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Hundreds of professors sign letter blasting ‘woke’ math movement to eliminate advanced classes

Hundreds of university professors slammed a ‘woke’ math movement that eliminates calculus in favor of social justice principles, saying the curriculum leaves children unprepared for higher education and puts the US at a global disadvantage.

The missive, titled ‘Open Letter on K-12 Mathematics,’ was published December 6 and signed by 746 math teachers and professors, including many from Ivy League schools. 

The letter takes specific aim at a proposed curriculum in California, called the California Mathematics Framework, which seeks to shift away from rigorous math courses to help close the achievement gap faced by underprivileged students, specifically those that are black, Hispanic or from low-income families.

‘We are deeply concerned about the unintended consequences of recent well-intentioned approaches to reform mathematics education, particularly the California Mathematics Framework (CMF),’ the professors’ coalition letter continued. 

‘Such frameworks aim to reduce achievement gaps by limiting the availability of advanced mathematical courses to middle schoolers and beginning high schoolers. While such reforms superficially seem “successful” at reducing disparities at the high school level, they are merely “kicking the can” to college.’

Pictured: the open letter from 746 math teachers and professors, who blasted the ‘woke’ mathematics movement that began in California back in late 2019

The movement began with California's Mathematics Framework, and pushes Algebra 1 back to 9th grade, removes parts of calculus, while applying social justice concepts to math lesson

The movement began with California’s Mathematics Framework, and pushes Algebra 1 back to 9th grade, removes parts of calculus, while applying social justice concepts to math lesson

The CMF would push Algebra 1 back to 9th grade and remove large parts of the calculus curriculum, while applying social justice concepts to math lessons. 

The open letter said that taking away advanced math programs will be ‘the height of irresponsibility’ and will ultimately be to the students’ detriment if they choose to pursue higher education. 

For those that do enroll in college, the need for more introductory math courses at the university level to compensate for the lack of advanced high school math programs would likely cause students to need more time to graduate.  

‘We all share the urgent concern that the benefits of a robust mathematical education, and the career opportunities it opens up, should be shared more widely between students of all backgrounds, regardless of race, gender, and economic status.’

‘We fully agree that mathematics education “should not be a gatekeeper but a launchpad,”’ the open letter reads. 

Pictured: several diverse 'pathways' students can take under California's Mathematics Framework

Pictured: several diverse ‘pathways’ students can take under California’s Mathematics Framework

Administrators Lab Middle School for Collaborative Studies in Manhattan, pictured, were pressured to reinstate honors math classes in June after a number of complaints from parents

Administrators Lab Middle School for Collaborative Studies in Manhattan, pictured, were pressured to reinstate honors math classes in June after a number of complaints from parents

Pictured: the Robert Wagner Middle School on the Upper East Side has also looked to remove its honors math program despite a fierce backlash from parents

Pictured: the Robert Wagner Middle School on the Upper East Side has also looked to remove its honors math program despite a fierce backlash from parents

The educators insist that it is vital to adhere to the standards set by STEM – Science Technology Engineering Mathematics – which provides the critical thinking skills needed to excel in the future. 

‘While it is possible to succeed in STEM at college without taking advanced courses in high school, it is more challenging. College students who need to spend their early years taking introductory math courses may require more time to graduate,’ the letter says. 

In July, the California Board of Education announced they were going to push back against implementing the ‘woke’ overhaul of its mathematics curriculum, after opponents to the framework’s movement argued the plan needlessly inserts politics and social justice measures into lessons, according to Fox News. 

However, many schools have eliminated standardized testing in the wake of the COVID pandemic and have lowered math standards. 

Parents across the country have echoed the professors’ coalition in revolting against several Department of Education schools where accelerated math programs have been suspended.

‘They’re changing math to make it math appreciation,’ said Michael Malione, a parent in the Piedmont City Unified School District who also works as a private math tutor. 

‘A part of math is learning things that are not authentic to life.’

Administrators at one of those schools, Lab Middle School for Collaborative Studies in Manhattan, were pressured to reinstitute honors math classes in June after a number of complaints from parents. 

The Robert Wagner Middle School on the Upper East Side has also looked to remove its honors math program despite a fierce backlash from parents.  

California Mathematics Framework changes advanced math and STEM programs to ‘woke’ curriculum despite widespread backlash

The California Mathematics Framework, created in late 2019, has caused widespread backlash after implementing a ‘woke’ approach to mathematics curriculum for grades K-12.

Now, the movement has started to be adopted by schools across the country, with parents and a coalition of 746 professors lashing out at the concept.

The framework’s curriculum itself, which is about 800 pages long, consists of some of the following ‘woke’ excerpts:

Data Science for Equity and Inclusion Educators can offer social and emotional support to students by designing engaging lessons that allow students to connect in meaningful ways with content.

Traditional mathematics lessons that have taught the subject as a set of procedures to follow have resulted in widespread disengagement as students see no relevance for their lives. 

This is particularly harmful for students of color and for girls—who receive additional harmful messages that mathematics is not for them.         

The data science field provides opportunities for equitable practice, with multiple opportunities for students to pursue answers to wonderings and to accept the reality that all students can excel in data science fields. 

Studies… show that many students, particularly girls and students of color, do not feel that they belong in certain disciplines. These feelings often due to a history of negative and off-putting messages. 

Other studies have shown that different topics and teaching approaches can lead to feelings of belonging or not belonging. 

Teachers should remind students that data science fields welcome all people. Informed by successful interventions in mindset and belonging strategies, teachers can remind students that struggle represents an important part of learning; all students struggle at times, and that successful students respond to times of difficulty using the strategies developed and practiced over time. 

Share with students examples of successful people inside data science, that highlight gender and racial diversity.

Data science represents an opportunity for students to question real sets of data, developing social awareness, and investment in the solutions they discover. 

When working with secondary data sets (data obtained from others, rather than collected by students), teachers should choose meaningful content selected to create a connection with their learning and secure opportunities to hear the perspective of others, which will help them develop empathy. 

Some teachers worry that they cannot provide culturally sustaining connections for their classes because they lack expertise in the cultures of all their students, but real data sets from different communities provide opportunities for students to bring their own knowledge and expertise to data rich problems. 


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