Oregon school district claims forcing math students to show their work is ‘white supremacy’

The Oregon Department of Education is promoting teacher training featuring something called “ethnomathematics” that claims white supremacy is inherent in making math students show their work or by finding the right answer.

The College Fix reported that Oregon’s Department of Education has provided teachers with an 82-page training manual entitled: “A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction: Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction.” It was sent to teachers as part of Black History Month.

Covered by the manual are signs of “white supremacy culture in the mathematics classroom.” The aforementioned ‘signs’ include “getting the right answer,” “real-world math,” teaching mathematics in a “linear fashion,” students being forced to “show their work,” and grading students according to how well they know the material.

“In order to embody antiracist math education, teachers must engage in critical praxis that interrogates the ways in which they perpetuate white supremacy culture in their own classrooms, and develop a plan toward antiracist math education to address issues of equity for Black, Latinx, and multilingual students,” the manual states.

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“Math teachers ask students to show work so that teachers know what students are thinking, but that centers the teacher’s need to understand rather than student learning. It becomes a crutch for teachers seeking to understand what students are thinking and less of a tool for students in learning how to process,” the training manual declares.

“Thus, requiring students to show their work reinforces worship of the written word as well as paternalism,” it continues.

There was also a newsletter sent to teachers that promoted a “Pathway to Math Equity Micro-Course.” Middle school teachers that attended the course were allowed to make use of a toolkit for “dismantling racism in mathematics.” The toolkit covered the same issues as the manual.

“White supremacy culture infiltrates math classrooms in everyday teacher actions,” the course description says. “Coupled with the beliefs that underlie these actions, they perpetuate educational harm on Black, Latinx, and multilingual students, denying them full access to the world of mathematics.”

“The concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false, and teaching it is even much less so,” the document explaining the “Equitable Math” toolkit states. “Upholding the idea that there are always right and wrong answers perpetuate objectivity as well as fear of open conflict.”

Colt Gill, who heads the Oregon Department of Education, confirmed the program, and Communications Director Marc Siegel hotly defended it. He claimed that it “helps educators learn key tools for engagement, develop strategies to improve equitable outcomes for Black, Latinx, and multilingual students, and join communities of practice.”

Teachers are encouraged to “come up with at least two answers that might solve this problem.” The toolkit also encourages the educators to: “Challenge standardized test questions by getting the ‘right’ answer, but justify other answers by unpacking the assumptions that are made in the problem.”

This same toolkit instructs teachers to “center ethnomathematics.” One of the guidelines for that is to “identify and challenge the ways that math is used to uphold capitalist, imperialist, and racist views.”

“While there is some value in students being able to complete work independently, when this is the only or most common avenue for learning or practicing, it reinforces individualism and the notion that I’m the only one,” the document defensively states. “This does not give value to collectivism and community understanding, and fosters conditions for competition and individual success, which perpetuates the idea that if a student is failing it is because they are not trying hard enough or that they don’t care.”

“We cannot dismantle racism in a system that exploits people for private profit,” the document contends. “If we want to dismantle racism, then we must build a movement for economic justice.”

James Lindsay, who has a Ph.D. in math and is a former math teacher, tweeted out a thread on the subject over the weekend.

He goes on to eviscerate the whole concept in superb fashion. He slams the ‘Ethnomathematics Toolkit’: “Not ‘did anyone learn math?’ Just garbage about antiracism, accountability, and doing Critical Theory instead of teaching math.”

The education movement also has the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:

The response on Twitter was brutal.

Matt Brown tweeted: “Looking forward to the airplane designed by someone who thinks 2 doesn’t actually mean 2, and instead could mean sex or baking.”

Trilogy nailed it: ‘“Upholding the idea that there are always right and wrong answers perpetuate *objectivity*” Go design a bridge with that attitude.”

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