The Answer: Math Does Not Have To Be a Lost Art”

By Donna Garner

A boy writing on the wall with a marker

The United States is losing its place of leadership in the world, and much of that loss lies at the feet of “fuzzy math.” All does not have to be lost.

I recently discovered “the answer.”  Someone drew my attention back to the “Mathematics Content Standards for California Public Schools K-12.”  These were adopted by the California State Board of Education in Dec. 1997.  I remember when these were widely acclaimed, and California became the leader in math instruction for a period of time.

These math standards are still available at: https://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/documents/mathstandards.pdf

Please go to Publishing Information (Special Acknowledgement) to see the list of the outstanding mathematicians involved in the preparation of this document.

Also, please go to the Table of Contents to read the suggested order of presentation of math skills (K-7) (8-12) and to read on Page iv “A Message from the State Board of Education and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.”

The wording of these California mathematics curriculum standards is clear, succinct, measurable, observable, grade-or-course-level-specific (what I call TYPE #1 curriculum standards).  No outside consultants would have to be hired for big bucks by local school districts to “interpret” what teachers are supposed to teach because the California Math Standards speak for themselves.  

Because the curriculum standards are Type #1, the tests developed to assess the progress of students would have right-or-wrong answers with no equivocation on the part of students and teachers.  There would be no subjectivity or confusion on the part of anyone as to whether the test answers are right or wrong. Everyone involved would know what is to be taught and tested.

In 1997 California led the way to lay out a clear and doable path for mathematics excellence K-12 which if followed would have led to high-school students being well-prepared for their college and career aspirations.  The outcome for California and for the United States would have been that of producing the best-educated mathematicians in the world.

To the vast disappointment of the outstanding mathematicians in California who worked so hard to produce these 1997 mathematics standards, their own state failed to implement them properly.  The wrong people were elected and/or chosen at a crucial time; the 1997 California Math Standards were maligned by fake experts; and “fuzzy math” Common Core took over the California schools just as it did throughout the entire United States.    

The good news is that it is not too late to resurrect the 1997 California Math Standards.

Yes, they are copyrighted; but other states and educational environments could still develop similar clear, succinct, measurable, observable, grade-or-course-level-specific mathematics standards, tests, and teacher training.

These 1997 California Math Standards could serve as a type of template for public schools, charter schools, homeschoolers, private schools, and all other types of educational settings.

America could once again quit taking a backseat to mathematicians from other countries. We have been the leader in past years, and we can become the leader again.

Here is the answer: https://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/documents/mathstandards.pdf