Program To Take Racism Out Of Math Being Promoted By Oregon DOE

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Brianna Lyman News and Commentary Writer
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Oregon’s Department of Education (ODE) is encouraging teachers to register for a training program that offers a toolkit to help educators “develop an anti-racist math practice.”

An ODE newsletter advertises a Feb. 21 “Pathway To Math Equity Micro-Course” designed for middle school teachers to use to help them in “dismantling racism in mathematics instruction.”

The website says the event is a partnership between California’s San Mateo County Office of Education, The Education Trust-West and others.

The toolkit offers teachers help in “deconstructing racism” in the classroom and “dismantling white supremacy in math classrooms by visibilizing the the toxic characteristics of white supremacy culture with respect to math.” (RELATED: ‘Exploring White Fragility’: Longtime School Teacher Explains How Critical Race Theory Is Hurting Multicultural Classrooms)

“White supremacy culture infiltrates math classrooms in everyday teacher action,” the toolkit states. “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.”

Some of the ways in which white supremacy shows up in classrooms, according to the toolkit, is when “the focus is on getting the ‘right’ answer.”

“Upholding the idea that there are always right and wrong answers perpetuate objectivity as well as fear of open conflict,” the toolkit states in reference to focusing on getting the “right” answer.

Instead, teachers should have students “come up with at least two answers that might solve this problem” and challenge standardized test questions by justifying why every other answer is incorrect.

The toolkit also links to a 2016 workbook titled “dismantling Racism” for reference. The workbook says that by definition, “only white people can be racist in our society, because only white people as a group have that power.”

While it’s unclear whether the workbook will be used in the training, some of the anecdotes in the workbook appear to be part of the foundation for the course’s material.

For example, the workbook talks about how perfectionism is a part of “white supremacy culture” and is damaging to people of color, which is similar to the toolkit’s focus on getting the “right” answer.

The workbook recommends people “develop a culture of appreciation, where the organization takes time to make sure that people’s work and efforts are appreciated; develop a learning organization, where it is expected that everyone will make mistakes and those mistakes offer opportunities for learning.”

Another way in which white supremacy infiltrates mathematics is the “independent practice is valued over teamwork or collaboration,” according to the toolkit.

“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 toolkit also recommends that teachers stop valuing “‘real-world math’… over math in the real world,” because “this reinforces notions of either/or thinking because math is only seen as useful when it is in a particular context. However, this can result in using mathematics to uphold capitalist and imperialist ways of being and understandings of the world.”

Teachers can eliminate or limit references to money in math problems to avoid giving emphasis to “real-world math,” according to the toolkit.

PROVO, UT - FEBRUARY 10: A teacher prepares her classroom before students arrive for school at Freedom Preparatory Academy on February 10, 2021 in Provo, Utah. Freedom Academy has done in person instruction since the middle of August of 2020 with only four days of school canceled due to COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

PROVO, UT – FEBRUARY 10: A teacher prepares her classroom before students arrive for school at Freedom Preparatory Academy on February 10, 2021 in Provo, Utah.  (George Frey/Getty Images)

The toolkit also recommends that teachers “identify and challenge the ways that math is used to uphold capitalist, imperialist, and racist views.”

Teachers should learn to “distinguish between a mistake and a misunderstanding” because “white supremacy culture shows up in math classrooms when addressing mistakes,” according to the toolkit.

Another way in which white supremacy allegedly is found in math classrooms is when students are tracked “into courses/pathways and within the classroom.” Tracking can include seating charts and putting students in groups together. The toolkit says teachers are chosen without input from students or their parents.

The tracking of students apparently reinforces the idea of “paternalism” and “powerhoarding.”

A similar sentiment is expressed in the attached workbook, which says that paternalism is a function of white supremacy.

Paternalism allows “those with power [to] think they are capable of making decisions for and in the interest of those without power.” The workbook recommends that people who are affected by decisions are in the decision-making process.

The Daily Caller has reached out to the ODE but did not receive a response at the time of publication.