California Postpones New Social Justice Math Framework

July 15, 2021 Updated: July 19, 2021

The California Board of Education voted unanimously to postpone a new mathematics framework that incorporates ethnic and social justice studies after critics argued it would “de-mathematize math.”

The board postponed the Mathematics Curriculum Framework—a document guiding how teachers should implement the state’s math standards—during its July 13 meeting, in response to a letter signed by 468 higher educators and business leaders in the fields of science, mathematics, engineering, and technology.

“California is on the verge of politicizing K-12 math in a potentially disastrous way,” Independent Institute senior fellow Williamson M. Evers said in a July 13 statement. “This postponement means the state board of education has heard the message loud and clear. STEM leaders don’t want California students left behind by introducing politics into the math curriculum.”

Evers criticized the proposed Mathematics Curriculum Framework for including aspects of social justice and racial equity in the curriculum.

“A real champion of equity and justice would want all California’s children to learn actual math—as in arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus—not an endless river of new pedagogical fads that effectively distort and displace actual math,” he said.

Evers pointed out that the standards may distract from actual mathematics by tasking students to solve “problems that result in social inequalities,” and developing their “sociopolitical consciousness.”

The framework “encourages focusing on ‘contributions that historically marginalized people have made to mathematics’ rather than on those contributions themselves which have been essential to the academic discipline of mathematics,” Evers said, citing the framework.

One of the signers of the open letter said: “I consider myself a social justice warrior. Limiting access to advanced mathematics is not the way to address social inequity.

“We believe infusing mathematics with political rhetoric is alien to mathematics as a discipline, and will do lasting damage—including making math dramatically harder for students whose first language is not English.”

The board’s decision came nearly two months after the Instructional Quality Commission proposed necessary changes to the framework during its May 20 meeting.

“The math framework development timeline from 2019 is out of date and needs to be adjusted to allow for completion of edits directed by the Instructional Quality Commission,” California Department of Education spokesperson Scott Roark told The Epoch Times via email on June 15.

Educational equity policy groups Education Trust-West and Californians Together have expressed support for the new math framework because it is “infused with the concepts of equity.”

“In short, the revisions present an important opportunity for [English learner] advocates to uplift equity throughout the public education system,” the groups said in a statement.

“Its proposed Mathematics Curriculum Framework is presented as a step toward social justice and racial equity, but its effect would be the opposite—to rob all Californians, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, who always suffer most when schools fail to teach their students,” Evers said.

Authors of the framework will incorporate requested changes and return it to the board for a vote in May 2022.