By: Lauren Perrodin

Every 8 years, a new framework for how subjects are taught in public schools is proposed or reviewed. This year, the much anticipated and reviewed math framework was revealed to improve California’s math education quality and student achievement across K-12 classrooms.

The nearly 1,000-page document offers instructional materials and demands professional development to meet the guidelines and research-based approaches. It affirms that all students have the ability to perform in math at a high level.

We’ll review the new framework and the outcomes of implementation.

What is California’s new math framework?

Math in school has always been criticized for its inability to apply to everyday life or connect with every student in a way that makes sense. The new math curriculum hopes to meet the needs of as many students as possible by presenting the information in a broader way.

The California education board proposes to do this by teaching through big ideas and making connections to real-world applications. It takes a student-first approach to learning math so that they can grasp the concepts of math without having to memorize facts and figures along the way.

The Core Ideas of the New Framework

The framework is based on real research and reflections on how other countries help students learn mathematics. It encourages multidimensional learning by prompting students to explain how they solved a problem and construct arguments for their answers.

If this sounds like they’re taking learning to a new level, you’re on the right track.

“The use of open, authentic, multidimensional tasks includes, but is not limited to, learning mathematical ideas,” says the California Department of Education, “not only through numbers, but also through words, visuals, models, algorithms, multiple representations, tables, and graphs; from moving and touching; and from other representations.”

This concept was made to help more students connect with math based on their learning styles. The aim of this new framework is to offer the opportunity for mathematical success not only to students who naturally understand the concepts but to all learners.

Furthermore, mathematical concepts and equations will require real-life examples to demonstrate its importance. It will “teach toward social justice” by creating graphs about city traffic or percentages of homelessness in certain areas.

Kyndall Brown, the executive director of the state-funded California Mathematics Project Statewide Office, says that “This is the most equity-focused math framework I have ever seen as an educator in California.”

  • All students deserve powerful mathematics instruction. High-level mathematics achievement is not dependent on rare natural gifts, but rather can be cultivated.
  • All students, regardless of background, language of origin, learning differences or foundational knowledge are capable and deserving of depth of understanding and engagement in rich mathematics tasks.
  • Student engagement must be a goal in designing mathematics curriculum, alongside critical content goals.
  • Students’ cultural backgrounds, experiences and languages are resources for teaching and learning mathematics.

Why are changes being proposed?

Aside from reviewing education frameworks in California every eight years, the state is in the bottom lowest half in the country for test scores and ranks below the national average. Achievement gaps were especially prevalent for “Black, American Indian or Alaska Native and Latino students.”

These findings are based on the 2022 The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) math scores in California. A 2023 Mckinsey report notes that recovering from two years of online learning during the pandemic may be the reason for the dramatic setbacks in education aptitude.

But why are some educators and board members concerned about the new framework?

Algebra 1 was the subject of the highest controversy after the framework was released. The original document noted that all students should take the course in ninth grade, regardless of whether or not they were ready or ahead of the subject by then. The final version of the framework mentions that all students should take Algebra 1 or an equivalent course in ninth grade instead.

Critics are concerned that this would prevent students from reaching calculus before college — hurting their chances of excelling in STEM college courses if that is the path they choose.

In addition, some educators are concerned that teaching concepts and connecting abstract mathematic lessons to real-world problems will do the opposite of supporting students, and instead further hurt their chances of math success.

Furthermore, there was a new pathway for students to take in high school: data science. Because of the prevalence of data collection and interpretation in the market today, the board believed that including this course in high school would give students a leg-up in their careers. The decision was based on studies that showed students who took data science classes instead of precalculus and calculus had higher GPAs. However, critics believe that is because the data science courses are easier than calculus-based ones.

But, perhaps calculus doesn’t need to be the peak of high school math for everyone.

Final Thoughts

While it may not be the framework that everyone is thrilled about, it does have the potential to help underserved communities and learners connect with mathematics like never before. It will take a few years to distribute the textbooks necessary for this new curriculum, and educators will need to take the latest courses to understand how to teach these classes.

At the end of the day, California and the rest of the nation is taking new approaches to supporting students in their academic achievements. The outcomes could prove positive with everyone on board.

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