Tom Loveless
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My Comments to the California State Board of Education on the proposed Math Framework

I write this letter to oppose the proposed California Math Framework. My comments are a distillation of a lengthier analysis presented in the Spring 2023 issue of Education Next, "California's New Math Framework Doesn't Add Up."

The framework’s stated purpose is “to support implementation of the California Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CA CCSSM).”  The framework undermines the standards, in some cases directly contradicting them.

The framework states: “Attaining fluency with multiplication and division within 100 accounts for a major portion of upper elementary grade students’ work.” How can that be? If students know multiplication facts “from memory” at the end of third grade—as stipulated in the state standards--why would they still be working on basic fact fluency in the upper elementary grades? But the claim is repeated: “Acquiring fluency with multiplication facts begins in third grade and development continues in grades four and five.” (pg. 83)

Note that California’s 2013 math framework contained almost the exact same wording to describe third grade expectations.  “Multiplication and division are new concepts in grade three, and reaching fluency with these operations within 100 represents a major portion of students’ work. By the end of grade three, students also know all products of two one-digit numbers from memory (3.OA.7 ).” A major portion of 3rd grade work will now become a major portion of the work in upper elementary grades. What a step backwards!

What does fluent mean? The 2013 framework offers a clear definition, consistent with other states that adopted Common Core. “The word fluent is used in the standards to mean ‘reasonably fast and accurate’ and possessing the ability to use certain facts and procedures with enough facility that using such knowledge does not slow down or derail the problem solver as he or she works on more complex problems.” The new framework redefines fluency to discourage an emphasis on speed.

The California Common Core Math Standards call for students to demonstrate an understanding of, and the ability to use, the standard algorithms of addition and subtraction by the end of fourth grade, multiplication by the end of fifth grade, and division by the end of sixth grade.  These are culminating standards, not ironclad rules regarding when standard algorithms can and cannot be taught.

The proposed math framework interprets these standards as banning the teaching of standard algorithms before the culminating grade, a false interpretation explicitly debunked by Jason Zimba, one of the Common Core co-authors. If this framework is adopted, California’s students will encounter the standard division algorithm for the first time in sixth grade, years after most of the world has attained mastery.

Please reject the proposed framework.