Lately it seems like I come across the term “Common Core Math” almost daily. I hear it in conversations: “I don’t like Common Core Math.”

I see it on Facebook: “Common Core Math – If you have 4 pencils and 7 apples, how many pancakes will fit on the roof?”

I read about it in articles: A dad with a master’s degree can’t understand his second grade son’s homework because of Common Core Math.

But is there such a thing as Common Core Math? Does it really exist?

Michigan, along with 44 other states, adopted the Common Core State Standards in 2010. Once they were adopted, educators across the nation began the work of learning the standards and aligning their curriculum, resources and teaching methods to the standards.

As educators began the work of looking for Common Core aligned resources, publishers began the work of creating those resources. Several of the more popular publisher-created resources include Everyday Math, Go Math, Math Expressions, enVision, and Saxton Math.

Some publishers put “Common Core Aligned” stickers on resources they had previously sold, but did not change any of the content. Other publishers added a few extra lessons or handouts, did not take anything out, and called it Common Core aligned. This produced a problem, because a good, new resource actually takes years, not months, to create.

When a resource is created it needs to be researched, written, field tested in classrooms, and adjusted based on teacher feedback. When done correctly and thoroughly this process takes time. However, many publishers did not take the time needed to create good Common Core aligned materials, and as a result, there were bad resources created and bad resources purchased. This caused frustration for teachers, students, and families.

It’s important to note that there have always been bad resources out there, and districts have purchased them, despite their best efforts. However in the past if a student was given a bad resource as an assignment the resource, or teacher, was blamed, not the standards.

It’s almost laughable to think about a parent blaming the Grade Level Content Expectations (Michigan’s old standards) for a bad assignment that their child was given prior to the adoption of the Common Core State Standards. However, that is what is happening.

Today when a bad resource is given as an assignment, the blame is placed on the Common Core State Standards, and not the resource. This shift is detrimental.
The Common Core State Standards are a set of standards. They are not a resource. A resource is a lesson plan, a worksheet, a homework assignment or a test.

The Common Core State Standards are a set of standards that say what a child should master by the end of a grade level, just like our old standards in Michigan used to say.
Districts choose how to teach the standards and what resource to use while teaching them. Sometimes districts choose a bad resource when that is the only option out there, but the standards are not to blame for that.

Common Core Math does not exist, much like Michigan Math never existed. Standards exist, teaching approaches exist and resources exist. Resources are created to address the standards and support teaching and they range from excellent to very bad.

We need to stop blaming the Common Core State Standards for bad resources. It takes the focus off of what is important; our students and preparing them to live in a world in which we did not grow up. Their world is different than ours, and their education should be different as well.

By Cathy Kotlarek, the elementary instructional specialist with the Chelsea School District.

To view the original op-ed, click here.