9 Questions That Show How Common Core Math is Ruining America


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What mud-crusted nonsense is this, Daniel? Does this look like Belgium to you? Get that metric profanity out of here, and let Sierra draw her lines in peace.


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Uh, correct me if I’m wrong, but cake isn’t a number. Cake is a moist brick of carbohydrates that you light on fire to honor the Birth Person.

And what is that green vegetable doing there? I don’t need the government policing my diet. I have apps for that.


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Really, Common Core?

3 = 18?

4 = 32?

You might as well say that pancakes = waffles.

I mean, they’re TOTALLY DIFFERENT. Pancakes are flat slabs of circular breakfast. Waffles are soft sugar castles waiting for the syrup to rain.

If Obama’s America is the place where 7 = 98, then I don’t even want to KNOW what 10 equals.


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Ah, classic Common Core. Taking a simple concept like “circles” and making an awful, confusing muddle of it.

Green numbers? Black letters? Why do they spell “ME”?

And don’t even get me started on that 13 (could you have picked an unluckier number if you tried?).

Also, maybe you didn’t notice, but the circles are crossing. If I’d drawn circles like that for my teacher when I was a kid, I’d have gotten a zero.


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Look at this filthy cube. Plagued by a smaller, parasitic cube.

Just tragic.


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What is this question even asking?

I showed this to my cousin who has a PhD in engineering, and she just shook her head and said, “Are you sure that’s a Common Core question? It just looks like a random diagram.”

A random diagram! Exactly! What even is the point of Common Core?


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I used to be able to help my kid with her homework.

No longer.

The Common Core drives families apart.



I’ll never understand people who think that this kind of thick bureaucracy is helping our students.

Positively Orwellian.


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Why does Common Core think that kids will learn math by confronting this sunken horse-bird?

Its tiny head infuriates me. I gaze upon this feathered meatball and pity mankind.

Thanks a lot, Common Core.

Okay, reality check: NONE OF THESE ARE ACTUAL COMMON CORE QUESTIONS. I just Googled “math problem” and picked some random images. (And then, for the last one, I Googled “ostrich.”)

Why would I pull this mean-spirited prank, this bait-and-switch? Why would I pretend to bash Common Core, when I’m actually defending it?

Because viral critiques of Common Core drive me crazy.

What I love about math is that it’s NOT political. It’s NOT ideological. It’s NOT partisan. Sure, people disagree about how best to teach it. But these disagreements are grounded in lived experience and heartfelt beliefs. They don’t align with the traditional -isms of public discourse. In math education, our debates are fierce, idiosyncratic, and sincere.

But viral Common Core complaints aren’t. They feel to me like prepackaged controversies. Manufactured hysteria. The intrusion of ordinary politics into my favorite non-ideological space.

If you don’t like Common Core math, that’s fine. There are sensible criticisms to be made of it. But if it took until the ostrich for you to notice THESE AREN’T COMMON CORE QUESTIONS, then maybe your criticism of CC needs a re-think.



39 thoughts on “9 Questions That Show How Common Core Math is Ruining America

  1. No wonder kids can’t do math. I’ve long been an advocate of the US joining the rest of the world in officially converting to the metric system. It’s so much easier to calculate in decimals rather than fractions.

    FYI, Mother Jones magazine’s September-October, 2015 issue has a wonderful article about Common Core, entitled “Sorry, I’m Not Taking This Test,” by Kristina Rizga. It’s about all the standardized tests kids are expected to take. Teachers’ salaries and school funding are often determined by the students’ scores. Common core is in place in 43 states. The major contractors are corporate publishing companies like McGraw Hill and Harcourt Brace. In 2015, they have racked up $2 billion in sales, which is siphons money away from teacher salaries, books, and supplies.

    If you don’t like it, tell everyone you know to sell Harcourt Brace and McGraw Hill stock.

    1. But all the viral critiques of CC that I see are of the curriculum itself. I am happy to have a conversation about the current bureaucracy attached to education and whether it helps kids at all (my gut says no!). But we should keep that conversation separate from the one about curriculum.

      1. I’m talking acts of Congress here. The Constitution gives Congress power over weights and measures.

        If Congress officially adopts the International Standard, the schools would follow right along, and the kids would surpass their parents’ math skills within minutes.

        As an American who has converted to metric in her personal life (knitting, cooking, gas power tools, drawing and drafting), I can tell you my biggest headaches come from trying to convert back and forth. Why? Because metric measuring tools are not easily available in the US, especially for amateur woodworkers like me. I have been everywhere from Home Depot to Ace to local hardware stores. Each time, I have to educate everyone who works there about how crucial it is to the American economy for us to get with the program.

        If Congress wants to work on bipartisan legislation, it would do well to give a serious look at converting to the International Standard and getting us off that clucking Daylight Savings Time.

        How many clocks do other people have that go tick-tock and need to be reset every six months? Think about it. How many times have y0u been embarrassed because you didn’t realize we’d gained or lost an hour while you were sleeping?

        So I agree about not confusing curricula and apologize for diverting this discussion to universal issues. However, our host here, I believe, teaches in Europe, so I’m most interested in his take on the comparative merits of the two systems.


      2. Common Core is about influencing textbooks by anyone, especially consumers (schools, parents etc). Any comment about bureaucracy misses the point.

  2. Question #5 was fun. I think that the answer is 82. The protrusion of the small cube into the large cube is a triangular pyramid with volume 4.5, and the protrusion of the large cube into the small cube also has volume 4.5, so the total volume is 4^3 + 3^3 – (4.5 + 4.5) = 82. I don’t have a solution for #8.

    1. Yes, I totally got sucked into that problem too (and agree with your answer). The trickiest part was realising that the “two protrusions” had to be symmetric, because the shared diagonal meant the truncation of the larger cube’s vertex had to be at a distance of 3 from the vertex. (The other tricky part, not strictly required, was when I doubted my memory about the formula for volume of a pyramid, and made a brief side trip into dimly-remembered calculus to figure out where the 1/3 came from. This was far more fun than simply googling the formula for pyramid volume! 😉

  3. I was on the “I hate CC” bandwagon until I took a step back and realized that the way they’re teaching kids to do math is how I’ve always done it. I even remember an Algebra teacher telling me that my way was wrong. Kn some ways, CC is a kind of personal triumph now.

    1. My issue is not with the curriculum but with the money wasted on testing. CC adds no value but a lot of overhead. If schools were properly funded locally, with local accountability and accessibility, PTA’s and other friendly parent-teacher-administrator relationships would flourish, or so I believe. I hear teachers saying they feel disenfranchised, not trusted to do the job they were trained to do. Instead, they must kiss up to absentee bosses who call all the shots but assume no personal or financial risk themselves. You know why? That money taxpayers trusted would be spent on education is being siphoned off by asset plunderers and money exporters on Wall Street, to boost McGraw-Hill and Harcourt profits.


      1. That sounds like a valid argument. I have several teacher friends who are disillusioned by the whole concept, but their concerns were more with the material change itself. I’ll have to research the financial side myself before I make any decisions on how to support CC.

        1. Ask your teacher friends if they would prefer increased salaries and school supplies over administering copyrighted tests for Common Core. Taxpayers are paying for those private copyrights and Wall Street profits. How much does Common Core sell for on the stock market? Let me know, if I don’t find out first. You might also look into how much teacher retirement money is invested in Common Core and the book publishers I’ve already mentioned. I’ll be happy to report anything I discover, too.

  4. Problem #2 is interesting, though. Clearly they aim for addition, but without “+” sign it might be a multiplication or maybe even pepper-pepper-cake represents a number written in a positional system?

  5. Here is a questions I had in a DifEq class: A brewer is emptying a 1000 gallon brew kettle containing a Porter ale with an alcohol content 5.3% by volume at a rate of 30 liters/min at the bottom of the take, while at the same time filling the tank from the top with an IPA having an alcohol content of 9.0% by volume at a rate of 20 liters per minute. What is the total number of liters of alcohol in the tank at any point in time? Plot the curve.

    My answer: No self respecting brewmeister would ever mix these two ales as the flavor of hops and the hopping schedules of these two ales are totally different, not to mention they use totally different barley styles.

    I got full credit.

    1. Also… in a brew kettle, there would be zero alcohol at any time.

      The yeast isn’t pitched and the wort doesn’t turn into alcohol until later in the process.

  6. When I saw the calculus problem I knew this had to be a joke…also never did get the two circle thing…funny, but ridiculous. I remember when I was young my Mom would talk about the “new” math that she couldn’t do it, and didn’t understand it. People are always trying new things, even when the old ones work.

  7. This struggle is one that I find extremely hard to combat as a student teacher. People expect me to agree with their interpretation that the Common Core is terrible, and while there are definitely aspects I dislike, like the testing, the approach to math actually makes sense. It’s just that the viral images seem ridiculous out of context and often showcase the originator’s lack of understanding of Common Core. Then everything wrong with our education system gets blamed on the Common Core and not the real culprit, which is any of a number of things, though I tend to focus on the desire to kill teachers’ unions by certain political interests.

  8. …10 = 200 in number 3, right? Because it’s x=x*2x. Right? …I’m in Australia, we don’t have to worry about maths-teaching-methods fights, only about never taking in refugees.

  9. Common Core isn’t really the issue. At least when it comes to Math. It projects a sense of learning that is outside the box at times. And makes more equations than really needs to be done, but at the same time they are solidifying those equations they have to do until they can do them quickly in their head. And giving more options for the kids to do the problems. instead of one way, it teaches them 3 different ways.

  10. Thank you so much for your demonstration. Based on what I’ve seen my grandchildren endure with Common Crud, I mean Common Core, these are wonderful examples! I didn’t doubt for a moment these were CC math problems. They would fit right in with the junk being taught in public schools. If you added them to any math test that is CC based, I am sure not one teacher or student would notice a difference because they belong with the nonsense being taught. So you didn’t exactly fool anyone. You basically showed the problem with Common Core. It’s nice to see a CC supporter prove the opposition’s point! Nicely done! By the way, were you taught CC or did you learn it on your own? You seem to be very much a product of such an education yourself. This was entertaining and gratifying. Er, uh, this was a serious attempt to support CC, right? In any event, I applaud your humor. Also, my dear, math IS political when taught as such. But when poor math is taught, the student fails to understand it. I know! Let’s rename Common Core math! Give it a more fitting name. Let’s call it “I Won’t Really Understand Math When I Graduate High School But Let’s Say I Did” …yeh, now that fits!

  11. Of course, this article is cute and clever. And Hitler was quite the orator. Anything that makes the world safe for Common Core is the enemy of children learning math.

    One of the most offensive aspects of the Common Core debacle is the number of highly educated people who leave smug comments to the effect that, hey, get serious, people, this is no big deal, it’s just the way we brainy people in graduate school do things. Aren’t we precious?

  12. My Gr.6 grandson, myself and my daughter are completely confused by this ridiculous approach to math. It is scary and I am a teacher.

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