California’s proposed new math framework offers a “choose-your-own-adventure approach” that is “fundamentally flawed,” argue Jennifer Chayes and Tsu-Jae King Liu, professors of electrical engineering and computer sciences at Berkeley.

Collegebound students could choose a data science pathway rather than advanced algebra and precalculus courses, they write. That will shut the door to STEM majors — including data science — in college. “We have seen firsthand how students lacking a strong foundation in math struggle to learn both data science and engineering at the college level.”

Photo: George Bakos/Unsplash

Not every collegebound student wants to prepare for a STEM career, writes Pamela Burdman of Just Equations, which supports teaching “quantitative reasoning” to prepare students for college success. California students need multiple math pathways, she writes on EdSource.

The proposed math framework will improve “math preparation for STEM fields, particularly for historically excluded students,” Burdman writes, while enabling students with other interests to “deepen their mathematical skills in relevant and engaging ways.”

“New courses designed to improve math learning and college readiness . . . range from teaching the fundamentals of data science and discrete math to strengthening understanding of traditional algebra-intensive math,” she writes.

“Data science and statistics are not recommended for students committed to a STEM path,” Burdman concedes. However, these alternatives “have the potential to reengage students” turned off by math.

I remember sitting in Advanced Algebra/Trig in high school and wondering if I could take a sacred oath that I would never pursue any course of study requiring knowledge of logarithms, sines or cosines or . . . secants? Yes, secants. I could do math. I didn’t want to. No pathway would have inspired me, unless it led away from math.

I guess shutting the STEM door makes sense for students who are struggling with math — more sense than shoving them through a watered-down course with a college-prep name. But we should be honest with them about the career options and future pay for people who took the math-lite track.

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