Experienced Civil Engineer Faults Common Core-Aligned GoMath Series

Aug 20, 2015 by


“Experienced Civil Engineer Faults Common Core-Aligned GoMath Series”



On 8.6.15, Henry W. Burke, an experienced civil engineer, testified before the Nebraska State Board of Education on the Proposed Nebraska Mathematics Standards.


Starting at marker 2:13:08, Mr. Burke gives very insightful and negative comments about the Common Core-aligned GoMath! series.


Mr. Burke’s full, ten-minute testimony begins at marker 2:07:00 and ends at 2:17:17 (http://www.education.ne.gov/Movies/StateBoard/Aug_2015_Work_Session.mp4 ).



Comments on Go Math! Textbook in Nebraska

By Henry W. Burke


The first question that you should ask is: “How did a Common Core textbook like Go Math! get adopted into Nebraska school districts?”  After all, Nebraska has not adopted the Common Core Standards. 


When you have loose, vague Type #2 Math Standards in Nebraska, almost anything will satisfy the Standards.


Math teacher Nakonia (Niki) Hayes provided an excellent critique of Go Math! and I will share some of those observations here.


Nakonia (Niki) Hayes was a K-12 math teacher, counselor, and principal.  She also worked outside of teaching, mainly in journalism.  She now operates a tutoring academy in Waco, Texas, providing help in math, reading, and writing.


In 2008 Niki started work on the biography of one of America’s great teachers, John Saxon.  Publishers said no one wanted to read a story about a math teacher, so she published it herself.  The book is entitled “John Saxon’s Story: A Genius of Common Sense in Math Education,” by Nakonia (Niki) Hayes — http://saxonmathwarrior.com/.


Her mission is to have John Saxon honored for his superior teaching methods and his continued record of success with students today.  Everyone who cares about American K-12 education should join her mission.  When free to choose, people choose Saxon.  More than one million homeschoolers use Saxon textbooks!


Nakonia Hayes was a member of the Texas math curriculum standards writing team that developed the strong Type #1 2012 Texas Math TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills). 


Go Math! is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, a very large textbook publisher.  Matthew Larson is listed as one of the co-authors of their K-12 mathematics programs. 


As one of the Go Math! authors, Dr. Larson is paid for his writing and is paid for promoting the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s books around the country.  Dr. Matthew Larson is the President of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM).  Dr. Larson and the NCTM are strongly endorsing the Common Core Standards.


Textbook publishers are earning millions of dollars from Common Core instructional materials (or IM’s).  It is a huge market!  Think about it.  Each of the Common Core school districts must purchase new instructional materials because their state adopted the Common Core Standards.


The Go Math! student workbook for the 4th Grade is published in two volumes, totaling 671 pages.  In the first workbook, over 30 pages are spent promoting the partial product and partial quotient methods of solving multiplication and division problems.  These are “progressive” methods with absolutely no proof of success.  By comparison, the traditional algorithms have been used for hundreds of years by almost every country around the world.


There is no proof that Go Math! improves student learning.  It is too early to tell the results of Go Math! on student learning.  Pilot projects should first be held for all demographic groups with parental permission being given.  Without pilot projects, we are using our children as guinea pigs on invalidated methods.


Are there any positive test scores resulting from the Go Math! textbook?  Can the Go Math! proponents provide a list of schools and contact names for support?  We have not seen it; this information does not exist.


The Go Math! authors do not understand the classroom.  There are 180 days of teaching in the typical classroom.  If at least 15 days are set aside for testing, that leaves 165 days to cover about 650 pages of material, or 4 pages per day.  Subtract events that take time from the direct classroom instruction (e.g., assemblies, pep rallies, project-based learning, etc.) and we can say students need to cover 6 pages in 45 minutes per day. 


The Go Math! book is designed in chapter format (hunk learning) which means students must learn one chapter to proficiency before going to the next chapter.  Those who cannot swallow the hunk will fall behind.


How many administrators have surveyed their parents and teachers about their math education studies?  How many of their students are enrolling in advanced math and science classes?  How many of their graduates are required to take remedial math courses in college?


How much professional development–days/hours–will be needed to support GOMath!, which means teachers will be absent from their classrooms?


Here is an interesting detail about Go Math!  The publisher requires school districts that adopt Go Math! to sign a “fidelity of implementation” agreement.  This agreement says no other methods or materials may be used by the teachers.


Finally, you should ask about the Go Math! experience in other states.  The one state that I know of that adopted Go Math! is Alabama.  Betty Peters is on the Alabama State Board of Education.  She said Go Math! is hated because of the frustration it causes the children and the anger in the parents.  I suggest that you contact Betty Peters for more information.


Proposed Nebraska 2015 Mathematics Standards:

Key Points


By Henry W. Burke



  1. The Proposed Nebraska 2015 Mathematics Standards (PNMS) were released to the public on 4.3.15.
  2. The PNMS will be presented to the State Board of Education for approval (probably at the August or September 2015 State Board Meeting).
  3. The PNMS are built upon the poor foundation of the existing 2009 Math Standards.
  4. The Math Standards are poor because they do not meet the six tenets for excellent Type #1 standards (explicit, knowledge-based, academic, clearly-worded, grade-level specific, and measurable).
  5. The Math Standards are not age-appropriate for numerous grade levels.
  6. The PNM Standards do not require students to memorize the multiplication tables.  Research demonstrates that this memory activity develops reasoning skills and the ability to perform complex calculations.
  7. The PNMS do not require Saxon Math.  Saxon Math produces proven results and higher test scores.
  8. The Math Standards group grade levels 9-11 together and provide a separate listing for Grade 12 (Advanced Topics).  Nebraska needs to list standards for every single grade level and course separately (with no exceptions).
  9. Engineering colleges require incoming freshmen to have taken four years of math in High School, preferably through Calculus.
  10. The PNM Standards do not require courses in Trigonometry and Calculus in High School.  Hence the Nebraska Math Standards do not prepare high school graduates for careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).  
  11. U.S. government data (NCES) show:
  12. Students whose last high school math course was Algebra II or lower have less than a 40 percent chance of earning any kind of four-year college degree.
  13. If the incoming non-STEM students must take introductory college-level math, 26 % of the students will leave college without a degree.
  14. If the incoming STEM students must take introductory college-level math, only 15 % of the students will earn a STEM degree.
  15. U.S. government data show that only one out of every 50 prospective STEM majors who begin their undergraduate math coursework at the precalculus level or lower will earn a bachelor’s degree in a STEM area.
  16. If the incoming STEM college students have taken Calculus in High School, 69 % of them will complete a STEM degree.




  1. On the 2014 ACT Mathematics Test, Nebraska was ranked No. 29 out of all of the states.  In Nebraska, a very high 86 % of the Graduates were tested.
  2. In Nebraska, 45 % of All Students met the ACT College Readiness Benchmark (Score = 22).
  3. For Nebraska, 51 % of Whites met the ACT Benchmark
  4. In Nebraska, 13 % of Blacks met the ACT Benchmark
  5. In Nebraska, 22 % of Hispanics met the ACT Benchmark
  6. Thus, the White-Black Achievement Gap is 38 % [51–13 = 38 %]
  7. And, the White-Hispanic Achievement Gap is 29 % [51-22 = 29 %]



  1. Students do much better in math when they are prepared in the lower grades to take Algebra I by Grade 8.  Notable mathematician Ze’ ev Wurman proved in a huge California study that the group showing the largest improvement in proficiency rates was minority and disadvantaged students.  [“Why Students Need Strong Standards (and Not Common Core)”].  This is the explanation:

         Only when everyone is prepared in grades K to 7 to reach algebra in grade 8 do the disadvantaged students get their chance to shine.



Bio for Henry W. Burke


 Henry Burke is a Civil Engineer  with a B.S.C.E. and M.S.C.E.  He has been a Registered Professional Engineer (P.E.) for 37 years and has worked as a Civil Engineer in construction for over 40 years. 

Mr. Burke had a successful 27-year career with a large construction company. 

Henry Burke serves as a full-time volunteer to oversee various construction projects. He has written numerous articles on education, engineering, construction, politics, taxes, and the economy.

Henry W. Burke

E-mail:  hwburke@cox.net

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