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Home » Common Core » Common Core math standards too challenging for little kids? This teacher and early childhood expert says, “Not at all!”

Common Core math standards too challenging for little kids? This teacher and early childhood expert says, “Not at all!”

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Critics of Common Core often argue that the standards–particularly the math standards–are too challenging and are developmentally inappropriate for children. Indeed, it was the basis of several testimonies to the House and Senate Education Committee when they were considering bills on standards and testing in this legislative session.

But Douglas H. Clements, an expert on early childhood education (holder of the University of Denver’s Kennedy Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Learning and serves as the Executive Director of the Marsico Institute of Early Learning and Literacy), disagrees.  In an article featured in Preschool Matters, he and his co-authors say that people use the phrase “developmentally appropriate” as a “Rorschach test for whatever a person wants to see or argue against.”

They go on to say that the Common Core standards are designed as building blocks of learning, where skills and concepts build on each other in a “learning trajectory” that ensures developmental appropriateness but are still challenging for students:

…When educators use… a learning trajectory—to engage all children in meaningful mathematics at the right level for each—developmental appropriateness is ensured…(Criticisms that the CCSS-M were “top-down,” starting with high school, e.g., Meisels, 2011, are simply incorrect.) Thus, learning trajectories are at the core of the Common Core.

One might still argue that the CCSS-M goals are inappropriate for some group of children. But this will be true of any set of standards that pose a worthwhile challenge to them. And our children deserve that challenge… We should work together to help them build up their mathematical foundations. And given this support, they do.

We wish more educators would realize what’s truly developmentally inappropriate is present-day kindergarten curricula that “teach” children what they already know.

Clements has published over 500 articles and books in learning and teaching. In this piece, he also touches on other misconceptions about Common Core standards, including the underemphasis of social-emotional development and emphasis of rote skills rather than meaningful learning.

Read the full article here.


  1. Actually, the problem is that some of the primary and elementary grade math standards are too hard for many teachers and parents.

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