Last week, the Pittsburgh Public School Board announced it was offering a social justice consulting group $50,000 to remove “white supremacy” from math instruction. In addition to dismantling racism in math, Quetzal Education Consulting, which describes itself as a “black and brown womxn-led” organization, will be tasked to ensure the current math curriculum “centers on the wellness of students of color.”
According to New York Post, the effort purports to better equip educators with methods on how to teach “anti-racist math” and empower them to “identify, disrupt and replace practices that perpetuate white supremacy.”
Through a series of ongoing workshops, Pittsburgh’s math teachers will learn how to resist using “oppressive practices in math instruction” and instead rely on collaborative tactics that focus on the well-being of students of color.
“The purpose of this series is to equip educators who have completed the Anti-racist Math Workshop Series Edition 1 to develop and lead towards a more cohesive and aligned math instruction praxis across classrooms, departments and schools,” explained the school board. “Participants will learn how to train others in the topic of anti-racist math, as well as how to identify issues of equity in math spaces.”
But the Pittsburgh School District is not the first school administrative body to inject social justice theories into its math instruction.
In 2021, the state of Oregon similarly introduced teacher training methods to educators, advising them to instruct students that focusing on correctly answering math questions is “an example of white supremacy infiltrating schools.”
The program, called Pathways to Equitable Math Instruction, aims to remove racism from math by teaching educators that math is subjective and instructing students that there are right and wrong answers to math questions “perpetuates objectivity” and “fear of open conflict.”
“The concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false, and teaching it is even much less so,” reads the “Equitable Math” toolkit. “Upholding the idea that there are always right and wrong answers [perpetuates] objectivity, as well as fear of open conflict.”
News that several school boards across the United States are implementing “anti-racist” programs comes on the heels of a disturbing study that found that zero students at several Baltimore-area high schools were proficient in math.
As previously reported by The Publica, an investigative reporting initiative called Project Baltimore issued an exam to thousands of students across 33 high schools in the city.
The exam showed that out of 1,736 students tested across the 13 high schools, 74% scored one out of four in proficiency, with one being the lowest possible mark. The results also showed that 13 out of 32 high schools in the district had zero students capable of completing the exam.
Shockingly, Baltimore is not the only city struggling with math proficiency. Last year, a nationwide test was issued to 8,700 students from October to December, and found that average math scores among 13-year-olds fell by nine points.
The test, known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, revealed that math and reading scores “fell to their lowest levels in decades, with math scores plunging by the largest margin ever recorded.”