New K-12 standards bear similarity to higher ed claims that math is racist

The Minnesota Department of Education recently published proposed K-12 mathematics standards incorporating Minnesota Native American cultures.

This document aligns with the movement in higher education to label mathematics as 'racist,' which Campus Reform has covered extensively.

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) recently published its second version of “Minnesota K–12 Academic Standards in Mathematics.” 

The standards require students to “[s]olve problems connected to place, story, cultural practices, language and perspectives relevant to historical and contemporary Dakota and Anishinaabe communities.”

The MDE document is a response to a 2021 Minnesota statute mandating that “[t]he commissioner [of education] must include the contributions of Minnesota American Indian tribes and communities as related to the academic standards during the review and revision of the required academic standards.” 

References to the Dakota and Anishinaabe communities, which are native to Minnesota, appear nearly 300 times across the 101-page MDE document.

This document aligns with the movement in higher education to label mathematics as “racist,” which Campus Reform has covered extensively.

In November 2021, Campus Reform covered a University of Toronto course for first-year students called “Liberating Mathematics.” 

The course’s description claimed progress in mathematics has been “led in large part by women mathematicians, in particular Black women, Indigenous women, and women from visible minorities.” 

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According to Angela Morabito, former spokeswoman for Campus Reform, this course reflected a trend in several schools across the United States infusing mathematics with a “social justice” agenda.

Campus Reform also reported last year on a University of Michigan mathematics professor who claimed in a podcast that the discipline of mathematics inflicts racism against Black and Latino students, and argued that mathematics “has a role to play in disrupting white supremacy and racism that no other subject has.”

Campus Reform has also covered critiques of mathematics as “racist” because it expects a “right answer.” 

Similarly, the MDE document outlines “anchor standards,” which “establish the overall goals from kindergarten through grade 12” and are tied to benchmarks of students’ mathematical abilities. 

Of the eleven proposed anchor standards in the MDE document, six require teachers to relate mathematical concepts to “various cultures” and “especially” Dakota and Anishinaabe communities. 

The first standard, for example, requires students to “[d]etermine quantities, relationships between quantities and number systems and their representations, in various cultures, especially in historical and contemporary Dakota and Anishinaabe communities.” 

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The eleventh requires students to relate financial literacy to issues of “generational wealth” in Dakota and Anishinaabe communities.

The MDE document then outlines specific implementations of these standards for various grade levels with accompanying benchmarks.

The MDE document calls for students to explore, for example, statistical questions as an anchor standard. 

For kindergarteners, this anchor standard is benchmarked by “[c]lassify[ing] and sort[ing] objects, including historical and contemporary objects from Dakota and Anishinaabe Tribal Nations and other communities...” 

By the second grade, students exploring statistical questions will be expected to “[g]enerate measurement data, including historical and present day ways of measuring from Dakota and Anishinaabe Tribal Nations and other communities. . . .”

The new standards aim to help students “make sense of mathematical concepts and value various mathematical identities connected to lived experiences.”

The MDE was contacted for comment and this article will be updated accordingly.

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