Critics say California’s plan to overhaul math instructions will hold back gifted students

A student working on a math problem is seen in an undated photo. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

A student working on a math problem is seen in an undated photo. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

A plan to reimagine math instruction for 6 million California students has become ensnared in equity and fairness issues — with critics saying proposed guidelines will hold back gifted students and supporters saying it will, over time, give all kindergartners through 12th-graders a better chance to excel.

The proposed new guidelines aim to accelerate achievement while making mathematical understanding more accessible and valuable to as many students as possible, including those shut out from high-level math in the past because they had been “tracked” in lower level classes. The guidelines call on educators generally to keep all students in the same courses until their junior year in high school, when they can choose advanced subjects, including calculus, statistics and other forms of data science.

Although still a draft, the Mathematics Framework achieved a milestone Wednesday, earning approval from the state’s Instructional Quality Commission. The members of that body moved the framework along, approving numerous recommendations that a writing team is expected to incorporate.

The commission told writers to remove a document that had become a point of contention for critics. It described its goals as calling out systemic racism in mathematics, while helping educators create more inclusive, successful classrooms. Critics said it needlessly injected race into the study of math.

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