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Teacher Voice

Veteran Teacher Punctures Myths Around Common Core

Linda Gojak is tired of hearing adults and children alike lament, “I’m just not good at math.” She wants to put an end to teaching through rote understanding and memorized rules. Gojak — who has four decades of experience as a classroom teacher, mathematics professor, and national education leader promoting quality math instruction — believes the new Common Core State Standards will awaken a rich appreciation for the subject among the most math-averse students. “We lose too many children who have the potential to do well in mathematics, and thus we close many doors to future careers,” Gojak said during her testimony before Ohio state legislators this week. She urged them to reject a bill that would kill the common standards in Ohio. “The Common Core State Standards give us the opportunity to have students understand and be successful in mathematics.”

Frustration with Politics

Gojak also expressed frustration with the political posturing that has poisoned public perception of Common Core. Her testimony aimed to debunk the most pernicious myths around Common Core.
Despite claims that the Common Core State Standards are not research-based, it is a fact that some of the most prominent mathematicians and researchers in mathematics education were involved in writing the Common Core standards, including Doug Clements, Deborah Ball, Deborah Hughes Hallett, and others too numerous to name at this time. The Common Core standards define what our students should know and be able to do in mathematics to be career and college ready.
Her testimony also targeted many other Common Core myths.
  • They do not dictate a curriculum or a particular way of teaching.
  • They do not call for a particular assessment.
  • They do not tell us how our teachers should be evaluated. That is up to state and local control.
  • The standards… do describe what it takes to be a good problem solver and to think mathematically.  To solve problems is one of the core reasons we do mathematics.
  • And most elementary classroom teachers who are prepared to implement the Common Core recognize that they are very much aligned with what young children are ready to learn.

Take It from an Expert

Linda Gojak’s experience speaks for itself. She spent almost three decades as a classroom math teacher in Ohio. She is the long-time director of a university center that works closely with urban teachers to support high-quality math and science instruction. She is past president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, a professional organization representing 80,000 mathematics teachers, professors and researchers.
To be truly prepared to do the work called for in the 21st century, whether in a STEM field or in the work of everyday life, students must be able to reason about the world around them. The Common Core State Standards in mathematics call for understanding and reasoning to be a part of each child’s mathematical education. We cannot afford to miss such an opportunity.
In a highly politicized context where one mom’s denunciation of a confusing math problem is held up as evidence that the Common Core is deeply flawed, I’m inclined to heed the advice of an educator who has devoted her life to helping students learn to reason and love mathematics.
  MORE: Read Linda Gojak’s whole testimony (PDF)
Tracy Dell’Angela
Tracy Dell’Angela is a writer, education nonprofit executive director and a mom passionate about education improvements. Previously, Tracy was Director of Outreach and Communications for the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C. She came to IES from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research, which produces research that ...

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