Common Core and School Math
The goal of the Common Core State Standards is to ensure that students will be college- and career-ready in their skills and knowledge by the end of high school. A secondary purpose is to have consistent criteria of grade-level expectations in English Language Arts and Mathematics across states. In the 2015-2016 school year, 42 states are officially utilizing the Common Core standards in math, but this is expected to decrease as some states have repealed the standards.
The shared learning goals do not constitute a national curriculum. They are a list of the skills students need to know by the end of specific grade levels from K-12. The standards do not explain how content should be taught nor do they recommend what materials to use. Each state and/or school district decides what school curriculum and sequence of skills to develop in order to comply with the state standards. Because schools use different curriculums, how concepts are taught may vary widely in neighboring school districts.
The Common Core standards for math were designed using the following guidelines. Rather than racing to cover many topics in a mile-wide, inch-deep curriculum, it aims for teachers to narrow and deepen their math focus. The key domains, algebra and geometry, are introduced as early as kindergarten and are featured throughout the grades. Other important domains are measurement, numbers, operations, functions, statistics, probability, and modeling. These standards are intended to be cohesive by connecting topics from year to year.
The standards aim to rigorously teach with equal weight: conceptual understanding, procedural skills and fluency, and application of mathematical ways of thinking. To achieve these aims, word problems are embedded throughout the school grades, and children are expected to explain why their answers are correct. Children learn a variety of ways to solve a problem, and calculator usage is widespread. Some critics say schools have lost sight of the Common Core aims to develop procedural skills and fluency as calculation ability is no longer emphasized in the classroom.