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solving algebra equation on whiteboard in classroom

The War on Math Is Becoming an Entrenched Ground War

If math skills are rooted in white supremacy, as alleged, one current solution is tests that don’t require math skills

When we first started talking about the war on math, many readers may have thought we were joking. No. The war on 2 + 2 = 4 is getting some pushback but it continues. The basic idea is that the rules of math are rooted in white supremacy. Last December, the question was mooted at USA Today, “Is math racist?” The context was proposed changes to math education: After Ebri switched to emphasizing real-world problems and collaboration, her students, most of whom are Black, improved their scores on Florida’s math exam in 2020-21 – even with 1 in 3 learning from home. But other, bolder recommendations to make math more inclusive are blowing up the world of mathematics education. Schools…

Students raised up hands green chalk board in classroom

What Do We Want With Mathematics Curriculum?

If we are going to dedicate such a large portion of our children's lives to learning mathematics, we had better know why

Modern policy discussions in America almost always leave out the biggest question – why are we doing what we are doing in the first place? Leaving out first principles always leaves people trying to find the most practical way to accomplish nothing in particular. We have become accustomed to not asking questions about first principles because they always sound too doctrinaire, but then we wind up, at best, making the misplaced assumption that everyone is reaching for the same goal, or, far worse, viewing the activities themselves as the goals. One place where this problem repeatedly rears its ugly head is education, and especially mathematics education. Why are we teaching math? What do we want people to get out of…

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child hands showing a colorful 123 numbers agains wooden table. Concept of Child education, learning mathematics and counting

The Fundamental Problem With Common Core Math

Intuition relies on skill, not the other way around

In 2010, a bold effort to reform math curriculum was adopted by the majority of the United States. Known as “Common Core Math,” the goal of this endeavor was to establish a common foundation of mathematics education across the country, and to help bolster not only students’ mathematical abilities, but also their mathematical intuition. The goal was to help students think about math more deeply, believing that this will help them work with mathematics better in later years. Before discussing problems with this approach, I want to say that I appreciate the idea of helping students think more deeply about mathematics. After years and years and years of mathematics education, many students wind up thinking about mathematics as merely a set…

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group of school kids raising hands in classroom

Practicing the Basics: Teaching Math Facts in the Classroom

How to help students make deeper connections within mathematics with creative games.

Many people learn to hate math early on. One of the places where people learn to hate math first is in high-stakes speed testing for math facts. This has caused quite a bit of angst in mathematics education for people on both sides of this issue. On the one hand, some have advocated for getting rid of math facts memorization altogether. On the other hand, others have doubled-down, saying that we need speed tests in order to make sure that the cognitive load of arithmetic is limited for later mathematics work. While I fall more into the latter camp than the former, I do think that a more balanced approach to mathematics education may help students in the long run. …