August 2024

**Melodie Baker, Just Equations’ national policy director, shares her experience of being placed into lower level math courses despite high scores and a passion for math. It’s a fate shared by many Black and Latinx students to this day.**

**In an op-ed for The Hechinger Report, Baker calls for more access to advanced math courses and enriching math opportunities for all students.**

When people learn that I have a doctorate in educational psychology and quantitative methods, they often assume that I love math. And the truth is, I do now, although that wasn’t always the case.

Like many Black students, I faced challenges throughout my academic journey, with math tracking being the primary one. Despite high math scores in earlier grades and a passion for the subject, I was placed into lower-level math courses in middle school.

Being tracked into lower-level courses contradicted my math identity and eroded my confidence to the point of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy: I became a lower-level math student, which marked the beginning of a full-blown math identity crisis.

Tracking also limited my access to advanced high school courses such as statistics and calculus that would have further developed my math skills and opened up numerous postsecondary opportunities.

While a lack of resources in underserved schools is a real issue, the most damage to students’ math identities and success can be attributed to dated perspectives on the type of math courses that should be offered and systemic racism dictating who they should be offered to.

Students learn more than just mathematics in math class; they are affirming their abilities and math identities and discovering that they can have a place in shaping an advanced technological society. We owe it to our students to ensure that they have better math learning experiences than those I received decades ago.

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