How Common Core Math Standards Are Different

When it comes to mathematics, the Common Core is not only about content – what children learn – it is also about how they learn it and what they do with it. Here are some key changes outlined in the  math Common Core standards.

  1. Students will work more deeply on fewer topics which will help ensure full understanding of essential concepts. The Common Core focuses on the math that matters most for future learning of more complex math concepts.  This focus is important because teachers need to have the time to teach and students need to have the time to learn.
  2. Students will keep building on what they have learned year after year, creating a strong foundation. Math is not new every year; each topic students learn builds on what they have learned in previous years.
  3. Students will spend time practicing and memorizing math facts. Developing speed, accuracy, and real math fluency requires that some skills become automatic.
  4. Students will understand how math works and be able to talk about and prove their understanding. A deep understanding of math will allow children to use math in new situations without having to be specifically trained for them.
  5. Students will be asked to use math in real-world situations. This means knowing when and how math can be used to solve a problem without being directed, a skill that is essential for being college- and career-ready.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, but whether you’re a teacher, a parent, or simply an interested party, we encourage you to learn more about Common Core Standards for math. The Council for Great City Schools provides grade-specific Parent Roadmaps to the Common Core – Mathematics that provide guidance to parents about what their children will be learning and how they can support that learning .  Or watch this four minute video on the importance of mathematical practices and how they impact student proficiency.


What Does College- and Career-Readiness Mean?

The Common Core State Standards were designed to prepare students for success in college and modern careers. College readiness means that high school graduates will have the skills they need to do well in college. College is defined broadly, as a 4-year or 2-year degree, or any postsecondary program that leads to a degree or certificate. Regardless of a student’s specific post high school plans, he or she should be prepared to enter any credit-bearing, entry level college courses.

Career readiness means that high school graduates will be qualified for and able to build long-term careers. A career is not the same thing as a job. A career signifies a profession that allows graduates to succeed in a job they enjoy while earning a competitive wage.

We don’t know what jobs will look like 10, 20, or 30 years from now, but we know children must graduate from high school with essential mathematics and English Language Arts content knowledge and skills like communication, collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity.


Reader Question

A Core Connection Newsletter reader sent us this question. “Why were the standards implemented unilaterally in all grades instead of starting in the elementary grades and then working up through the school system with the students?” We went to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) for an answer and here is what spokesperson Mary Fergus had to say.

“The Common Core standards represent the first K-12 learning standards written with the end – college and career readiness – in mind. We believe that the benchmarks remain important and relative for each grade and that once our Board passed these standards, it was important and fair for all students, whether in 6th or 9th or 12th to be expected to meet these goals and be exposed to the type of instruction and skills that best support students to be college- and career-ready.  We did not expect implementation to occur over the course of a semester, a year or even two years…that is why we built several years into the timeline. This is a process and implementation varies from one district to another, but we believed it important that we all begin the journey together.”

For those who want to dig deeper, ISBE’s website includes a host of information on the Common Core and educators should not miss the Common Core Professional Learning Series, an online training resource.


Featured Resources

We have done the research and scoured the internet for valuable Common Core resources, so you don’t have to.  Here’s what caught our eye this month.

  • The Council of Great City Schools has developed a three-minute video (also available in Spanish) that explains how the Common Core State Standards will help students achieve at high levels and help them learn what they need to know to get to graduation and beyond.  That’s the best use of three minutes we have come across lately.
  • It is important to keep parents informed, so we have developed a short letter schools can use to communicate the basics of the Common Core and changes to ISAT scoring that are coming. We have even translated this letter into Spanish, Polish, Arabic and Chinese. Download these letters and use them to communicate with parents and your community.


Parents’ Guide to Student Success

The Parents’ Guide to Student Success (listed below in English and Spanish) was developed in response to the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics that more than 45 states have adopted. (To find out if your state has adopted the standards, visit Created by teachers, parents, education experts, and others from across the country, the standards provide clear, consistent expectations for what students should be learning at each grade in order to be prepared for college and career.

National PTA® created the guides for grades K-8 and two for grades 9-12 (one for English language arts/literacy and one for mathematics).

The Guide includes:

  • Key items that children should be learning in English language arts and mathematics in each grade, once the standards are fully implemented.
  • Activities that parents can do at home to support their child’s learning.
  • Methods for helping parents build stronger relationships with their child’s teacher.
  • Tips for planning for college and career (high school only).

PTAs can play a pivotal role in how the standards are put in place at the state and district levels. PTA® leaders are encouraged to meet with their school, district, and/or state administrators to discuss their plans to implement the standards and how their PTA can support that work. The goal is that PTAs and education administrators will collaborate on how to share the guides with all of the parents and caregivers in their states or communities, once the standards are fully implemented.

Parent Guides

Two-page Parents’ Guides to Student Success (Color)
Color versions of the two-page Parent Guides

Four-page Parents’ Guides to Student Success (Black and white)
Black and white versions of the four-page Parent Guides

Four-page Parents’ Guides to Student Success (Color)
Color versions of the four-page Parent Guides

Additional Resources

Parents’ Guide to Student Success—Frequently Asked Questions

Parents’ Guide to Student Success—Frequently Asked Questions

State Education Agencies
Find out more about your state’s CCSSI implementation plans.


Attached are examples of Parent Letters for those with 2nd graders:

2nd Grade June20


Also included is an overview of Common Core Illinois: