Many of you will remember a similar mantra from John Lennon
during the antiwar movement in the 1960s. Recent conversations with NCTM
members at our fall regional conferences, and several recent critical reviews
of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM), have resurrected
this mantra for me. When asked, “What is NCTM’s position on these standards for
mathematics,” I reply, “Let’s give them a chance.” Here are some reasons why.

The Common Core State Standards for Mathematics did not just
fall out of the sky; they evolved out of NCTM’s two rounds of mathematics
content and process standards that appeared in 1989 (__Curriculum
and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics__) and were
updated in 2000 (__Principles and
Standards for School Mathematics__). I choose to think of CCSSM as
the next step in the evolution of mathematics standards in our nation, albeit
an imperfect step. In my view, these standards are a next step in three ways.

First, they provide a finer-grained set of content standards
than the NCTM Standards previously provided, and second, they are *common!* Although all of us have some
issues with particular “content grains” that are, or are not, currently in
CCSSM, none can deny that these standards are being thought of as *common*. They have already been adopted
by 45 states and the District of Columbia, as well as some of our nation’s
territories. This is clearly an evolutionary step beyond what NCTM’s Standards
were able to do 20 years ago. The political will of so many states to agree on
mathematics standards did not exist at the time that NCTM published *Curriculum and Evaluation* *Standards for School Mathematics *and *Principles and Standards for School
Mathematics*.

Third, and most important from my standpoint, the Standards
for Mathematical Practice in CCSSM clearly are based in NCTM’s Process
Standards: problem solving, reasoning and proof, connections, communication,
and representation. Just consider the language in the statements of the
Standards for Mathematical Practice: “Make sense of problems and persevere”;
“Reason abstractly and quantitatively”; “Construct viable arguments and
critique the reasoning of others”; “Look for and make use of structure”; and
“Model mathematical phenomena.” These are like musical echoes of the original
NCTM Process Standards—our “bible” of teaching and learning school mathematics.

Like any new evolutionary step, the Common Core Standards
are going to be criticized in certain circles, just as the NCTM Standards were
when they appeared in 1989 and again in 2000. As you read critiques of CCSSM,
do so with a discerning eye, and distinguish the thoughtful reviews of the
mathematical content and processes in the standards from editorials that have a
political ax to grind or that go off on an ill-founded rant. Reviews of both types
have appeared in the media in recent weeks.

To those who say, “CCSSM does not provide examples of what
they mean in those Standards,” I reply, “NCTM already has done that.” Take a
look at all the thoughtful examples elucidating the standards that are embedded
in *Principles and Standards for School
Mathematics* and the accompanying NCTM Navigations Series.* *You can find hundreds of sample
problems and tasks that illustrate the mathematical content standards in
number, geometry, measurement, algebra, and data and chance, at various grade
levels. Let’s think of this round of standards as an evolution. Use* *what NCTM has already provided, and
build on it as you go forth with CCSSM. CCSSM did not have to reinvent all the
wheels—excellent wheels already existed and are in motion!

To those that say “CCSSM hasn’t woven the Standards for
Mathematical Practice into the content standards,” I say, “That may be true,
but in the meantime, *Principles and
Standards for School Mathematics *did interweave the Content and Process
Standards, so start with those examples, or take examples from NCTM’s new *Focus in High School Mathematics: Reasoning
and Sense Making *and its supporting books*, *while we await the forthcoming tasks from the Council of Chief
State School Officers (CSSO) sponsored *Illustrative
Mathematics Project”*.

As I have traveled the country this fall, speaking at NCTM’s
regional conferences and at local conferences of NCTM Affiliates, I have been
struck by several changes among the membership since last year. It is evident
in the questions that members have been asking at my presentations. A year ago,
the Common Core Standards had been out for only several months, and teachers,
schools, and districts, including NCTM members, knew very little about them.
Then the questions were, “So, what are these standards? Why are they happening
to us? What and how are we going to have to change in order to adopt them? Who
is going to make up the assessments and what are they going to look like?”

A year later, we have a lot more information about the
standards, the support systems implementing them are growing, the Assessment
Consortia have released drafts of their frameworks, and the tone of the
questions has shifted. The questions now indicate that many teachers, schools, and
districts have assumed ownership of the new standards, and there is widespread
interest in and concern about implementing them thoughtfully. There is also a
worry about recent criticism that has been based more on opinion and politics
than on facts. Questions that I hear now include, “What is this new Math Common
Core Coalition all about? *(President’s Message – NCTM Launches Two New Public Outreach Efforts).*
What is NCTM offering now for professional development on CCSSM? (*Making it Happen: A Guide to Interpreting and Implementing Common Core State Standards for Mathematics) *How are the
Assessment Consortia going to be able to test all our kids on computers?” And,
most interesting, “Why are some people who know very little about mathematics
education attacking these standards?”

During my presentations at this year’s fall conferences, I
have answered some of these questions, and provided updates on NCTM’s efforts
to support teachers, schools, and districts as we all proceed with the implementation
and assessment of CCSSM. (I
have made a slide presentation, “Update on NCTM and CCSSM Implementation and Assessment.” In these slides, you will find information from the
members of the new Mathematics Common Core Coalition (MC^3). You may be
interested to learn, for example, that NCTM is currently updating the
electronic appendices that accompany *Making
it Happen*, and is providing summer institutes for elementary and secondary
mathematics teachers with connections to the content and practice standards in
CCSSM. The slides also include links to
the websites for *The Illustrative
Mathematics Project *(sponsored by the CCSSO and the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation)*,* and to the new Tools to
Analyze Curricular Materials for their alignment with CCSSM. These tools were
written by members of NCTM and National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics
(NCSM) and sponsored by CCSSO and the Brookhill Foundation. I also include
short updates from each of the two assessment consortia, Partnership for the Assessment
of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced
Assessment Consortium (SBAC), and links to their respective websites, as well
as links on information about forthcoming (NCSM), Association of State
Supervisors of Mathematics (ASSM), and NCTM webinars related to CCSSM.

As we all pursue the best possible paths for the
implementation and assessment of the Common Core Standards for Mathematics,
remember this mantra: “All we are saying is… give them a chance!”