse still, the 4th grade example on page 21 has students tallying the number of various types of media messages they are exposed to on a daily basis. Based on the description of the activity, no analysis is done with the data beyond basic counting–a Preschool/Kindergarten skill.

. . . Finally, the 12th grade example on page 23 has students collect and display data on developing countries, as well as build a web page to display the information.  The students don’t generate the data.  They don’t do calculations with the data.  They merely read about a poor country, and publish data on it.

“Simple arithmetic problems and routine data collection assignments” will not “prepare students for professional careers as engineers, doctors, software developers, and the like,” McCarty writes.


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