New in the Nonpartisan Education Review:
Cognitive Science and the Common Core Mathematics Standards
by Eric A. Nelson
Between 1995 and 2010, most U.S. states adopted K–12 math standards which discouraged memorization of math facts and procedures. Since 2010, most states have revised standards to align with the K–12 Common Core Mathematics Standards (CCMS). The CCMS do not ask students to memorize facts and procedures for some key topics and delay work with memorized fundamentals in others.
Recent research in cognitive science has found that the brain has only minimal ability to reason with knowledge that has not previously been well-memorized. This science predicts that students taught under math standards that discouraged initial memorization for math topics will have significant difficulty solving numeric problems in mathematics, science, and engineering. As one test of this prediction, in a recent OECD assessment of numeracy skills among 22 developed-world nations, U.S. 16–24 year olds ranked dead last. Discussion will include steps that can be taken to align K–12 state standards with practices supported by cognitive research.