California’s new math framework ignores decades of scientific research

Daniel Buck in City Journal:

The California State Board of Education’s new math framework, adopted last month, has drawn intense public criticism. Most critics have focused on the framework’s overt political content or its aims to achieve “equity” by holding back advanced students, but there is an arguably even more fundamental problem: an approach to education called inquiry learning, which has virtually zero grounding in research. There is little in the framework that resembles real mathematical learning.

The framework has roots dating back to the “math wars” of the 1990s. Then as now, reformists and traditionalists argued over the best way to teach children math, and California’s math curriculum was a focal point. Reformists encouraged students to discover and construct knowledge with little guidance from the teacher; traditionalists emphasized the need for step-by-step practice of procedures and memorization of basic math facts. In 1997, California adopted compromise standards—a pedagogical hodgepodge of both approaches.

The new framework, clocking in at 1,000 pages, represents a complete victory for the reformists. It’s astounding in both its breadth—including learning goals, instructional “best-practices,” and class sequences—and its mediocrity.

More here.