child doing algebra on whiteboard

California’s New Math Framework to Emphasize Data Science, Equity and Deeper Learning

Author: | Category: 21st-Century Skills

Education has experienced sweeping changes over the last several years. We’ve seen 1:1 technology integration, the Common Core Standards, the Next Generation Science Standards, a push for deeper learning and more. Of all the core subjects, math may be the one that needs an overhaul the most. California is taking on the challenge by introducing a new math framework.

Although the framework will not be finalized until this fall, major shifts are in progress. The new framework will promote alternatives to the traditional calculus pathway to meet college entrance requirements in math, such as data sciences. But the changes don’t stop there, according to Dr. Kyndall Brown, UCLA professor and executive director of the California Mathematics Project Statewide Office.

“There is a greater emphasis on equitable teaching practices that include more students who have been historically marginalized,” Brown said. “The framework also encourages the elimination of ability grouping and tracking.”

Leading the California Mathematics Project, Brown oversees 19 regional sites housed at California universities. Each regional site, according to Brown, partners with educators, schools, and districts in their regions to provide professional learning programs aimed at improving the mathematical pedagogical content knowledge of K-12 teachers. Through this work, Brown has provided regular feedback to the writing team of the new framework. He said he is excited about what he’s seeing.

“I am in favor of the changes. I think the emphasis on equity is much needed due the disparate performances of students who fall along socioeconomic lines,” Brown said. “I think alternative pathways will expand opportunities for students who are interested in pursuing non-STEM majors in college.”

Many California K-12 math practitioners also embrace the changes. The shift to include data and information sciences as a key math pathway is vital, according to Amber Soto, Director of Mathematics at iLEAD Schools. Soto believes data science is an important part of building future career and media literacy skills.

“Knowing how to read, process and analyze data is key to success in academic and professional work,” Soto said. “All of our biggest issues and challenges — climate change, social justice, poverty, food insecurity, economic sustainability — are informed by data.”

Soto said that the Next Generation Science Standards made a big shift from “students will know and understand” to “students will inquire, apply and do.” Now math is going through the same transformation, and the shift demands higher-level thinking.

“We used to have to do the calculations, but computers do that now. We need to learn to code the computer,” Soto said. “To stay relevant, instead of teaching an algorithm, we need to have learners create the algorithm.”

Data sciences will be integral to life and work in the future, according to Soto.

“Regardless of the topic or issue, we now have to ask what math is involved,” Soto said. “It’s going to be about percentages, rates and systems of equations, to name a few.”

Math classes in the near future may involve less long division and more infographics and data talks. For those who want to see examples, Soto recommends looking at resources such as Dr. Jo Boaler’s youcubed and her examples of data talks, as well as Turner’s Graph of The Week.

Although these changes are welcomed by many, they also have been met with resistance.

“Due to political pressure, the writing team was forced to remove references to the Pathway to Equitable Mathematics Instruction,” Brown said. “I think that was unfortunate.”

The need for professional learning in math may never have been more urgent than now. Along with Soto and Brown’s suggested resources above, additional recommendations are UCLA’s Center X, a community of more than 100 educators working across multiple programs; two graduate credential programs, Teacher Education Program (TEP) and Principal Leadership Institute (PLI); and professional development initiatives that aim to create a more just, equitable, and humane society.

As California’s new math framework is finalized for a fall reveal, expect more iterations and resources to come.

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