BOBBY HARRISON: Common Core’s math is a real challenge

DDG6_bobbyharrisonJACKSON – During a recent public hearing, interim state Superintendent Lynn House gave a sample question for third grade math from the MCT2, which is the test Mississippi uses for its current assessment of how public schools are educating their students

The question asked which of four symbols did not represent the fraction two-fifths. Two of the symbols were a series of connected squares – one group running diagonally and the other horizontally – and both had two of the five boxes shaded.

The other two symbols were circles – one having two of five slices shaded, but the other only having only one of four slice shaded.

I quickly whispered the answer to myself and leaned forward to tell Madison Superintendent Ronnie McGehee that I wasn’t so bad at third-grade math.

But then House gave the sample third-grade math question from Common Core. It had eight squares with six covered in flowers and asked the participant to fill in the blank that represents the portion of the squares making up Mark’s flower garden. There was no multiple choice – just doing the math and writing down an answer.

That was not all of the question, though. The next part of the question got really tough. It was a straight line, starting with an A on top and 0 on bottom. At the other end was an E on top and 1 on bottom. In between were the letters B, C and D.

The question asked which letter represented the fraction from the above flower garden question.

To successfully answer the question, first a student must ascertain that the E represents the whole number 1, meaning that D is the correct answer since that is three-fourths of the whole number and six of the eight boxes above or three-fourths were covered in flowers.

McGehee looked back and me. I didn’t say anything this time.

He just smiled.

If I was still in school, I might be against Common Core, too. If my kids were still in school, while I wanted them to get the very best education, I also might be leery of Common Core.

Common Core, no doubt, will be a challenge for Mississippi students, teachers and parents. But if Mississippi is going to grow, compete nationally and globally, it must undertake challenges like Common Core, House said.

She said what the state is currently doing is not enough to move ahead both nationally and globally.

Another question – on the seventh grade level – on MCT2, asked why residents of the District of Columbus had different voting rights to elect members to the U.S. House than did residents of the states. There were four choices for the right answer, and after a little deductive reasoning the obvious answer was that many lawmakers wanted the nation’s capital in their state, so in a compromise it was placed in no state, meaning the absence of state voting regulations as it relates to electing members of the U.S. House.

The corresponding question on Common Core was to read three texts about Amelia Earhart and write an analysis using at least two of the texts on the bravery and courage of the female aviator. “Remember to use textual evidence to support your ideas,” the question read.

Tea Party groups and some others oppose Common Core. They in essence say it is an attempt to federalize education, even though, the genesis of Common Core was the state’s education chiefs and nation’s governors, as well as business leaders.

The current administration of President Barack Obama has embraced Common Core, but it did not develop it.

During the upcoming 2014 session of the Mississippi Legislature, it is likely that some conservative legislators affiliated with the Tea Party movement will try to pass a bill to block the state’s planned enactment of Common Core national standards.

The whole issue creates an interesting political dynamic since Mississippi Republicans have gone the extra mile to court the Tea Party movement, yet the Republican leadership of the state has vocally expressed support in the past for improving and toughening the standards for the public schools.

Perhaps that political dynamic could be turned into a Common Core test question. But please no multiple choice answers and provide textual evidence to support your ideas.

BOBBY HARRISON is the Daily Journal’s Capitol Bureau chief. Contact him at (601) 353-3119 or


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    Deductive reasoning, critical thinking skills – – of course the Tea Party opposes common core

  • jim creson

    there are basic principles of math that do not change in order to allow a sub-par student to be able to BS his way thru an incorrect answer by explaining how they arrived at the conclusion.
    this seems to have started when trophies were handed out to all the players, including the losers, so their little feeling wouldn’t be hurt when they lost……get a grip folks!
    this is a sad time in our history and the fate of our country is hanging in the balance.

    • TWBDB

      Mr Creson, forcing a student to show their work actually forces that student to self-reveal their comprehension of the principle. What I see in the examples of Common Core Mr Harrison provides are representations of tests of comprehension in context. Comprehension in context is a skill many in our nation are most definitely lacking as they read or listen to the media noise of the day. In practice, the scientific process (trial and error, taking notes) is the way in which we ultimately resolve challenges. As to your sports analogy, losers are a requirement: if they don’t show up nobody wins.

      • TWBDB

        Oh yeah, ‘our history’ : can’t hang in the balance as it’s already occurred – the correct context would be ‘that was a sad time in our history’. ‘Fate’ is predestined, some believe by a supernatural power and thus beyond our control. But all that aside, I do believe the future of our nation is a bright as we are capable and wish to make it. Our capability to implement a positive path of progress and sustainability does depend on our ability to comprehend the lessons of the past and appropriately apply them in the present. We must rely on our own Common Core

  • Jack Makokov

    I like the idea of a student showing his or her work. I’d also like them to arrive at correct answers. Change that one concept of Common Core and it would likely be successful.

  • vickir1kingskid

    A portion of their report! “We reviewed the makeup of the committees that wrote and reviewed the Common Core Standards. In all, there were 135 people on those panels. Not a single one of them was a K-3 classroom teacher or early childhood professional.”

    .When you read this you will see that the developers of the curriculum would not include a critically important statement opposing the K-3 standards, signed by more than 500 early childhood professionals. The Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals on the Common Core Standards Initiative was signed by educators, pediatricians, developmental psychologists, and researchers, including many of the most prominent members of those fields.

  • vickir1kingskid

    Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School in New York was named the 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators Association of New York State. She co-authored a book, “Opening the Common Core,” and was pro Common Core and worked hard to get it in her school systems in New York!!

    She is now working just as hard to get it OUT OF HER SCHOOL SYSTEM!!!


    • 1941641

      Seems I heard all this BS days ago. Now it’s being repeated. I figure that if America has a Scourge during its lifetime, it will be commonly known as “Today’s Tea Party” and its “Associated Tea Partyers”

    • 1941641

      Seems I heard all this BS days ago. Now it’s being repeated. I figure that if America has a Scourge during its lifetime, it will be commonly known as “Today’s Tea Party” and its “Associated Tea Partyers”

      • vickir1kingskid

        I rather doubt that this top educator in New York nor the 500 top leading childhood professionals who also wrote a negative review on Common Core are members of the Tea Party sir!!! So you don’t even read what they have to say, you just condemn it because a “Tea Partyer” may agree with them??? For the record sir, I am NOT a member of the Tea Party at this time. I am a grandmother who knows a very bad curriculum when she sees it and does not just accept what someone promoting an agenda says about the agenda they are promoting!!! You might want to try researching it on your own sometime! But as for the Tea Party, personally after seeing the downhill turn this nation is taking these past years and the loss of freedoms we once held dear as Americans now being daily stripped from us…..the TEA PARTY SOUNDS PRETTY GOOD TO ME!!! They are Patriots who believe in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the First and Second Amendments!!!

        What do YOU have against that sir????

    • 1941641

      Seems I heard all this BS days ago. Now it’s being repeated. I figure that if America has a Scourge during its lifetime, it will be commonly known as “Today’s Tea Party” and its “Associated Tea Partyers”

    • 1941641

      Seems I heard all this BS days ago. Now it’s being repeated. I figure that if America has a Scourge during its lifetime, it will be commonly known as “Today’s Tea Party” and its “Associated Tea Partyers”