Common Core Myths and Facts

The Common Core State Standards often receive negative attention from news outlets, politicians, and parents. Often, this negative attention stems from assumptions about the Common Core Standards that are simply not true. I explained what the Common Core Math and ELA Standards were in a previous post. Many opponents worry that their children’s math and reading programs are not up to par because teachers “teach to the test,” which ultimately limits a teacher’s creativity. Opponents also criticize Common Core for their math practices. Whatever your belief of the Common Core, I’d like to debunk a couple Common Core myths that have been spreading over the past year.


Common Core math has caused quite a controversy. Many opponents complain that it is hard for students to understand and that parents themselves have trouble understanding it. This frustrates both parties (parents and children) in already frustrating process (doing homework). Opponents believe that Common Core math is destroying students understanding of math drills, but this is simply not true.

Common Core Math Myth – Debunked

The Common Core standards of math are actually quite helpful for students. Parents may not understand it at first, but that’s because it’s not how we were taught math back in the day (and that’s okay). The Common Core math standards place a higher emphasis on place value recognition and less on rote memorization. Think about how you would solve this problem:


 As a child, you were probably taught to add the ones places (9+4=13) and then carry the 1 to the tens place (8+4+1=13) so that your answer is 133. Do you still calculate using this method as an adult?

 If you needed to calculate this in your head, you’re probably not using the method you were taught in grade school. Instead, you add the 4 tens to 89 because it’s easy to think in tens (89 –> 99 –> 109 –> 119 –> 129). Then, you add the 4 ones that you missed (129+4=133).

 That’s probably how you solve the problem inherently as an adult. This is the new shift in education and emphasized in the Common Core Standards. The Common Core Standards also do not forbade the traditional algorithms taught in math (as shown explicitly in their math standards); they simply emphasize this one. If students learn math in this manner, they will understand numbers and mathematical equations on a deeper level than students who are taught in the more traditional way.

 There are many after-school programs that follow Common Core in order to supplement schools. These programs will offer more individual attention so that your child can really solidify his or her understanding of a new math concept that you may not be able to help with at home. Otherwise, parents will have to spend a moment trying to understand their son or daughter’s work. Either way, the long-term impact will be much more positive if a child is taught these math strategies.


Another myth that opponents of the Common Core argue is that the Common Core math and ELA standards force teachers to “teach to the test.” Teaching to the test is when a teacher spends the majority of the time teaching students how to answer a standardized test problem correctly. Instead, they want teachers to teach concepts so that students are prepared to use them in real-world settings. Frankly, I don’t blame anyone for getting upset about teaching to the test; students should learn concepts organically. This helps them remember and use these ideas better. However, people who argue this as a con of Common Core Standards are not correct. The cause of “teaching to the test” is not Common Core standards, but rather another educational initiative.

Common Core Standards “Teaching to the Test” Myth—Debunked

If you have been following my blogs closely, you’ll remember a post I wrote about the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This blog outlines the new law that will soon replace the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). If you are against too much testing or “teaching to the test,” the NCLB is your culprit.  The No Child Left Behind Act introduced more high-stakes testing. In fact, NCLB has required schools to test students in 3rd through 8th grade since it was signed into law in 2002. The stakes of these tests greatly increased since NCLB (which you can read about in my last post), so teachers felt more pressure to teach to the test to increase student’s test scores. Unfortunately, many of this pressure of high-stakes testing came to fruition when the Common Core Standards were released, and thus, making it the easy target for the blame. The tests are based off of the Common Core Standards, but the high-stakes testing is because of the No Child Left Behind Act. The standardized tests follow the Common Core because that is what students learn in school, but the Common Core Standards do not force schools to administer these tests: NCLB does.


Lastly, many people believe that the Common Core system is federally mandated or states were incentivized to implement these standards. They believe that federal government forced public schools to adopt the Common Core. Or, some people believe that the federal government coerced states to adopt the standards by rewarding states who did adopt these standards. These ideas are what I like to call half-truths, ideas that are true to an extent, but they have been exaggerated.

Common Core Mandated by the Federal Government Myth—Debunked

Common Core is not federally mandated or funded. After the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act was passed, the federal government was banned from intervening in school curriculum. Because of this, the federal government cannot mandate any curriculum, it would have actually been illegal for the federal government to mandate the Common Core standards. Rather, states who wished to adopt the Common Core standards did so by their own choice.

However, some argue that states were persuaded to adopt the standards with federal money. This is a half-truth.  It’s true President Obama awarded over $4 billion to 19 states who were willing to commit to educational reform as he wanted through his “Race to the Top” campaign, but adopting the Common Core standards was not a specific requirement for Race to the Top: adopting any common set of standards was the requirement. Yes, adopting the Common Core standards was a way to achieve this requirement, but it was not the only way to do so. Technically, schools who did adopt Common Core were awarded money, but it was because they had made a commitment to educational reform that the federal government had outlined in the Race to the Top Campaign.

I hope this article has given you a clearer picture of the Common Core math and ELA Standards. What other arguments have you heard against the Common Core Standards? I’d love to try to debunk them!

Author: Becky Adams, Curriculum Manager at MathWizard, Inc.

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