Is mathematics racist? California could blaze pathway with woke math

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The Washington Times:

California education officials are considering applying a social justice paradigm to teaching K-12 mathematics that would erase “White supremacy” from the subject and eliminate gifted classes for students.

Proponents of new math say the way the subject currently is taught is suffused with White supremacy. They say it handicaps some minority students by insisting on what they consider racist concepts — such as arriving at correct answers.

Some academics and conservative thinkers fear that forcing critical race theory into math classes would mark a further retreat from America’s preeminent global position in mathematics and sciences. An influx of foreign scholars has long maintained that advantage.

“Ill-conceived [diversity, equity and inclusion] policies, often informed by CRT, and the declining standards of K-12 math education feed each other in a vicious circle, which is in time going to affect the entire mathematics profession and, more broadly, all STEM disciplines,” three mathematicians from Princeton University, New York University and the University of California, Irvine, wrote in a recent piece for the online magazine Persuasion.

California’s Instructional Quality Commission is considering introducing into classrooms across the state a modified version of “A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction,” a curriculum developed by the online tool kit that aims to remove cultural bias from education.

The social justice curriculum is “an integrated approach to mathematics that centers Black, LatinX and Multilingual students in grades 6-8 [and] addresses barriers to math equity,” the organization’s mission statement says.

While doing so, it offers “opportunities for ongoing self-reflection as they seek to develop an anti-racist math practice.” Teachers in particular are “asked to reflect on their own biases to transform their instructional practice.”

California is not the first state to consider applying critical race theory to math. School districts in Oregon, Washington and Virginia are also experimenting with “anti-racist math,” but California’s 6.1 million K-12 students in public and charter schools make an enormous laboratory for the change.

“This is not a California-only story, although California is always out front on the exciting new trends and fads,” said Williamson Evers, a senior fellow at the libertarian Independent Institute in Oakland. “But they want to inject environmental and social justice into the curriculum, and they would discourage all acceleration until the 11th grade.”

California officials say “Pathway” authors are modifying the blueprint, which is one reason it has temporarily put aside the curriculum for classrooms across the state.

At a recent meeting, however, members of the Instructional Quality Commission expressed hope that “Pathway” would be incorporated into instructional material for teachers and perhaps resurrected when the state board of education meets in November.

Some scholars say the idea that math supports or is based on White supremacy ignores the fact that mathematics is a universal language discovered and developed by diverse cultures over millennia.

“It is absurd to accuse mathematics as being ‘racist,’” said William Happer, a professor of physics emeritus at Princeton University. “We use Indian numerals that come to us through the Arabs. There are still lots of distinguished mathematicians in India who speak the same worldwide mathematical language as mathematicians in North America, Europe, the Arab world, India, China, Japan, Africa, South America, etc.

“Greek geometry, much of it borrowed from Egypt and Mesopotamia, is still one of the most sublime human achievements,” Mr. Happer said.

More at The Washington Times