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Hundreds of mathematicians warn against social justice-based math standards

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 12/6/2021 Jeremiah Poff
A young male and mixed race female are working together on a team assignment. They are brainstorming on ideas for their next project. The classroom is full of junior high students. © (skynesher/Getty Images) A young male and mixed race female are working together on a team assignment. They are brainstorming on ideas for their next project. The classroom is full of junior high students.

Hundreds of mathematicians and scientists have signed a statement calling on educators to abandon “well-intentioned” efforts to close achievement gaps in math education, saying it could have “unintended consequences.”

The “Open Letter on K-12 Mathematics” is significant pushback against efforts to reform math education due to achievement gaps that often fall upon racial lines. Liberal activists and educators say the reforms are necessary to achieve racial equity due to those racially disparate achievement levels.

To date, the letter has been signed by 597 math professionals from all over the country, including numerous college professors, high school teachers, and researchers, ranging from engineers to physics and computer science professors.

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The letter says “well-intentioned” efforts to reform math education, including a much-maligned effort in California dubbed the California Mathematics Framework, may superficially achieve goals of reducing student achievement gaps but are ultimately just “kicking the can to college," which they say would lead to lower math achievement in schools, thus hurting the ability of students to enter STEM fields.

“Such frameworks aim to reduce achievement gaps by limiting the availability of advanced mathematical courses to middle schoolers and beginning high schoolers,” the letter says. “Such a reform would disadvantage K-12 public school students in the United States compared with their international and private-school peers. It may lead to a de facto privatization of advanced mathematics K-12 education and disproportionately harm students with fewer resources.”

The California Mathematics Framework, which the letter specifically cites as concerning, says teachers should “take a justice-oriented perspective” to teaching math and that “a social justice approach to mathematics enables the humanizing of mathematics.”

The signers of the letter include several California public school math teachers, as well as a number of professors at several University of California schools, including UC-Berkeley and UC-Davis.

The letter outlines three goals that math education should be focused on, the first of which is that “All students, regardless of background, have access to a math curriculum with precision and rigor.”

The second goal calls for all students to “have the opportunity to be nurtured and challenged to fulfill their potential,” while the third goal calls for educators to reject a “‘one size fits all’ approach to K-12 mathematical education.”

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“While the US K-12 system has much to improve, the current trends will instead take us further back,” the letter says. “Reducing access to advanced mathematics and elevating trendy but shallow courses over foundational skills would cause lasting damage to STEM education in the country and exacerbate inequality by diminishing access to the skills needed for social mobility.”

 

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Tags: News, Math, Public Schools, California, Professors, Woke culture, News

Original Author: Jeremiah Poff

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