California Leftists Try to Cancel Math Class

California Leftists Try to Cancel Math Class

The proposed curriculum framework aims low, abandons the gifted, and preaches ‘social justice.’

By Williamson M. Evers

May 18, 2021

Oakland, Calif.

If California education officials have their way, generations of students may not know how to calculate an apartment’s square footage or the area of a farm field, but the “mathematics” of political agitation and organizing will be second nature to them. Encouraging those gifted in math to shine will be a distant memory.

This will be the result if a proposed mathematics curriculum framework, which would guide K-12 instruction in the Golden State’s public schools, is approved by California’s Instructional Quality Commission in meetings this week and in August and ratified by the state board of education later this year.

The framework recommends eight times that teachers use a troubling document, “A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction: Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction.” This manual claims that teachers addressing students’ mistakes forthrightly is a form of white supremacy. It sets forth indicators of “white supremacy culture in the mathematics classroom,” including a focus on “getting the right answer,” teaching math in a “linear fashion,” requiring students to “show their work” and grading them on demonstrated knowledge of the subject matter. “The concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false,” the manual explains. “Upholding the idea that there are always right and wrong answers perpetuates ‘objectivity.’ ” Apparently, that’s also racist.

The framework itself rejects preparing students to take Algebra I in eighth grade, a goal reformers have sought since the 1990s. Students in Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan master introductory algebra in eighth grade or even earlier.

At one time, California took the goal seriously and made immense progress. California Department of Education data show that while only 16% of students took algebra by eighth grade in 1999, by 2013, 67%—four times as many—were doing so. Success rates, meaning the percentage of students scoring “proficient” or above, kept rising even as enrollment increased dramatically.

The biggest beneficiaries were ethnic minority and low-income students. While student success tripled overall, African-American students’ success rate jumped by a factor of five, and Latinos’ and low-income students’ by a factor of six.

Many highly selective colleges expect students to take calculus in high school. To get to calculus by senior year, students have to proceed on a pathway of advanced courses. The framework condemns this as a “rush to calculus” and indicates that California schools won’t provide such a pathway. California high-school grads may be put at a disadvantage in applying to top colleges.

The framework explicitly rejects “ideas of natural gifts and talents.” That some are gifted in math implies some others aren’t, and this is “inequitable.” The framework’s authors also fear that those designated “gifted” may have their fragile egos hurt if they later lose that designation. So it writes an obituary for gifted-and-talented programs, which would hobble the rise of many talented children in California.

The framework rejects ability grouping, also called tracking, even though studies show that students do better when grouped with others who are progressing in their studies at the same pace. We have known for years, including from a 2009 Fordham Institute study of Massachusetts middle schools, that schools with more tracks have significantly more math students at advanced levels and fewer failing students.

The proposal’s agenda becomes clear when it says math should be taught so it can be used for “social justice.” It extols a fictional teacher who uses class to develop her students’ “sociopolitical consciousness.” Math, it says, is a tool to “change the world.” Teachers are supposed to adopt a “culturally relevant pedagogy,” which includes “the ability to identify, analyze and solve real-world problems, especially those that result in societal inequalities.”

Under this pedagogy, “students must develop a critical consciousness through which they challenge the status quo of the current social order.” Don’t think that kindergarten is too early for such indoctrination: “Teachers can take a justice-oriented perspective at any grade level, K-12,” the curriculum revisionists write. Students could be taught fractions in the distracting process of learning the math of organizing a protest march.

This program is quite a comedown for math, from an objective academic discipline to a tool for political activism. Society will be harmed: With fewer people who know math well, how are we going to build bridges, launch rockets or advance technologically? Students will pay the heaviest price—and not only in California. As we’ve seen before, what starts in California doesn’t stop here.

My advice to California’s Instructional Quality Commission, when it meets on Wednesday and Thursday to evaluate public comments on the curriculum framework, is to scrap the document and return to the 1997 math content standards and associated framework. Written largely by professors in Stanford’s math department, it resulted in the aforementioned stupendous statewide gains in algebra attainment. Teach math, not propaganda.

May 19, 2021. Tags: , , , , , , , . Cancel culture, Dumbing down, Education, Equity, Math, Racism, Social justice warriors. Leave a comment.

In the Name of Equity, California Will Discourage Students Who Are Gifted at Math

In the Name of Equity, California Will Discourage Students Who Are Gifted at Math

The new framework aims to keep everyone learning at the same level for as long as possible.

By Robby Soave

May 4, 2021

California’s Department of Education is working on a new framework for K-12 mathematics that discourages gifted students from enrolling in accelerated classes that study advanced concepts like calculus.

The draft of the framework is hundreds of pages long and covers a wide range of topics. But its overriding concern is inequity. The department is worried that too many students are sorted into different math tracks based on their natural abilities, which leads some to take calculus by their senior year of high school while others don’t make it past basic algebra. The department’s solution is to prohibit any sorting until high school, keeping gifted kids in the same classrooms as their less mathematically inclined peers until at least grade nine.

“The inequity of mathematics tracking in California can be undone through a coordinated approach in grades 6–12,” reads a January 2021 draft of the framework. “In summary, middle-school students are best served in heterogeneous classes.”

In fact, the framework concludes that calculus is overvalued, even for gifted students.

“The push to calculus in grade twelve is itself misguided,” says the framework.

As evidence for this claim, the framework cites the fact that many students who take calculus end up having to retake it in college anyway. Of course, de-prioritizing instruction in high school calculus would not really solve this problem—and in fact would likely make it worse—but the department does not seem overly worried. The framework’s overriding perspective is that teaching the tough stuff is college’s problem: The K-12 system should concern itself with making every kid fall in love with math.

Broadly speaking, this entails making math as easy and un-math-like as possible. Math is really about language and culture and social justice, and no one is naturally better at it than anyone else, according to the framework.

“All students deserve powerful mathematics; we reject ideas of natural gifts and talents,” reads a bulletpoint in chapter one of the framework. “The belief that ‘I treat everyone the same’ is insufficient: Active efforts in mathematics teaching are required in order to counter the cultural forces that have led to and continue to perpetuate current inequities.”

The entire second chapter of the framework is about connecting math to social justice concepts like bias and racism: “Teachers can support discussions that center mathematical reasoning rather than issues of status and bias by intentionally defining what it means to do and learn mathematics together in ways that include and highlight the languages, identities, and practices of historically marginalized communities.” Teachers should also think creatively about what math even entails: “To encourage truly equitable and engaging mathematics classrooms we need to broaden perceptions of mathematics beyond methods and answers so that students come to view mathematics as a connected, multi-dimensional subject that is about sense making and reasoning, to which they can contribute and belong.”

This approach is very bad. Contrary to what this guidance seems to suggest, math is not the end-all and be-all—and it’s certainly not something that all kids are equally capable of learning and enjoying. Some young people clearly excel at math, even at very early ages. Many schools offer advanced mathematics to a select group of students well before the high school level so that they can take calculus by their junior or senior year. It’s done this way for a reason: The students who like math (usually a minority) should have the opportunity to move on as rapidly as possible.

For everyone else… well, advanced math just isn’t that important. It would be preferable for schools to offer students more choices, and offer them as early as possible. Teens who are eager readers should be able to study literature instead of math; young people who aren’t particularly adept at any academic discipline might pick up art, music, computers, or even trade skills. (Coding doesn’t need to be mandatory, but it could be an option.)

The essence of good schooling is choice. Individual kids benefit from a wide range of possible educational options. Permitting them to diversify, specialize, and chart their own paths—with helpful input from the adults in their lives—is the course of action that recognizes vast differences in interest and ability. Holding back kids who are gifted at math isn’t equitable: On the contrary, it’s extremely unfair to everyone.

Yet the framework seems to reject the notion that some kids are more gifted than others. “An important goal of this framework is to replace ideas of innate mathematics ‘talent’ and ‘giftedness’ with the recognition that every student is on a growth pathway,” it states. “There is no cutoff determining when one child is ‘gifted’ and another is not.” But cutoffs are exactly what testing and grading systems produce, and it’s absurdly naive to think there’s nothing innate about such outcomes, given that intelligence is at least partly an inherited trait.

If California adopts this framework, which is currently under public review, the state will end up sabotaging its brightest students. The government should let kids opt out of math if it’s not for them. Don’t let the false idea that there’s no such thing as a gifted student herald the end of advanced math entirely.

May 4, 2021. Tags: , , , , , , . Dumbing down, Education, Equity, Math, Racism, Social justice warriors. 1 comment.

Equity = getting rid of advanced math classes

By Daniel Alman (aka Dan from Squirrel Hill)

April 23, 2021

In the name of what progressives refer to as “equity,” Virginia is planning to eliminate all accelerated math courses before 11th grade.

On a personal level, as a person who always took the highest level math classes that were available during my entire schooling, and who always scored in the 99th percentile on standardized math tests, I think this is a horrible idea.

On a practical level, as a person who wants bridges that don’t fall down, I think this is a horrible idea.

And on an intellectual level, as a person who knows that Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron” was written as a warning, and not an instruction manual, I think this is a horrible idea.

“Harrison Bergeron” was a fictional story that takes place in the future, where the government tries to make everyone equal. So the best ballet dancers were forced to wear weights on their arms and legs so they couldn’t dance better than anyone else. The best looking people were forced to wear masks on their faces. And the smartest people (like those who were the best at math) were forced to wear a noisemaking device inside their ears so they couldn’t concentrate on anything for more than 20 seconds at a time.

April 23, 2021. Tags: , , , , , , . Dumbing down, Education, Equity, Math, Racism, Social justice warriors. 1 comment.