Proposals to change school mathematics often prompt considerable controversy in the United States and even declarations of “war” (Boaler, 2009; Rosen, 2001; Wilson, 2002). Traditionalists fight to keep mathematics classrooms with the same curriculum and canonical pedagogy that has endured for centuries, particularly if it worked for them in school. This is despite a solid base of research evidence showing the positive impact of classroom changes that include teaching a broader mathematics and engaging students actively in their learning (Boaler, 2009; Schoenfeld,
2002). The data on students’ mathematics achievement in the US speaks to the need for change, with approximately three fifths of students in the US failing mathematics in K-16 schooling (Silva & White, 2013), and the country occupying a lowly 36th place out of 65 countries in international tests of mathematics achievement (PISA, 2012). In a recent survey over 50% of middle school children said they would rather eat broccoli than do mathematics (Raytheon-Company, 2012). Mathematics is also the most inequitable of all subjects with shocking levels of underachievement for students of color and those from under-resourced homes (Kozol, 2012; Rousseau & Tate, 2003). The plethora of data on mathematics failure, disinterest and inequity comes at a time when the need for quantitative literacy among the population is higher than it is ever been (Boaler, 2013b; Wolfram, 2010). Despite this data and the ‘math crisis’ that is widely recognized, some traditional groups work tirelessly to keep the forms of mathematics teaching that have produced the state of failure and inequality in classrooms across the US.
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