What is your understanding of Common Core (CC)? It’s a marketing catch phrase for some, a political handle for others. Many have read the CC Website, know the key ideas and have perhaps reviewed some of the standards, but what does CC mean for the day-to-day learning of US school students? Has much really changed? What are the lessons for schools? 

Is Common Core driving real reform and more effective learning, or is it often more a case of re-jigging old teaching practices under a new heading? 

I was moved to write about this today when a friend posted the following on Facebook:

“I thought that the Common Core was going to give us more real world problems. Please read the math problem below that was put on my son’s quiz. I think this problem was on a test 150 years ago. Try and solve this problem and please tell me how it relates to 21st century curriculum and if you think it is or is not well written:

Michelle went to a farm to go pumpkin picking! It cost $8 to get into the farm and .29 a pound for the pumpkins. 12 pound pumpkins at the grocery store were $10. How many pumpkins would Michelle have to buy to make the grocery store pumpkins the same price as the visit to the farm?”

Many of us remember these sorts of math questions. You are probably wondering about some of the wording of the question. Folks on Facebook were.

Pumpkin pudding - American Food Roots
Pumpkins, Common Core and old wine

I recently visited a rather large K-12 school in Dubai. The school follows International Baccalaureate (IB) and UK curriculum standards. Even though that school is not tied to Common Core standards, their learning approach is well suited to the principles of CC as they are committed to an integrated curriculum that focuses on problem solving, critical thinking, real world application, digital literacy and global citizenship. With the recent memory of the school and a pinch of humor, I responded to my friend’s Facebook post with:

Several real world problems were missed in the question and the question has a structural flaw that could be turned into a deeper thinking opportunity. First, the missed real world problems:

  • The question is not expressed in metric, the standard of measure of the new global economy:) (I am Australian)
  • Product quality and value for money are not considered, nor are the environmental impacts/on-costs of the different production systems implied in the question.

Secondly, the structural problem is that, commercially, no matter how many units Michelle buys at the store, the store price remains different to the farm price. The pumpkins will not be “the same price” till the management of one or both businesses change the price to be the same as the other, which could be seen as collusion, a whole other real world problem.

A school offering a more integrated curriculum would challenge students in all these areas. Such learning communities exist, but are perhaps not so ‘common’.”

The Facebook discussion thread continues.
Do you have examples of schools putting new wine into new skins? Is your non-US school applying the principles of CC simply because they are based on effective learning approaches? Do you know of schools applying a more integrated curriculum where CC principles fit more naturally? What does day-to-day learning look like for those students?

Please leave your comments.