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21st Century Math Gets Out Of the Box

In an op-ed for CalMatters, Just Equations Executive Director Pamela Burdman and Elisha Smith Arrillaga of the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin spotlight promising work in California, including the new draft of the state’s math frameworks, to modernize math pathways. These new developments promise to build the capacity of K-12 schools to expand beyond traditional math courses to better prepare students for tomorrow’s careers.

CALMATTERS—Awash with data and powered by computers, our lives look very different than they did a few decades ago, as do the ways we research and learn about the world. Whether the topic is political polling, COVID-19 epidemiology, police shootings or sports statistics, understanding data is key to making sense of our social and natural environments.


College education is shifting in light of this reality, with California universities leading a transformation in the definition of quantitative literacy, and in redesigning math courses and pathways to better prepare students for 21st-century careers. This shift offers promising new ways of teaching math before college — but only if our K-12 system seizes the opportunity.


Consider a course titled Foundations of Data Science pioneered at the University of California at Berkeley six years ago to teach undergraduates statistical analysis and computer programming. Developed in response to rapidly rising interest in statistics and computer science classes, the course quickly became the fastest-growing class in campus history.

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