Mathematical literacy is intended to help students “expand professional opportunity, understand and critique the world, and experience, wonder, joy, and beauty,” according to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Yet too few students receive these benefits. The negative classroom experiences of a vast number of students prevent many from engaging with math in meaningful ways. It also limits college opportunity, especially for students who tend to be marginalized in other ways. In short, math education, as currently constructed, is not living up to its purpose.
Fairness and equity demand that math education be re-designed to ensure that characteristics known at birth—such as race, class, ethnicity, and gender—don’t restrict students’ chances of learning mathematics and accessing the opportunities that math proficiency can afford. This re-design calls for rejecting popular misconceptions about math ability along with the use of math as a societal gatekeeper that arbitrarily restricts opportunity.
Equitable college access and success require re-thinking the content of math courses as well as the ways math is taught and tested. It also entails re-writing policies that use math as a filter, instead of as a foundation, for educational advancement. This new mathematics of opportunity must support—rather than hinder—equitable college opportunity
Just Equations’ report, The Mathematics of Opportunity: Re-Thinking the Role of Math in Education Equity, discussed these equity challenges and pointed to some promising directions for policy and practice to enhance math education’s role in fostering equity. These principles for equitable math pathways are intended to further elucidate these ideas to guide educators, policymakers, researchers, and advocates in promoting, designing, and studying equity-oriented math pathways.
About the Equity Principles
The principles highlighted here were developed by Just Equations in 2018-2019, as the result of conversations and strategy sessions with numerous advisors and stakeholders in the field, including our November 2018 Mathematics of Opportunity conference. These individuals include math educators, policy researchers, equity advocates, and education leaders. We especially acknowledge the groundbreaking work of the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin as well as the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and refer readers to the following reports, which also contributed to the analysis that created these principles:
Catalyzing Change in High School Mathematics: Initiating Critical Conversations, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2018
Principles to Guide Lasting Impact, Dana Center Mathematics Pathways
The Case for Mathematics Pathways, Dana Center Mathematics Pathways, 2019
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