What is mathematics and why is it important to learn?
Mathematics provides a framework for exploring and understanding the world around us. Math gives us the precision to design and transport rovers to Mars, to balance ledgers to the penny, and to manufacture vaccines with specific amounts of ingredients. Math is also open and creative, allowing us to explore sets of data to look for previously unknown relationships, to recognize patterns, to estimate the potential risk involved in a particular situation, and to find symmetry in nature and art. In its broadest sense, mathematics is about more than just a single right answer and a single pathway to that answer. A strong foundation in math - as with literacy - provides a way to make sense of the world around us, to communicate effectively, and to discover innovative solutions. Every student deserves to experience math in this way, not just as a way of arriving at a single right answer, but as a way to make sense of their world.
What does a commitment to equity in math education mean?
It may seem counterintuitive to think about math as being inequitable. Yet math is taught and learned in a system. Systems are defined by policies, standards, and rules, and they are influenced by the practices, mindsets, and experiences of people. The historical system of math education was developed over 130 years ago as a way to sort students into those who are “math people” and those who aren’t. This system has worked well for relatively few students. An equitable mathematics system intentionally broadens participation and engagement of all students in light of the cultural, linguistic, and mathematical competencies they bring to the classroom while maintaining high expectations for mathematical reasoning, fluency, and application.
What does it mean to “dismantle racism in mathematics”?
Mathematics, in and of itself, is not racist. However, a system in which outcomes can be predicted by race is, by definition, a racist system. Dismantling the historical system requires careful and honest evaluation of graduation requirements, standards, instructional practices, course sequences, and assessments that have historically filtered or tracked students by race, ethnicity, gender identity, or socioeconomic status. The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) is committed to collaborating with education partners across the state -- particularly our Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities -- to analyze the system of mathematics education through an equity lens in order to disrupt policies and practices that lead to inequitable student outcomes in our state.
How are we committed to getting there?
Engineering an equitable system of math education requires a collective commitment by policymakers, leaders, educators, students and families. It requires replacing the historical system that filters students, to one that elevates and develops each student’s mathematical ability to use mathematics to make sense of the world. Such a system develops all students' identities as a person who can use math to solve problems they are interested in and make the world a better place. ODE is dedicated to building a math education system that propels students to their career and college goals through the following commitments:
- Commitment 1: Provide a strong foundation of mathematical understanding and fluency for every student
- Commitment 2: Apply mathematics through authentic problem solving opportunities for students
- Commitment 3: Implement inclusive active learning strategies that engage students with content both inside and outside the classroom
- Commitment 4: Dismantle systemic barriers based on perceptions of student’s mathematical readiness rooted in racially-biased or otherwise invalid assumptions