Innumeracy and Lunacy

Published August 9, 2023
student failing and upset in school

California students lack math skills, and the state’s fix could make things even worse.

The 2018 rankings by the Programme for International Student Assessment, or PTSA, places the U.S. 38th out of the 79 countries that participated in the math test, which is given to 15-year-olds. The U.S. scored below the international average, trailing many non-world powers such as Portugal, Latvia, Vietnam, etc.

Here in California, the students can’t even keep up with the sluggish national average. According to the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress, just 23% of 8th graders are proficient in math. In fact, the state’s 8th graders are ranked 38th in math nationally. On California’s most recent Smarter Balanced test, just one in three students met the standard in math. Scores on that exam showed that a paltry 19% of 11th graders met grade-level standards in math.

So, the Golden State educrats just had to do something, and as of 2021, the “somethings” were a sight to behold. The gurus of the proposed math framework, which is not mandatory but rather suggested guidelines, decided that teachers should use “A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction: Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction” as a resource to improve student learning. This radical drivel insists that addressing student errors, focusing on getting the right answer, and requiring students to show their work is a form of white supremacy. Objectivity is racist, you see.

But due to citizen outrage during the “public comments” period, the state walked back some of its new math mandates, notably dropping the over-the-top A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction. The commission agreed to remove references to the toolkit from the draft framework, stating it was “inconsistent with teaching to the standards.”

In 2022, another iteration of the framework, also filled with edu-blather, went by the wayside.

In July 2023, the state finally came to a decision, and it’s not a very pretty one. In brief, the California education pundits have taken tried and true methods and replaced them with new-think gobbledygook. For example, while math proficiency has traditionally depended on memorization, the new framework promotes “student-led” instruction, “active learning,” “active inquiry,” and “collaborative” instruction.

Bill Evers, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Educational Excellence at the Independent Institute, has many issues with the new framework. He writes that there is ”a science of math instruction,” which includes, among other things, “having students memorize math facts (like multiplication tables and addition and subtraction facts) and standard algorithms.” Evers also stresses that working out answers to problems and doing so quickly are components of math fluency.

In addition to ignoring certain proven math teaching strategies, there is a touchy-feelie and far-left aspect woven into the framework.