Friday, August 14, 2015

The Case for National Math Standards

Are National Math Standards a Good Idea?

Yes, national math standards make sense because:
  • Local school boards do not have the resources to develop a set of K-12 math standards. They have no choice but to use standards developed elsewhere.  
  • The K-12 math that students need to learn does not differ by locality and it remains very stable over time.  So choosing math standards developed elsewhere is the smart thing to do.
  • Many students move.  Sometimes they move multiple times.  The math content they are expected to learn in a particular grade in their new school should be the same math content they were expected to learn in that same grade in their prior school.  

What to Choose for National Math Standards?

As discussed in another essay, the Common Core Math Standards don't offer a good choice. They are not clearly written and their failure to provide examples opens the door for any math program to claim "alignment" with the Common Core Math Standards.  On the other hand, the Khan Academy implementation of the Common Core Math Standards offers a good choice, and it's the easiest thing to do. But Chapter 2 of the 2005 Mathematics Framework for California Public Schools offers the best choice.  This 86 page K-12 math standards document achieves maximum clarity through the use of excellent examples. Additionally, Chapter 3 of the California Framework offers 85 pages of excellent grade-by-grade teaching guidelines. 
Who should write national math standards?  Considering the excellent California math standards, writing another set of math standards is not necessary. The authors in California had excellent writing skills and extensive experience teaching math beyond the K-12 level. They had advanced degrees in mathematics, not math education.  They understood in detail what math should be mastered at the K-12 level.

Will National Math Standards be Controlled by the Federal Government?

Simply choose the 2005 California Math Standards [Chapter 2 of the 2005 Mathematics Framework for California Public Schools] and don't allow any changes for at least 5 years.  The K-12 math that should be learned today has not changed since 2005.  All members of the Expert Panel [page 127 in The State of State Math Standards, 2005] agreed that California offered the best math standards in the country.  This was true in 2005, and [as one member of that Expert Panel] I know it remains true today and it will remain true for many years.

Copyright 2015  William G. Quirk, Ph.D.