Sunday, March 07, 2021

Racist Roots of Reform Math?

A week ago I received permission from the author to post the following here:

Two weeks ago, I posted a long comment on Jo Boaler's Youtube videos, but it was censored. At least the Youtuber censors viewed it! 
 But my reposts of milder versions did come out. You can find them in the comment section by sorting the newest ones up.
My full verson (censored ) is here:

Jo Boaler attended progressive schools and studied psychology and education in Britain. Many of her remarks suggest that she probably could barely solve a challenging algebra 2 question, but she likes to call herself a "mathematician." For example, Jo Boaler said she had never memorized her times tables; “It has never held me back, even though I work with maths every day.” That is possible only because she works with pretend math ( reform math ) every day.
She told a one-sided story in the opening of this talk. Her controversial Railside paper claims that a notoriously deficient textbook has resulted in a sharp improvement in students' math performance. This textbook is one of the ten inferior textbooks protested by 220 leading mathematicians and scientists in an open letter in the Washington Post in 1999 ( search AN OPEN LETTER TO UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF EDUCATION, RICHARD RILEY ).
She accused two mathematicians of academic bullying. Let me share some info about the two mathematicians who question her Railside study: R.James Milgram was one of the four Stanford mathematicians who wrote the highly-regarded, internationally competitive 1997-2010 California math standards, which had guided the significant improvements in math performance by California students -- especially the disadvantaged students -- in this pre-Common Core era. As the only academic mathematician on the Common Core validation committee, he refused to sign off the very deficient and mediocre Common Core math standards in 2009. Wayne Bishop was mentor/teacher of Jaime Escalante, a legendary math teacher immortalized by a 1988 film, Stand and Deliver, and a 2016 Forever stamp. Escalante publicly honored Wayne Bishop in the premiere showing of Stand and Deliver.
"The current revolution in mathematics curriculum, akin to the Whole Language experiment, that emphasizes group discussion, essays, calculators and guessing and de-emphasizes basic skills and direct instruction." This definition of Whole Math/Fuzzy Math/Reform Math from the 1990s captures the essence of today’s reform math promoted by Jo Boaler. Jo Boaler's radical math revolution ideas include: 1). Ban times table tests. 2). Encourage finger counting, visual work, and storytelling -- Teachers should celebrate and encourage finger counting and use among learners of any age, including college students. 3). Arithmetic skills are outdated— Computational fluency is the one thing computers do and we don't need humans for. 4). Celebrate mistakes and no need to correct them 5). Timed tests impair the brain’s working memory and cause math anxiety, especially among girls. Math teachers need to stop frequent, timed testing, deemphasize speed, and replace grades with diagnostic feedback, group project, or self-assessment; 6). There should be more use of visual representations, manipulatives, and group work to solve open-ended, “rich” problems. Students are rewarded for asking good questions, rephrasing problems, explaining ideas, being logical, justifying methods, or bringing a different perspective to a problem. 7). Teachers and school leaders should consider eradicating homework to promote equity. 8). By moving algebra 1 into 9th grade, middle-school students will have time to do math with each other, discussing their learning, examining each other’s work, and building a deeper understanding of concepts. 9). Detracking, group work, and mixed-ability teaching-- Secondary schools should not separate their students into tracks until the end of 10th grade. Detracking and group work make more equitable classrooms. 10). Displacing Algebra 2 with Data Science. Calculus is a horrible and inequitable filter.
The reform math pandemic has plagued America and many other countries for decades. Stanford University's prestigious fame has facilitated Jo Boaler to spread her extremely misleading and harmful reform math ideas. In fact, her courses have had dismal enrollment at Stanford. Math reformists accuse real math as racist and elitist, defying the inconvenient truth that reform math is firmly rooted in racial and gender prejudices advanced by the pioneer progressive educators back in the 1920s. Math reformists craft pretend math, feel-good math to "help" disadvantaged kids based on their belief that women and minority students can't handle real math. Under adults' such glorious slogans as "equity and social justice in math education," vast kids, especially disadvantaged kids, are permanently deprived of their STEM career opportunities. For more information, please search "Jo Boaler's Reform Math Fallacy."
Every child is precious, and real math could be surprisingly easy if schools teach real math in the traditional approach starting early grades. But reform math dumbs down vast children day in and day out. This is a dark age of K-12 math education for America and many other countries. If you recognize the abysmally harmful reform math, please speak up.


Anna A said...

I hope that we find out who she teaches and keep them away from engineering, chemistry, biology, physics, pharmacy, regulatory work, purchasing, production, accounting.

(and if I have not listed any other math accuracy area, I ask forgiveness. The list grew while I was typing)

Clemsondana said...

The one thing that I think is a good idea in all of that is the use of manipulatives for kids in early elementary. I homeschool my kids and we use Singapore Math in elementary. The use of some sort of manipulative really helps them to grasp the 'make 10'concept and both were far more adept at manipulating numbers than I was.

I volunteered with public school kids doing some awful Common Core thing that had enough bits of Singapore Math concepts that I could recognize them and explain them to people who couldn't figure out what the kids were being asked to do, but it was as if it took the basic teaching ideas and made them dreadful. The kids spent far more time drawing and counting than was reasonable, well beyond the time when they understood. But, they had a much harder time learning to 'make 10' by drawing than most homeschool kids do because drawing 7 sticks and then 6 sticks and then drawing them again as 10 sticks and 3 sticks is a lot more tedious and formulaic than looking at 2 stacks of blocks, moving 3 from the group of 6 to the group of 7 and seeing that you now have 10 and 3. With the drawing, the kids usually counted on their fingers, saw that they had 10, and then redrew it. They'd have been better off just memorizing addition facts.

And, as somebody who was taught in school to count on their fingers for math...just NO. My own arithmetic got so much faster once I taught my kids to add and subtract using manipulatives. Nobody should be taking advanced math (I had 3 semester of calculus) while still counting on their fingers, although many of us taught as I was did. I did, thankfully, have a teacher who made us learn our times tables.

Pseudotsuga said...

So basically, if we reduce math to something else that is easier than math, everybody can do math?
Hey, I lik this idear allot! Mabee wee kan do dis 2 Englis too so dat it be more ez! Becuz speling an gramar be patreearkal and stuff.

ObieJuan said...

I am very concerned about these reports of being attacked by white male mathematicians! We must stop the reports of being attacked by white male mathematicians!!!

Darren said...

ObieJuan, I don't understand your comment. Clarify?

ObieJuan said...

Boaler complaining about her methods being attacked by white male mathematicians reminded me of a South Park episode. Rather than solve a problem, authorities chose to stop the "reporting" of the problem.

Anna A said...


That isn't just a South Park episode. I actually had to deal with that in real life. We used Shore D durometers on materials that tended to dull the sharp testing probe. They were originally guaranteed for a year, so we frequently had free repairs. Then it was changed to 6 months, but now they are completely discontinued