Paying Attention to What Kids Do: The Common Core State Standards, Guest Post by Jo Boaler

The United States is poised on the verge of momentous change. The new Common Core Standards may be thought of as just another list of mathematics content areas, but they are much more than this. For the first time teachers are being asked to pay attention not only to what students know, but to what they do. The Mathematical Practices describe important ways of working and they should be infused into the teaching of all mathematics content. This change paves the way for classrooms in which students are problem solving, communicating, reasoning, using creativity and being engaged as they learn mathematics.

The success of the new Common Core Standards depends on many different groups understanding more about learning – teachers, parents, students, administrators and others. In this article, which I wrote for the Atlantic, I wanted to help the public understand two important things:

  1. The stereotypes about those who can do well in math, and the ideas that only some people can be ‘math people’ are wrong and need to be banished from education.
  2. The activities set out in the practice standards of the Common Core, are inherently mathematical. Parents of high achieving students have told me it is a waste of their children’s time to be explaining their work, when it is correct. But justification and reasoning are the essence of mathematical work. This is important for parents to understand.

As the Common Core is rolled out it is hugely important to introduce teachers to the new evidence we have on learning, but it may be equally important that we educate parents and other members of the public at the same time. This article, as well as 2 forthcoming online courses, one for parents and one for students, is part of my mission in doing this. More of the work can be seen at and at

Read more in Jo Boaler’s November 12th article in The Atlantic entitled “The Stereotypes That Distort How Americans Teach and Learn Math”.

Jo Boaler is a professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education. Jo is also the CEO and co-founder of YouCubed, a nonprofit providing free and affordable K-12 mathematics resources and professional development for educators and parents.