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The Mathematics of Opportunity: Rethinking the Role of Math in Educational Equity

Just Equations’ report The Mathematics of Opportunity describes how traditional approaches to mathematics education can contribute to inequity and highlights emerging approaches to change that equation. The goal is to ensure that math instruction is more equity-oriented and that math requirements are more valid and aligned across educational systems.

Quantitative reasoning skills are an important underpinning for achievement in school, at work, and in life. But, perhaps because it plays such a primary role in fostering such skills, mathematics can be wielded in ways that arbitrarily close doors to educational advancement.

Even as math expectations can serve as a foundation for academic success, they can also operate as arbitrary filters that needlessly stop many students in their educational tracks, especially students of color and others who are traditionally marginalized in the education system. In fact, surveys have shown that a majority of the U.S. population dislikes and fears mathematics.

The architecture of math opportunity for too long has been shaped by misconceptions about math ability that magnify existing inequities. These, in turn, are reinforced by math’s use as a marker or pedigree that confers access to opportunities. Designing a new mathematics of opportunity entails re-thinking the way content requirements, instructional approaches, and assessment practices combine to form policies that can determine students’ future educational opportunities.

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