SANTA CLARA, Calif.—California is pushing back its schedule to implement a proposed math curriculum that has sparked controversy.
The California Department of Education stated on July 14 that it would postpone its implementation of the new math framework after receiving hundreds of letters of opposition to the curriculum.
About 500 current and former STEM leaders, educators, business executives, and venture capitalists signed an open letter as of July 15 denouncing the new math curriculum, stating it would “de-mathematize math.”
Williamson Evers, senior fellow at the Independent Institute, co-wrote the letter.
The proposed curriculum contains “lots of stuff about ethnic issues, of things like this that were sort of intruding into math and turning math into kind of, propaganda and indoctrination rather than calculation and theorems,” Evers told The Epoch Times’ sister media outlet NTD.
“I think this is really out of place. It’s alien to mathematics,” he said. “It’s burdening the student with unnecessary things.”
The new math framework aims to keep students learning at the same level, citing equity. However, opponents said it would discourage students who speak English as a second language.
“I don’t see any reason why we should be plaguing a child like that who has enough challenges,” Evers said.
The letter criticized several points within the framework.
“[It] urges teachers to take a ‘justice-oriented perspective at any grade level, K–12,’ ‘reject ideas of natural gifts and talents,’ and ‘encourages keeping all students together in the same math program until the 11th grade,’” the letter reads.
The framework also claims that offering differentiated programs causes student “fragility” and racial animosity.
“You don’t mix teaching mathematics with any other agenda,” Alexander Givental, a math professor at UC–Berkeley, told NTD. “Of course we draw the context from the world around us, that’s what mathematics is about. But no, if you want to teach social justice, it should be done in a different classroom.”
Oleg Gleizer, director of UCLA’s Olga Radko Endowed Math Circle, told NTD that it’s inefficient to keep students learning at the same level when some are ready to advance ahead.
“Some decent, professional level of mathematics is a requirement for everyone,” Gleizer said. “But the people who move humanity forward, that are one in a hundred million, people like Isaac Newton, like Gauss, like Archimedes; these people should be identified early on by the system and given the nourishing environment they deserve, just like gifted athletes are.”
An emailed statement from Joel Hass, a distinguished professor in the Department of Mathematics at the University of California–Davis, ridiculed the new framework.
“It rejects educational methods for teaching mathematics that evolved from thousands of years of trial and experience, and advocates for their replacement by poorly reasoned proposals supported by dubious social science,” Hass said. “It will lead to a further weakening of mathematical instruction in California schools and diminished mathematical knowledge among California students.”
Hass noted that the Mathematics Framework in 1997 prepared all students for Algebra I in eighth grade. After its implementation, students across all ethnic groups saw an increase in math achievement.
“While in 1999 only 16 percent of students took algebra in eighth grade, four times as many, or 67 percent, took it in 2013 by eighth grade,” according to a report by the Hoover Institute,
Success rates also increased.
The forum agreed that the proposed framework should be replaced with something else or simply be left alone for now.
“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,” a spokesperson for the California Department of Education told The Epoch Times via email on July 15.
Final action for the math framework has been postponed from November to May 2022.