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Defending Mathematics

blackboard full of math
Kerby Andersonnever miss viewpoints

University professors in the humanities and social sciences have been publishing open letters for years, but the latest one comes from some of the top scientists in the country warning about the assault on math in our schools. In previous commentaries, I have talked about woke math and woke science. It is sometimes easy to dismiss such bizarre statements by leftist critics. But this letter focuses on recent attempts to “eliminate standardized testing and lower standards in math to give the appearance that achievement gaps don’t exist.”

Their focus is on the California Department of Education’s math framework that encourages math teachers to take a “justice-oriented perspective.” They are concerned that such programs will reduce the “availability of advanced mathematical courses to middle schoolers and beginning high schoolers” and thus discourage students from taking calculus.

The signers are from some of the top universities and are likely left of center politically. But they are deeply concerned about trendy and shallow courses instead of the necessary focus on foundational mathematical skills.

The lowering or even the elimination of mathematical standards would certainly damage America’s global competitiveness. They remind us that the mathematical courses and disciplines are centuries old and “arguably even more critical for today’s challenges than in the Sputnik era.”

America cannot afford to dumb-down education in important fields like civics and history. But our technological future would be devastated by a generation of future scientists and engineers who know little about the mathematical tools necessary for technological progress and innovation. Let’s hope educators are listening.viewpoints new web version

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