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 “aftermath” experiences of a vast number of students signal that math education, as currently constructed, is not living up to its purpose. And too often the students who don’t benefit are those who tend to be marginalized in other ways.
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 limits opportunities.
It means re-thinking the content of math courses and the ways math is taught and tested, as well as re-writing the policies that connect math achievement to educational advancement. It requires, in short, a new mathematics of opportunity, a mathematics that supports—rather than hinders—equitable college opportunity.
Just Equations’ earlier report, The Mathematics of Opportunity, discussed these challenges and pointed to some promising directions. Our principles for equitable math pathways are intended to crystallize these ideas to guide the field in advocating for, developing, and studying pathways through mathematics with equity as a cornerstone.
About the Equity Principles
The principles highlighted here were developed by Just Equations over the course of the past year, 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, 2016