The proposed mathematics framework in California has placed a heavy emphasis on equity in the teaching of math. The document makes several statements to support this, such as the following.
“All students are capable of making these contributions and achieving these abilities at the highest levels,”
In other words, all students can experience success in mathematics. Living in a subjective world of “lived experiences,” this statement does not appear to make sense alone. However, the document goes on to state that.
“We reject ideas of natural gifts and talents.”
Again this does not make sense. The world is full of highly talented people who obviously have superior abilities. Pick any field or industry, and you can find an Einstein, Newton, Mozart, Bach, Keynes, Shakespeare, or others. To reject natural gifts and talents is almost akin to dismissing reality.
The goal of the mathematics framework is summarized as follows
“to replace ideas of innate mathematics ‘talent’ and ‘giftedness’ with the recognition that every student is on a growth pathway.”
All students are indeed on their own “growth pathway” but given that there are differences in all students, it implies that the growth will be different. There is no such nonsense found in sports. Nobody will say everyone can play basketball at the highest level and that nobody has a natural talent at basketball. Playing professional basketball requires at the minimum unusual height and a plethora of other skills that can be partially developed. If someone is under six feet tall, it will be a long road to professional sports, even with supreme talent.
Athletes also receive special training and classes as it becomes apparent that they have potential. If someone can demonstrate superior athletic ability, is it not possible for someone to demonstrate exceptional mathematical ability and thus the need for specialized training and development?
The framework also disagrees with such ideas as
- Finding the correct answer
- Showing your work
- Individual practice
Finding the correct answer is critical for anybody who wants to work in a math focus field. Who would feel comfortable flying in a plane designed by an engineer who was not worried about getting the “correct” answer? Showing your work helps students understand what they are doing and allows the teacher to see where mistakes were made and how to intervene. Again, who would want to go into surgery with a doctor who cannot explain what they will do? Lastly, individual practice means that the student can do the work and does not lean on friends.
Not allowing students to grow and demonstrate their innate talent and abilities is crippling for them. All students need to be challenged and pushed but how this is done depends on the students. All students have talent in something, and schools should helping students determine what they excel at and how to survive what they are weak at. Nobody excels at everything, and nobody fails at everything either.