If We All Went Swimming in the Mississippi …
… would state math standards improve?
Lest you think that’s an odd question, let me assure you that it was inspired by national standards — specifically, by this sample problem from a Common Core State Standards Initiative publication:
If everyone in the world went swimming in Lake Michigan, what would happen to the water level? Would Chicago be flooded?
Ze’ev Wurman, who helped write California’s state math standards, criticizes that problem in an op-ed today. Wurman comments that the problem tests students’ knowledge of facts such as “Lake Michigan’s surface area” and “whether the water will spill over to Lake Huron before flooding Chicago” (as well as testing students’ credulity, I might add), but that only low-level math is required to solve it. Wurman writes that most of the other sample problems suffer from similar deficiencies, and that someone who mastered the standards but didn’t go beyond them would be placed in remedial math in California’s public colleges.
California doesn’t stand to gain much from national standards, because its state standards are widely acknowledged to be excellent. Other states that signed on to the Common Core State Standards Initiative, including Missouri, might be able to improve their standards slightly by adopting the recommendations. But why should any state agree to the Common Core Standards when there are better standards out there — namely, California’s?