Common Core's Word Problems Create Serious Problems

Remember when, in elementary school, you were given certain situations to read, each with a question to answer at the end? It usually had something to do with two trains traveling at different speeds over disparate distances and arriving at the same place. You had to determine which one would get there first and how much faster — or some such exercise to stretch your analytical and computation skills. They were called "word problems" and generally confined to math class, although some subjects included "discussion questions" that fostered the development of students' thinking abilities. As it happens, Common Core, the homogenized, Washington-knows-best-for-every-state learning standards the Obama administration is attempting to ram through every school district in America, has its own version of word problems, and they don't have anything to do with math (although Common Core is screwing up math learning as well, but that's another post). These new age word problems are one of several nutty, if not indoctrinating and dumbing down, techniques it is using to such bad reviews and voluminous parental complaints that its proponents have taken to slickly produced television ads to say otherwise.

Here's a great example: A Common Core "Inference Worksheet" (Common Core speak for "word problems") that describes an adulterous situation and asks students to explain it — 8-year-old students! This is a picture of the worksheet, with its highly inappropriate text below. This version was returned to the teacher with notes of protest and a large X written over it by an angry mom who refused to let her child complete the assignment because of its adult subject matter.

Ruby sat on the bed she shared with her husband holding a hairclip. There was something mysterious and powerful about the cheaply manufactured neon clip that she was fondling in her newly suspicious palms. She didn’t recognize the hairclip. It was too big to be their daughter’s, and Ruby was sure that it wasn’t hers. She hadn’t had friends over in weeks but here was this hairclip, little and green with a few long black hair strands caught in it. Ruby ran her fingers through her own blonde hair. She had just been vacuuming when she noticed this small, bright green object under the bed. Now their life would never be the same. She would wait here until Mike returned home. posted a report (click here) on the worksheet by an Arizona television station, one of several areas of the country whose school districts used them. Howard Portnoy of has more on the unqualified author of the worksheets and  his company. Thankfully, the company pulled the worksheet late last fall, as more states decided to pull out of Common Core. But this is not a rare instance of Common Core insensibility and nonsense. I'll have more later — remember those problems with math? . . .