December 2019

We Can Make Math Less Traumatic by Ensuring Every Student Is on the Right Pathway

Hechinger Report
We Can Make Math Less Traumatic by Ensuring Every Student Is on the Right Pathway

Mathematics classes and tests—even more than other subjects— are regularly used to rank students and limit their future opportunities. The practice of tracking students into lower-quality course options with less experienced teachers is conspicuous in mathematics, and has a particularly adverse effect on students of color and low-income students.One reason for this is the high school curriculum’s narrow focus on math courses that prepare students to take Calculus. As highlighted in Pam’s new Hechinger Report opinion piece, there are new promising directions for high school math pathways.

"I hate mathematics, and I would rather die.”

“It SUCKS, and I wouldn’t want to spend any more of my time looking at algebra and other crap.”‘

“I despise the way it is taught.”

These student quotations, contained in a 2018 report from Just Equations, cut to the core of the problem: The teaching and structure of high-school math courses present critical barriers to math learning, educational achievement and equity.

I’m not a math educator, but I work with math educators all the time. The vast majority want to see mathematics used to expand students’ horizons rather than to test and rank students, limiting their future opportunities. The Just Equationhighlights a better way to ensure that all students leave high school with the quantitative literacy they need for their future educational, career and life pursuits.

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