Doing difficult math homework / Solving Exponential Equations

Chapman’s News & Ideas Woke Math Won’t Deliver Equity

Originally published at RealClearPolitics

According to California’s draft “Mathematics Framework,” math is not just a “neutral discipline”; it also can be used to promote equity and “social justice.”

Call it “Woke Math.”

The authors mean well. They want to close the achievement gap between white and Black and Latino students. But they’re doing it the wrong way. They’re trying to close the gap by pretending that math — a discrete discipline forged on the purity of numbers — can be taught like English or political science.

If California approves the framework, expect it to be a guide for textbooks used across the land. This is what it looks like.

The framework features a vignette about a fifth grade teacher named Ms. Ross who focuses on “developing her students’ sociopolitical consciousness” through language and math. Her class is reading a book about a “10-year-old transgender fourth grader and her struggles with acceptance among friends and family” — which provides a platform for math questions.

To wit: “Amie used 7/9 yard of ribbon in her dress. Jasmine used 5/6 yard of ribbon in her dress. Which girl used more ribbon? How much more did she use?”

So, yes, there are legitimate math exercises in there, but also a lot of ideology.

An open letter from more than 1,000 academics and educators protests that the draft framework seeks to “de-mathematize math” by drowning math in “an endless river of new pedagogical fads” where there should be arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus.

The fads include “trauma-informed pedagogy,” solving “problems that result in social inequalities” and developing students’ “sociopolitical consciousness.”

“What does this have to do with learning math?” asked Jonathan Butcher of the conservative Heritage Foundation. Schools should be teaching math skills that comport with rigorous standards; instead, they’re trying to train “foot soldiers for some social justice cause.”

“Learning is not just a matter of gaining new knowledge — it is also about a change in identity,” quoth the framework. “As teachers introduce mathematics to students, they are helping them shape their identity as people.”

That’s how cult members talk.

“I call complete and total BS on that. It’s a lot of words meaning nothing — but it provides a wedge to slip in the social Marxism,” California high school math teacher Darren Miller wrote on his blog, Right on the Left Coast: Views From a Conservative Teacher.

Thus, the framework rejects the notion that math is a “neutral discipline” — in which, say, 2 plus 2 always equals 4. They won’t let math be math.

“They want to be very welcoming and inclusive, but if it’s not really math, it’s not doing a lot of good,” education blogger Joanne Jacobs said of the framework.

The exercise with the transgender fourth grader and the ribbon questions calls for classroom discussion about gender stereotypes. A teacher might ask: What constitutes boys’ things and girls’ things?

Where’s the math?

Finally, there is one good question in the bunch of gender stereotyping material: “Do these word problems really matter in real life? Do they represent mathematical calculations needed to engage in daily life?”

The answer, of course, is: No, they are not mathematical calculations. They are Woke Math, which is to say, not math.

Debra J. Saunders

Fellow, Chapman Center for Citizenship Leadership
A fellow with Discovery Institute’s Chapman Center for Citizen Leadership, Debra J. Saunders worked for more than thirty years covering politics on the ground and in Washington, as well as American culture, the news media, the criminal justice system, and dubious trends in public schools and prestigious universities. Her column is nationally syndicated with Creators Syndicate.