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How Can we Make More Students Fall in Love with Math?

Companies like Google, Apple and Intel offer some of California’s most cutting-edge — and highest-paying — jobs. Last year, those three companies alone brought in more than 10,000 people from other countries to take those jobs.

Surely it’d be simpler for them to hire closer to home and skip the visa and other paperwork. Among the key reasons they don’t is that too few Californians have the skills — in particular, the deep understanding of mathematics — to qualify. It’s a situation we shouldn’t tolerate, and something the state’s new proposed math framework seeks to change.

The current system of mathematics teaching in the U.S. invites few students into the richness of thought, of learning, and ultimately of careers that mathematical understanding makes possible. We blunt our children’s possibilities nearly from the start, telling far too many of them at a very early age that math isn’t for them.

Sometimes those communications are explicit; often they’re embedded in decisions, by schools or districts, to put students on different tracks as early as third or fourth grade and teach them math that often limits how far they can go. Unbeknownst to the children or their families, these grouping decisions will decide the students’ academic progress until the end of high school and beyond. This is far too early to make choices for students that can affect the arc of their lives. It is an unconscionable waste of human potential..

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