Published January 08, 2015
Critics say a new Common Core-aligned math curriculum is divisive because it adds too much in the way of politics to what ought to be a lesson in numbers.
The lessons appear on the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics' illuminations website, which is promoted as offering "resources for teaching math." The include questions aimed at third and fourth-graders about their political preferences, and advise sixth-grade teachers to “be prepared” to discuss the “politically charged” 2000 election during math class. That election was the one George W. Bush won over Al Gore by a razor-thin margin after a recount of votes in Florida, an outcome many Democrats still refuse to accept.
In one lesson plan for Histograms and Bar Graphs, teachers are advised to engage students with a discussion of U.S. presidents. “If no students suggest party affiliation and age at the time the person enters office, bring these characteristics into the discussion,” reads a line from the lesson plan.
The NCTM’s teaching materials website includes primers on past presidents and the Electoral College in which many say is more of a lesson in revisionist history than anything.
“Some of the Constitution’s authors did not trust the ability of the common voter to make the ‘right’ decision, so they devised the Electoral College as one way of lessening the power of the popular vote,” reads one passage.
The materials also make slanted claims about President Reagan's time in office, notes education blog EAGnews.org. While Reagan's supporters have long claimed he inherited a moribund economy from the Carter Administration and soon presided over a massive economic expansion, the lesson provides a different perspective.
“Over strenuous congressional opposition, Reagan pushed through his ‘supply side’ economic program to stimulate production and control inflation through tax cuts and sharp reductions in government spending. However, in 1982, as the economy declined into the worst recession in 40 years, the president’s popularity slipped and support for supply-side economics faded,” reads the passage.
The math lesson plans peppered throughout the NCTM’s website seem to have an emphasis on "social justice," a phrase mentioned 130 times on the site, according to EAGnews.org.
“Educators increasingly recognize the important role that mathematics teaching plays in helping students to understand and overcome social injustice and inequality,” reads one passage.
This case study examines the practice of a full-time mathematics teacher and social activist working in a secondary school with the twin missions of college preparation and social justice,” reads another.