California’s latest mathematics framework draft demands that educators across the state must “teach toward social justice” during math class.
The 13-part guide tells teachers that “mathematics has traditionally been viewed as a neutral discipline.” Now, the “expanded view” of math asks teachers to “analyze lessons through an equity lens.”
“A fundamental aim of this framework is to respond [to] issues of inequity in mathematics learning,” the first chapter of the framework reads. “Equity influences all aspects of this document.”
The second chapter of the framework promotes instruction that “challenges the deeply-entrenched policies and practices that lead to inequitable outcomes.”
As part of the equity framework, teachers are told that attempting to “treat everyone the same” is considered “insufficient.” Instead, they must “counter the cultural forces that have led to and continue to perpetuate current inequities.”
Educators are told to take every opportunity to connect mathematical concepts to social justice topics. Examples of teaching “culturally relevant” topics in math class include examining word problems. The framework suggests that fifth-grade math projects should be focused on “access to water as a human right” and integrate math topics such as volume, capacity, and proportions. When students are learning about statistics and data sets, teachers should ask questions such as, “Who attends your school? Which racial and gender groups are represented? And how does your school data compare to state or national data?”
The framework also insists that a portion of math class should be dedicated to raising awareness about gender stereotypes in textbooks.
“Mathematics educators committed to social justice also work to both raise awareness of the ways textbook examples exclude and stereotype certain students and to provide curricular examples that equip students with a tool kit and mindset to combat inequities with mathematics,” the framework reads.
According to the framework, an example of a word problem investigation should go like this:
“One student asks, ‘Are there word problems that have a male knitting a scarf, cooking, and cleaning?’ and another ponders, ‘Does the textbook always use girl names for girl stuff and boy names for boy stuff?’ The teacher asks the students, ‘Why does this matter? Who does this privilege? Who is silenced?’”
The mathematics framework also recommends including discussion on LGBT issues.
An example of an alleged math-based discussion on gender reads as follows:
Ms. Ross selects three-word problems to connect with the class’s current read-aloud of George, a novel by Alex Gino that shares the story of a 10-year-old transgender fourth-grader and her struggles with acceptance among friends and family. In doing so, the teacher is reflecting the recommendations of California’s Health Framework, which suggests that sensitive discussions of gender are important for students.
California’s latest framework claims that the emphasis on equity is important as math has a “history of exclusion and filtering.” The guide claims that math instruction in the U.S. was “initially structured for a narrow purpose: to prepare privileged, young, white men for entrance into elite colleges.”
However, from 2004 to 2014, the highest achievers in math were not white people. 32 percent of Asian-American students were in accelerated math programs, compared with eight percent of white students, four percent of black students, and three percent of Hispanic students, according to the framework.
Nonetheless, the guide claims that “girls and Black and Brown children” are told that they are less capable of high-level mathematics “compared to their White and male counterparts.”
In the name of equity, the guide also claims that teachers must “reject ideas of natural gifts and talents.”
California’s mathematics framework is based on an 82-page guide entitled, “A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction.” The guide lists the ways in which white supremacy is perpetuated in math class.
“White supremacy culture infiltrates math classrooms in everyday teacher actions,” the equitable math guide reads. “Coupled with the beliefs that underlie these actions, they perpetuate education harm on Black, Latinx, and multilingual students, denying them full access to the world of mathematics.”
Examples of classroom actions that allegedly perpetuate white supremacy include asking students to show their work, focusing on getting the right answer, tracking student success, and grading students.
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