Ratner’s comments about Common Core in the WSJ


It’s all a matter of perspective. Considering that Marina Ratner’s view reflects the position of the Mathematics Department of the University of California – Berkeley, it would appear that the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSS-M) “were several years behind the old standards, especially in higher grades”, and that students “… would have little chance of being admitted to even an average college and would certainly struggle if they did get in.”

Beginning with my initial participation in the “National Science Foundation – Statewide Systemic Initiative (NSF-SSI)” in 1991, we repeatedly rejected the UC-driven standards as being too rigorous for ALL high school graduates. Those particular items were certainly appropriate for preparing SOME students for entry into university mathematics programs, thus relieving the collegiate faculty of teaching “remedial” classes. We did feel that they should be considered “goals” to strive for, but not as requirements for all graduates.

One remnant of that elitist view still remains in the CCSS-M as “Grade 8 » Expressions & Equations » Analyze and solve linear equations and pairs of simultaneous linear equations.”


Really? For EVERY American student? In eighth grade?

Our South Dakota group discussions over the years agreed that the initial 1989 NCTM standards were a little too fuzzy, and so appreciated the modifications published in 2000 as being in the “Goldilocks” range, containing the essentials ALL students would need for college and career, yet letting those who wish to pursue technical and professional careers to move on to more advanced courses as they wish. Our group approved a final 2009 proposal, which is closely matched with the CCSS-M. Our state legislature approved the standards in 2011, and they are currently being implemented.

Thus, my suggestion is for stating what ALL high school graduates NEED TO KNOW in a year-long course for the junior year in high school. This course is “School Math – Tools for Life and Work”, and would be required. The delivery and assessment methods are beyond my proposal, but should be flexible and appropriate for individual learners.

Those who show proficiency of the standards could then take an optional course using a “systems approach” (in comparison to the traditional “silo” separated topics), called “College Mathematics – Preparing for the Professions”.

By separating “Math for ALL” from “Mathematics for SOME”, my intent is to clearly identify topics according to how learners will use them after graduation. The Common Core people should be comfortable with “School Math”, while the post-secondary crowd (including Ms. Ratner and the UC faculty) could look for “College Mathematics” on their applicant’s transcripts.

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