Woke math is New New Math 2.0
We've been through this drill before
The test's emphasis on writing about math led state educrats to instruct test graders to give eighth-grade students a higher grade for wrong math answers than right answers -- if the student with a wrong answer wrote a nice essay.
The idea was to push students to write about math rather than solving equations. As a group of academics and educators wrote, the goal is to “de-mathematize math.”
Here’s a math question from the 1994 CLAS test.
"A FOREST fire has destroyed 3,000 trees. To prevent erosion, new trees must be planted. Students from your school want to help replant the trees. Each student is given two trees to plant.
"On the first day of replanting, one student plants both his trees in the forest. On the second day, two students plant their trees. On the third day, four students plant their trees, and so on.
"How many days will it take to replant the forest on this schedule?
"Explain your plan to the principal so that you can convince her to help get students involved in replanting the forest."
Scoring guidelines suggested “a lesser score to a student who got the right answer (10 1/2 days) but did not explain his answer well than its score for a student who gave the wrong answer (450 days) but a pretty note to the principal accompanied by a happy face.”
Supporters claimed that they were pushing critical thinking, as if wrong answers are the fruit of thinking for yourself.
One big difference between new-new math and woke math, however, is the revised framework’s focus on race and identity, as I wrote here. Math shouldn’t be seen as a “neutral discipline,” it says, but a vehicle to promote “social justice.” From Chapter Two: Teaching for Equity and Engagement.
Mathematics is a quantitative lens through which to view the patterns that exist throughout the world. When grappling with the data, students can pose questions about issues that matter to them, drawing upon content from relevant issues like cyber bullying, neighborhood resources, or water quality. Data related to these and other issues can draw from not only a range of mathematical ideas and curiosities from students, but from a range of feelings about relevant, complex social issues. Trauma-informed pedagogy in mathematics highlights the importance of allowing students to identify and express their feelings as part of mathematics sense-making, and to allow students to address what they learn about their world by suggesting recommendations and taking action.
California math teacher Darren Miller concluded, “This is a race-based document, one that denigrates actual math achievement and is focused on pitting people of different races against each other.” He thinks it’s the wrong approach:
Mathematics is a tool, nothing more. In that way it's like a pencil or a hammer. You either learn how to use it well or you don't. Its value comes in how it's used…
I see no end to this. Every decade or two, the same crowd comes out for looser math standards, which they present as a matter of increasing rigor. They dumb down math a little, and then they come back for more.
Here’s a word math problem: If they keep this up, how many more parents will choose to remove their children from the public school system?
Debra J. Saunders is a fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Chapman Center for Citizen Leadership. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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