Math Core Standards are Good for Utah Students (Part 2)

In my last post, I pointed out a number of quotations in which educators and parents expressed their strong support for the Utah math core.

This is another group of different quotes with the same conclusion: the Common Core standards in math sequenced in an integrated way will and are having a positive impact for students.

Opponents of the common core are frequently outspoken; I thought it was important that you hear some of the people who do not agree and believe the values of the new math core are strong. All of the quotations are excerpts of letters which have been sent to the State Board of Education in the past month. They speak passionately about the values of the Math Core.

Travis Lemon, Mathematics teacher, American Fork Junior High School, and president of the Utah Council of Teachers of Mathematics:  “I have been teaching mathematics for fifteen years….In all that time, I have not seen so much progress occur as I have in the last three years with the implementation of the Utah Core Standards for Secondary Mathematics…Students in my classroom are engaging in amazing ways with the content. They are making connections that they have not had the opportunity to make previously. This is a direct result of the opportunity to engage with the content in an integrated way.”

Heidi Kesler, parent, Sunrise Elementary, Smithfield:  “It has been a long time since I was in a math class and I was surprised at how different the approach is, yet, I have been very pleased. I love that she [my 1st grade daughter] is learning to reason and to process as well as to memorize outcomes.”

Heidi Holmes, Math teacher, Davis School District: “This year was the first year I received students who had been taught from the Common Core last year in their 4th grade year. The students had a better number sense than any I have taught in nine years…to change course now would be a step backwards.”

Trent Nielsen, Assistant Principal, Cedar Middle School, Iron County School District:  “One of the reasons I support the new Utah Core Standards is the emphasis that it puts on critical thinking. I was an advanced math student in high school. However, when I enrolled in college I quickly learned how unprepared I was for advanced math classes…These Standards help to create “math thinkers”…I believe if my high school teachers had incorporated this standard…I would have been more prepared for my college courses.”

Jet Warr, Secondary Math Specialist, Iron County School District: “’When I was in school’ has become a popular way for some to begin their criticism of the Utah Standards. We ask that parent and community leaders critically study the Utah mathematics core…These Standards are crucial to the understanding and practice of mathematics….Careful examination will surely reveal that the mathematics instructors of Iron County School District are, indeed, preparing children for successful college and career experiences.  The mathematics of the ‘When I was in school’ sentiment has not been abandoned; it has been refined and enhanced to meet the current needs of national and international industry and business.”

Adelia Croft, math teacher, West Valley City:  “The first thing that impressed me most was that topics such as geometry and algebra had been integrated in such a way that students would learn those concepts at a time when they were developmentally ready to get the most form them. The new Utah core is rich, meaningful, and relevant to our students.  It is well designed and can make an enormous difference in the education of Utah students.”

Laura Grzymkowski, grandparent, Cottonwood Heights:  “In my experience, the Utah core standards in mathematics will benefit all of us from an economic standpoint by preparing our students to engage in courses that lead to the jobs we need them to have…I would hate to see millions of dollars wasted by changing materials back to inferior teaching products…That would be a terrible waste of time and money, not to mention the educational detriment it presents to my granddaughter.”

Les Allen, mother of a kindergarten student, Jordan School District:  “I was thrilled beyond words that our state had decided to adopt a more rigorous math core….I think that we are doing the students in Utah a disservice if we decide to go back to our less rigorous core math standards.”

Rachel Holtkamp, mother, former math teacher and current math coach, Sandy: “No longer is it just rote memorization, but the standards provide students opportunities to approach a problem from different angles…This is the purpose of math: to make connections and problem solve. The Common Core provides this for students.”

Allison Duncan, mother and former secondary math teacher, Holladay, Utah:  “When Utah adopted the new Core Standards for Mathematics, I was no longer teaching in the classroom. I started studying them…Holy cow, what a difference! These standards are a lot more rigorous and actually help students gain an understanding of the concepts behind the procedures! No longer are students performing an algorithm because that’s what they learned in class, but they understand WHY they perform the operations needed AND they are justifying their answers!  Talk about a deeper level of knowledge! 

Hollie Pettersson, mother, Sandy:  “From what I see, the new core must be significantly more intense than what I was taught. I have been thrilled to see my son bring home assignments that require many different ways to think about and do math. He has been graphing and establishing patterns most recently. The world has changed and I am pleased to see that my son’s teacher is teaching him math in a way that is different and more intense than what I experienced.”

Michael Swanson, Corey Fullmer, Robbie Bradshaw, Lane Limb, Jennifer Wilson, Beaver County School District Math Department:  “The rigorous standards as they are currently written provide opportunity for student to be exposed to concepts multiple times within their high school mathematical career…With the new standards, students are exposed to these concepts early on. Depth in these areas is continually practiced throughout their high school career…We are now providing them in a manner that supports continued knowledge in specific concept areas rather than a single exposure.”

Kris Cunningham, Math coordinator, Washington County School District: “It’s what is best for kids. In my own classroom, I’ve seen improvement in problem solving, critical thinking, and the ability of students to apply the mathematical concepts they are learning to real-life situations.”

Principals and District Administrators in the Canyon School District (Ginger Rhode, Kathryn McCarrie, Robert Dowdle, Tamra Baker, Hollie Pettersson, Michael Sirois, Allison Duncan, Mindy Robinson, Joann Ackeman, Paula Logan, Charisse S. Hilton, Stacy Kurtzhals, Frank Schofield, Molly Hart, Mary Anderson, Susan Malone, Tom Sherwood, Floyd Stensrud, Gregory Leavitt, Mary Bailey, and Fidel Montero):  “Metaphorically speaking, we are now engaged in a marathon to implement the new core and support increased achievement in mathematics for our students. We have trained together and are probably at mile nine for this run. We would like the opportunity to finish the race, together. In our experience, large-scale improvement requires relentless effort at all levels. Please allow us to continue the run by maintaining the secondary math standards and sequencing.”

Dr. Dawn Teuscher, mathematic educator who has five peer-reviewed publications and three articles in review all on research related to the Common Core Standards for Mathematics:  “I see the transition to the CCSSM (Common core State Standards for Mathematics) as a golden opportunity to change how mathematics is taught and what mathematics K-12 students learn. I have collected data in one Utah school district for the past two years to monitor how high school students’ understanding of mathematics is changing. These data support that students who learned from a mathematics curriculum aligned to the CCSSM scores statistically higher on mathematics concepts called for in the CCSSM than student who were not taught from a mathematics curriculum aligned to the CCSSM. Therefore, it is imperative that teachers and districts are using curriculum that is aligned to CCSSM

Hugo Rossi, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics, University of Utah: “The 2007 Utah Core was a strong document…but the Utah Core Standards are even better, because they incorporate the ideas of integration of content, and of reliance on student active involvement in context for understanding. The UCS [has] great potential to be effective, much more than any other set of standard I know.”

Utah has embarked on a course that will, I believe, improve our student’s understanding of mathematics and will help prepare for the future in educational progression and careers.  Utah is in the middle of an important transition that will benefit Utah students.