September 11, 2018

OMG! "Academic Apartheid?"

Dana Mathewson

I really hadn't intended to post any humor today, but, well, this struck me right in the funny bone. Yes, I know it wasn't intended to, but it did.

Study Claims Gifted Math Classes Promote 'Academic Apartheid'

A math education professor is arguing that gifted math classes cause "academic apartheid” among students, claiming that the practice is rooted in "capitalist exploitations and settler colonialism.”

The study, "Understanding Issues Associated With Tracking Students in Mathematics Education,” was published in the new issue of the the Columbia University journal Mathematics Education by Cacey Wells, a professor at the University of Oklahoma.

In his article — which relies heavily upon social justice math theory [emphasis mine]— Wells takes aim at what teachers call "academic tracking,” which is the practice of placing students in different math classes (such as pre-algebra or gifted classes) depending on test scores.

Under the tracking system, for example, a student who scores in the top 10 percent of his peers may be placed into a precalculus course. On the other hand, a student who scores in the lowest 10 percent may be placed into a remedial math class, or perhaps pre-algebra.

While this practice is fairly common in high school, it has come under criticism by teachers who worry about the impact of the practice on the lower performing students. The confidence of some students may suffer at the expense of others, especially minorities, it is argued.

The article is at

I do apologize if I am not giving this the respect it (apparently) deserves. But "social justice math theory?" Really!

Disclosure: I attended high school in a fairly small town back in the Dark Ages -- from 1956-60, in fact. It wasn't a one-room school house -- it was a large brick building which housed grades 7 - 12 -- and we didn't have "gifted" classes, for math or any other subjects. One of our star math students was a Puerto Rican lad, who did a fine job of slurping up all the available math courses, which went from Elementary Algebra through Plane Trigonometry (they called it something less threatening, for some reason; probably Twelfth Grade Math). I took them too. Calculus wasn't offered. He was popular with the other students, too, BTW. But in those days math in high school was an elective. You took the courses or didn't. And you passed them or you failed them. Period.

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at 09:32 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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