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Inclusive Math

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Penna Dexternever miss viewpoints

The California State Board of Education has developed a curriculum that, if approved, is supposed to help attract “Black, Latinx, and Multilingual” people to mathematics. Here’s the plan:

First, teachers will be asked to reconsider “preconceived biases” like the one that says there’s “one right answer” to math problems. Instead, the teacher is to lead the class in a “numbers talk” where the students would work a problem, write their answers on the board and be asked to defend those answers.

Fine — if you want to waste class time and confuse students by making them watch classmates defend their wrong answers. This does not seem like a good way to help students who are already struggling.

And what about the kids who are good in math? We have always had ways to let these students move ahead, including a track to take algebra in 8th grade and calculus in 12th. California’s proposed inclusive curriculum eliminates those opportunities.

Guidance for the California curriculum also explains that labeling students “gifted” in math leads to “fragility” as a student worries over losing that status.  And, it says, dropping ability sorting will help heal “racial divisions.” The entire second chapter of the curriculum’s framework is about connecting math to social justice.

National math think tanks are encouraging this nonsense. The Dana Center at The University of Texas, Austin offers six pathways for teaching math. Only one offers Calculus I in high school.

The idea is to foster equity in math. So they’re removing opportunities for math whizzes to advance in high school. But holding back students who are gifted in math is not equitable. And it hurts society as a whole. The nation obviously needs people who get to the “right answer” every time.

As REASON’S Robby Soave points out, these planners are “making math as easy and un-math-like as possible.” This dumbs down math, helps no one, and hurts the struggling or uninterested math students it’s meant to help.penna's vp small

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