California OKs Controversial Math Curriculum Promoting ‘Equity’

California OKs Controversial Math Curriculum Promoting ‘Equity’

A child works with a math tutor in Laguna Niguel, Calif., on May 12, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Micaela Ricaforte

Micaela Ricaforte

7/26/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

The California Department of Education adopted a new mathematics framework that has sparked controversy for shifting its emphasis to “big ideas” and prioritizing equity over algebra and geometry.
The state Board of Education approved the new, 1,000-page framework July 12 after it underwent three revisions over four years based on public feedback.
The new framework structures math standards around “big ideas” rather than isolated math concepts, according to education board officials.
It also focuses on problem-solving and applying math to everyday scenarios, and prioritizes allowing minority students to “see themselves” represented in curriculum by making math lessons “culturally relevant and empowering.”
“This framework provides strategies to challenge, engage, and support all students in deep and relevant math learning by building on successful approaches used in nations that produce high and equitable achievement in math,” said State Board President Linda Darling-Hammond in a statement the day it was approved. “This framework provides teachers and schools with a path to greater excellence with greater equity.”
The changes to the framework come as two-thirds of the state’s 13.5 million children failed to meet national math and science standards in 2022—while an average of 85 percent of black and Latino students failed to meet math standards, according to a 2023 report by the California County Scorecard of Children’s Well-Being.
Chief Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Mary Nicely, said the framework is intended to make math accessible to all children.
“Our State Superintendent is a champion of equity and excellence, and it is our core mission that every child—regardless of race, ZIP code, or background—has access to a quality education,” she said in the same statement. “The approval of the revised math framework is one more step forward to meeting the needs of all California’s students.”

Criticism

However, critics say the changes take focus away from students’ actual math learning.
In July 2021, more than 1,200 individuals—including math professors, business professionals, and venture capitalists—signed an open letter from the nonprofit research organization Independent Institute to Gov. Gavin Newsom expressing concerns about equity and social justice elements of an earlier version of the framework.
Though it has since been revised, the framework maintains its emphasis on equity and social issues, which the institute believes introduces politics into math teaching.
“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,” the letter stated. “We believe infusing mathematics with political rhetoric is alien to mathematics as a discipline and will do lasting damage—including making math dramatically harder for students whose first language is not English.”
Oakland-based private math tutor and former teacher Michael Malione, who founded SaveMath.net in opposition to the framework, argued on his website that the framework doesn’t give enough priority to basic math concepts like algebra and geometry.
Mr. Malione told The Epoch Times that focusing on “big ideas” and “growth mindset” in math lessons harms the state’s most vulnerable students and the most advanced students alike.
“Ensuring students have ‘authentic experiences’ and representation in lessons … doesn’t lead to best outcomes and harms black and brown students,” Mr. Malione said.
On his website, Mr. Malione said representation in math is “akin to saying you will help someone get better at soccer by showing them people from their ethnic group who are experts and then getting them excited about soccer.”
“Who thinks that will help? Everyone knows you get better at soccer (and in our case, math) by learning and practicing. Rather than assume our black and brown students need some type of ‘show’ to help them learn, let’s support them to put in the hard work to master math content standards and achieve proficiency,” he continued on his website.
Additionally, Mr. Malione added that forcing advanced students to wait until 9th grade to learn algebra is harmful to their learning.
“Evidence shows the sooner they can learn algebra, the better they can understand it,” he said.
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Micaela Ricaforte

Micaela Ricaforte

Author

Micaela Ricaforte covers education in Southern California for The Epoch Times. In addition to writing, she is passionate about music, books, and coffee.

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