NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 21, 2005

Since the early 1990s, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has sent math curriculum down the path of political correctness, says Diane Ravitch of New York University. As a result, math textbooks deal more in multiculturalism and social justice than they do the principles of math.

While professional mathematicians criticize the new "rainforest algebra," supporters of politically correct math advocate its use as a way to teach social justice and advance political agendas. For example:

  • Advocates support "ethnomathematics," which operates under the premise that students from different cultures should learn math in ways that relate it to their own ancestral culture -- not "oppressive" Western Civilization.
  • The "F" index in a 1973 math textbook includes words such as factors, finite decimal, formulas and functions, while a 1998 math textbook lists fast food nutrition data, feasibility study, feeding tours, and flower beds in its index.
  • A new textbook on teaching social justice through mathematics includes topics such as "Sweatshop Accounting," "Multicultural Math," and "Home Buying While Brown or Black."

The book, titled "Rethinking Mathematics: Teaching Social Justice by the Numbers," also includes units of study on racial profiling, environmental racism and the war in Iraq.

American students are already falling behind in math when compared to other countries, says Ravitch. To promote the further dumbing down of math education will simply create more of a disadvantage for them in the 21st century global economy.

Source: Diane Ravitch, "Ethnomathematics," Wall Street Journal, June 20, 2005.

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