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This Idaho school district is teaching woke mathematics

This Idaho school district is teaching woke mathematics

Anna Miller
August 13, 2021
Anna Miller
Author Image
August 13, 2021

Despite claims to the contrary, Coeur d’Alene public school officials are requiring educators to apply the racial prejudice of critical race theory (CRT) to school lessons.

In recent weeks, parents in the school district have objected to CRT’s mischaracterization of American values and asked officials to remove this racially discriminatory dogma from their schools district framework. Officials have dismissed these concerns and claimed the district does not teach CRT. However, the district has already incorporated CRT into its math curricula, replacing the focus on mastery of mathematical concepts with racial bias and skepticism of objective mathematical knowledge. 

District officials in the Coeur d’Alene school district adopted the Ready Classroom Mathematics curriculum from the organization Curriculum Associates, whose goal is to provide schools with culturally relevant and antiracist content. Central to the design of the curriculum is the critical race theory model of education known as cultural responsiveness. Parents want educators to focus on teaching kids basic mathematical skills like addition and multiplication, but the culturally responsive Ready Classroom Mathematics curriculum “helps students and teachers to recognize racism, racial inequities, and nondominant culture and dismantle them.” 

Advocates argue cultural responsiveness is necessary in mathematics because racial disparities in academic outcomes are the fault of the “dominant White culture.” Culturally responsive education seeks to dismantle this culture by helping “dominant culture students lose a sense of entitlement and privilege.” 

The primary goal of culturally responsive mathematics is to point out that the universality of mathematics is merely a white dominant cultural assumption that needs to be disrupted and dismantled. 

Thus a culturally responsive math curriculum aims to get white people to realize that their mathematics is just one approach among many and that those other understandings are being unfairly excluded due to “systemic practices” and “unconscious bias.” Its adherents argue that educators should also favor and advocate for other “marginalized” mathematics from other cultures, without being able to name a specific culture’s mathematics that’s different.

The Ready Classroom Mathematics curriculum includes discussing various aspects of mathematical ideas and knowledge from the perspective of supposedly oppressed cultures. At first this may be considered an interesting pursuit, but not if these cultural and historical details are taught in place of basic mathematical skills and literacy. 

Culturally responsive mathematics tries to introduce skepticism around ideas like that getting the right answer is important in mathematics, or that there is only one right answer. For example, a Curriculum Associates whitepaper discussing culturally responsive mathematics tells the story of Nora’s seventh grade mathematics teacher who “focused on individually following rules to get answers that were evaluated as right or wrong.” In her sixth grade culturally responsive math class, Nora got a good grade. However, she got a D+ in her seventh grade math class. Most parents would assume Nora’s poor performance in seventh grade is due to her being unprepared in sixth grade or because she could not master the necessary skills. But the whitepaper argues that Nora failed the course because the classroom environment did not value her identity, experience, and culture. 

So instead of ensuring students get the right answer on a math problem, culturally responsive math emphasises “how power and ownership of knowledge are negotiated in the classroom and whose knowledge is valued.” This skepticism of objective mathematical truth is strikingly similar to the ethnomathematics position used in Oregon schools, which say it is worthwhile to find ways “to make 2+2=5 a true statement.”

Solidifying this concern, Curriculum Associates’ white paper on culturally responsive mathematics cites activist Rochelle Gutierrez, the creator of Mathematx, who argues, “Similar to whiteness, mathematics holds unearned privilege in society.” Mathematx removes the focus of mathematics from finding the right answers in calculations and instead favors different “knowledges” in math.

Culturally responsive math also criticizes American individualism in mathematics as an expression of the white dominant culture, urging that mathematics should be made more collectivist in nature. For example, the Ready Classroom Mathematics curriculum builds math and academic vocabulary that aligns with collectivist cultures. This partly explains why culturally responsive mathematics sees itself as part of a broader initiative to create social change. For example, culturally responsive mathematics teaching done properly would enable students to advocate for changes in public policy in their community. 

Of course, using mathematics for activism makes no sense within mathematics itself. However, the ultimate goal of culturally responsive mathematics is to replace traditional objective mathematics education with CRT education, to raise the consciousness of students, and to ultimately subvert the dominant culture to advance the revolutionary political change these theorists seek. 

CRT has already begun redesigning history, civics and English instruction. Now, Coeur d’Alene school officials are changing classroom content in mathematics to move away from facts and objective truth to focus on ideological, racially charged activism. Parents, educators, and policymakers should oppose bringing CRT’s subjectivist worldview and racial discrimination into mathematics instruction or into our education system at all. Mathematics is a vital subject that should be used to help children of all backgrounds to develop the skills and understanding of objective truth and logic they need to be successful in school and life. 

View Comments
  • halloweenspook says:

    How do I find out if K12.com/IDVA is pushing CRT, too?

  • Terry Fallon says:

    The current CDA school board needs to be replaced with the next elections. I went to the last board meeting and of the five current board members, two seemed somewhat conservative. The rest are your typical liberal Democrats who’s main goal is the indoctrination of students into CRT, mandatory marking, et al

    • Len G says:

      I’m in calif. Don’t let CRT infect Idaho schools. Here in calif CRT has greatly reduced math and English proficiency. Vote in new school board members. CRT is just the beginning of liberal policies to come.

  • Spike says:

    Why! We just left the Cof behind,now we have the Communist Cof reinfection ,to Vax-aginst ? This is a nasty one, maybe we should BURN it Out before it infects our Kids.

  • I’mhereforsanctuary says:

    Brad Little is a RINO and will be easily voted out next year.Someone has obviously paid him off.He is no better than Brian Kemp,another RINO from Georgia.Hold the line against medical tyranny ! Idaho is one of the last few Red States in the west that hasn’t been fully compromised by liberals hellbent on forcing negative changes to your lifestyle!
    Let’s get the special session called now before it’s too late..!

  • marcia s says:

    Get rid of them fast!!!

  • Jim says:

    Oh boy, the “educated” idiots are at it again!

  • Sgt. Dono says:

    odd... when I look up Curriculum Assoc. on gOOgle maps, you cannot view the bldg. on street view, and when you go to the nearest intersection their street is blurred out. it's not a private road or driveway.
    153 Rangeway Road
    North Billerica, MA 01862

    what's up with that?

  • Sgt. Dono says:

    directly from the brochure of Curriculum Associates:

    "Some scholars say the racial inequities in education are the result of education policies and practices that support and benefit students from the dominant White culture at the expense of students from Black, Brown, Indigenous, and other racially minoritized communities." "These policies and practices assume that disparities in test scores that correlate to racial and socioeconomic demographics are caused by deficits in students’ motivation, desire to learn, or family support. But this is not true. "

    "Without the opportunity to develop the cognitive processes and structures that enable them to do complex thinking, these students—unlike their White counterparts—are significantly less likely to gain the experience or skills to
    become independent learners."

    so...students of color suffer from policies that assume that success is derived from effort...….. "unlike their white counterparts" talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations.
    CRT needs to be yanked out by the roots. it most certainly CANNOT be beneficial to people of any color.

  • Sgt. Dono says:

    as far as Rochelle Gutierrez, the creator of Mathematx goes, here is how she refers herself:
    As a Chicanx scholar, a cis gender female with Rarámuriiii roots,
    I seek to decenter the field’s overreliance on Whitestream views. I use the term Chicanx (as opposed to Chicano, Chicana/o, or [email protected]) as a sign of solidarity with people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersexual, asexual, and two-spiritiv (LGBTQIA2S). Chicanx represents both a decentering of the patriarchal nature of the Spanish language whereby groups of men and women are normally referred to with the “o” (male) ending as well as a rejection of the gender binary and an acceptance of gender fluidity.

  • Dave J says:

    Idaho Board of Education is moving forward with pushing CRT. They don't call it CRT. It's called "Diversity, Educational Equity and Inclusion."

    Here is their press release dated Aug. 11, 2021.

    I encourage everyone to read it, and decide for themselves.

  • Rene B says:

    IT IS AGAINST THE LAW. Who is going to enforce the law? The people if not our elected officials. This is lawlessness & unless the parents stand up to the school board members they will ignore the law! The parents/grandparents in CDA need to make some phone calls to the board members, Dept of education, superintendent of the schools, the attorney general of Idaho, demand they obey the law!!

  • Johnny Utah says:

    An anthropologist was asking a primitive tribesman about arithmetic. When the anthropologist asked, “What does two and two make?” the tribesman replied, “Five.” Asked to explain, the tribesman said, “If I have a rope with two knots, and another rope with two knots, and I join the ropes together, then I have five knots.”

    This is why it's worthwhile to find ways “to make 2+2=5 a true statement." Thinking creatively is important and should be taught.

  • Al says:

    I appreciate when people read source material and decide for themselves rather than just reading op-ed type of material like this, assuming it's well-researched, and taking it on face-value.
    A couple months ago I challenged Wayne for calling Chuck Winder and Jim Jones "liars" when they criticized IFF's various statements about CRT and other "social justice" propagation in Idaho. Wayne said there's a "mountain of data" proving IFF is right on this subject matter and I was referred to, among other things, an April 29, 2021 position statement by Miller.
    I found flaws and over-reaching logical miscues in that April 29 article she wrote. Here's what I found. This is important, as it shows a tendency she, and IFF, has to make an opinion-statement, toss a citation after it, perhaps assuming we will never read it, perhaps not reading it objectively but through the tinted spectacles of far-right activists - who knows? This is just my review of that April 29 article and it's "mountain of data"; I'll focus only on Culturally Responsive Teaching since it's relevant to this article:
    First she comments that Idaho requires "certain teachers" to obtain certification in Culturally Responsive Teaching but cites the wrong regulatory rule. She references IDAPA, which defines "teacher leaders", who are defined as "a master teacher who facilitates the design and implementation of sustained, intensive, and job-embedded professional learning based on identified student and teacher needs." Not too controversial, right? But she quotes this as if all "teacher leaders" are supposed to be certified in culturally responsive teaching. That's not true. There are 4 categories of "teacher leaders". If she had referenced the correct regulatory rule, IDAPA ., she would properly state only those in the subcategory of "teacher leader - literacy" are required to be certified in cultural responsiveness teaching.
    With that correction in mind, I did a public records request to obtain a list of ALL teacher leaders in the state of Idaho for the academic year 2020-2021. And I asked specifically for a list of all those the category of literacy, which would be trained in cultural responsive teaching. How many were in the literacy category? None. Zip. Nada. Zilch. So much for "widespread indoctrination".
    But research technique and completeness isn't the only flaw to note. It's the logic of the argument as well. She quotes the definition of cultural responsive pedagogy from Idaho's State Board of Education, Rules Governing Uniformity 08.02.02(15)(iii) as "Pedagogy that recognizes the important of including students' cultural references in all aspects of learning."
    How controversial is that definition? Not at all, really. So Miller makes it controversial by noting that the offer is Ladson-Billings, whom Miller describes as a notable Critical Race Theory advocate.
    So let's pause and apply logic here. Instead of attacking the definition or the practice of that definition, she attacks the author. Regardless of the author's background, we have to ask ourselves whether the definition itself is offensive, don't we? I mean, how many of you (including me) defend Trump when he said "Hitler did many good things"? That's a true statement. An evil person can still do some good things. And likewise, we can't rule out cultural responsiveness simply by linking it to Ladson-Billings.
    I would say this: Consider the Apostle Paul's remarkable success in spreading the Gospel around the Mediterranean. Instead of insisting that people of Roman or Greek culture learn from the Jewish stylings, metaphors, similes, etc., he adapted to the cultures of the audience. We have the metaphor of God's love for us and gifting of heaven and washing away of sins through Paul's description to the Romans using their laws on adoption. To the Greeks he described Jesus being fully human and fully god by contrasting that to demi-gods they were familiar with, such as Hercules. Raised in Tarsus, and trained as a Pharisee by the best Jewish scholars, Paul was a master of recognizing "the importance of including students' cultural references in all aspects of learning". Oops! I quoted Ladson-Billings, not Paul! Same thing????
    Read the Couer d'Alene curriculum material cited by Miller. It says curriculum has traditionally been oriented by the dominant white culture. So? What else would we expect - whites have been the majority, and have consisted the majority of curriculum-developers for years. Nowhere does it say the intention is to "dismantle" the white culture. That's Miller's take on it, unsubstantiated and out of proportion. Consider again Paul, who didn't insist the Jewish methodology be taught to the Gentiles. Remember that he argued with Peter about circumcision and won out. Peter insisted that Gentiles must become Jewish to become Christian. Which would require circumcision. But Paul convinced him otherwise. Get the picture? Cultural Responsiveness is a method to ensure people of various cultures optimally learn the material.
    A final example from my experience teaching math in high school (geometry in this example). I had many students disinterested in the subject matter until I described my experience in a Daytona auto shop where I saw a 3-4-5 right triangle marked out on the floor to ensure the race cars' frames were straight. It's Pythagorean geometry. I described the same technique by carpenters to lay out 90 degree angles with only a tape measure. Adapting to the different cultures within that classroom, they learned a lot.

  • Mark Arrowood says:

    I just perused your example of “woke math”, I’m still laughing. Not at the example but at you the IFF. I finally find an example of CRT that you are concerned about and it talks about fruits from a different culture, really is that what you’re worried about? 😂😂😂😂🤣🤣. I’ll hand it to your organization, you’ve been able to cultivate the marginally educated Idaho citizen for your cause.

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