The Banana Land of Common Core – Are You Smarter Than a 4th Grader?

I haven’t payed much attention to the common core teaching standards that were implemented across the country a few years ago, since I don’t have any kids (or plan on having any, since the Earth is obviously some kind of lunatic asylum for the insane fragments of consciousness that exist in the universe).  However, my friend recently told me about some of the problems his cousin’s kids were having taking the standardized tests, which then led into a discussion about what common core actually is.

A little side note, the Asian father of these children is a certified math genius with a doctorate in computer science, an under-grad in physics and works at Intel developing chip architecture.  The mother, also Asian, is a certified public accountant. The step-father (my friend’s cousin), is also a certified math genius, who has a masters in mechanical engineering, an undergrad in mathematics and who has worked on projects for DARPA, along with numerous other mega-corporations and engineering firms.

The brain power involved here is off the charts – and all three of them are saying the tests and teaching standards are crazy.  If their kids were struggling with the curriculum, I had to wonder how the rest of the kids across the nation were dealing.

So I started digging.

Consider my mind blown.

Let’s start off with a few simple math problems to highlight just how banana land insane the math curriculum is.

8+5 = __

Now I assume most of us would simply answer 13.  We know the answer to this question is 13, because at one point, the vast majority of us were forced to rote memorize single digit base 10 addition tables.  If we had bigger numbers to add, we might break it down by carrying numbers to help us remember what we’re doing as we go along, but that’s about it.

If you attempted to simply answer 13 on a common core math test to this question, your answer would be marked wrong and you would be given a failing grade.  Watch this short video to see the “correct” way to answer this question.

So OK, that video was interesting and bizarre, but I get the concept that’s trying to be taught.  I still think it’s ridiculous, but at least I can grasp the concept.  So how about a simple multiplication problem?


If you answered 15, again, your answer would be marked wrong.  If you got sneaky and said the answer is 5+5+5 = 15, you’d still be wrong.  The correct answer is 3+3+3+3+3 = 15.  Don’t believe me?  – watch this short video.

How about this simple word problem:  “Mr. Yamato’s class has 18 students.  If the class counts around by a number, and ends with 90, what number did they count by?”

If you answered 5, you’d be wrong and you’d be given a failing grade.  If you showed long division work taking 18 into 90, you’d still be wrong.  In fact, the “correct” answer to this question involves no less than 108 individual steps, written out, in long form, involving hash marks, circles and other nonsense galore.  Watch this short video to see the answer.

To me, that was even more bizarre than the other two videos.  But now let’s move on to a truly bizarre impossible to answer question.  Let’s see how a group of adults attempt to answer this 4th grade math question.

The question, “Juanita wants to give bags of stickers to her friends.  She wants to give the same number of stickers to each friend.  She’s not sure if she needs 4 bags or 6 bags of stickers.  How many stickers could she buy so there are no stickers left over?”




I read it over at least a dozen times trying to see if I could decipher some kind of meaning from it.  I was left drawing a blank.  I have an information systems undergrad, I’ve taken college level calculus and finance, I develop software for a living, and I couldn’t figure it out.

The answer comes to us from the comments section 

If I couldn’t infer that from the question, how the hell is a 4th grader supposed to figure it out? The way I read it, it seemed like it could be any multiple of 4 and 6. It almost seemed like they were asking for an equation as an answer.  In fact, it could be any multiple of 4 and 6, since the question does not explicitly state it wants the least number of stickers. And from what I gather, any multiple of 4 and 6, assuming you explain your reasoning, would be marked as correct, because “correct” means you provided your thoughts, not that you actually gave a valid numeric response to a rigorous math problem.  So is 36 just as correct as 12?  According to common core, I’d wager yes.  Remember, this math problem is for 9 year olds.

So the math curriculum is obviously hosed beyond repair, but that’s just the start of the lunacy.  If you really want to have your mind blown, take a few hours out of your life to watch this lecture:

After watching that, I’ve been left completely speechless.  I’m at a loss for words.


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