California is on the verge of politicizing K-12 math in a potentially disastrous way. Its proposed Mathematics Curriculum Framework is presented as a step toward social justice and racial equity, but its effect would be the opposite—to rob all Californians, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, who always suffer most when schools fail to teach their students. As textbooks and other teaching materials approved by the State would have to follow this framework and since teachers are expected to use it as a guide, its potential to steal a promising future from our children is enormous.
The proposed framework would, in effect, de-mathematize math. For all the rhetoric in this framework about equity, social justice, environmental care and culturally appropriate pedagogy, there is no realistic hope for a more fair, just, equal and well-stewarded society if our schools uproot long-proven, reliable and highly effective math methods and instead try to build a mathless Brave New World on a foundation of unsound ideology. A real champion of equity and justice would want all California’s children to learn actual math—as in arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus—not an endless river of new pedagogical fads that effectively distort and displace actual math. The proposed framework:
- Promotes fringe teaching methods such as “trauma-informed pedagogy.” [ch. 2, p. 16]
- Distracts from actual mathematics by having teachers insert “environmental and social justice” into the math curriculum. [ch. 1, p. 35]
- Distracts from actual mathematics by having teachers develop students’ “sociopolitical consciousness.” [ch. 2, p. 39]
- Distracts from actual mathematics by assigning students—as schoolwork—tasks it says will solve “problems that result in social inequalities.” [ch. 7, p. 29]
- Urges teachers to take a “justice-oriented perspective at any grade level, K–12” and explicitly rejects the idea that mathematics itself is a “neutral discipline.” [ch. 2, p. 29]
- Encourages focusing on “contributions that historically marginalized people have made to mathematics” rather than on those contributions themselves which have been essential to the academic discipline of mathematics. [ch. 2, p. 31]
- “Reject[s] ideas of natural gifts and talents” and discourages accelerating talented mathematics students. [ch. 1, p. 8]
- Encourages keeping all students together in the same math program until the 11th grade and argues that offering differentiated programs causes student “fragility” and racial animosity. [ch.1, p. 15]
- Rejects the longstanding goal of preparing students to take Algebra I in eighth grade, on par with high-performing foreign countries whose inhabitants will be future competitors of America’s children—a goal explicitly part of the 1999 and 2006 Math Frameworks. [ch. 9, p. 43]
We, the undersigned, disagree. Mathematics is a discipline whose language is universally accessible with good teaching. The claim that math is not accessible is an insult to the millennia of non-Western mathematicians and erases the contributions of cultures around the world to mathematics as we now know it. Large numbers of students in developing countries are currently succeeding in advanced mathematics, and American industries have been put in the position of having to encourage them to come to the United States to work.
K-12 Math links: