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Le riforme peggioreranno il problema?

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In un articolo del New Yorker (link alternativo) di circa un anno fa Rivka Galchen affrontava la delicata questione delle riforme scolastiche: in questo caso si trattava dell’insegnamento della matematica nello stato della California.

L’articolo forniva qualche informazione sul posizionamento degli Stati uniti (e della California in particolare) nelle valutazioni sui risultati nell’insegnamento di questa materia.

The United States has been ranked thirty-seventh of seventy-nine industrialized countries in math achievement among fifteen-year-olds. Among the states, California is considerably below average, and sometimes in the lowest quartile, in a number of national assessments of math proficiency. There is also a pronounced achievement gap, with women, minorities, and the poor falling behind. Given that math is a necessary step toward a stem career—in demand, high-paying—these numbers are more than simply lamentable. So revisiting our approach to teaching math, in California and beyond, is urgent.

Rivka Galchen faceva riferimento al California Mathematics Framework (CMF), un documento sull’educazione di milioni di bambini che viene rivisto ogni otto anni. Nel 2023 verrà votata dal Californian State Board of Education una nuova bozza di questo documento.

The current draft of the C.M.F., which will be voted on by the California State Board of Education in 2023, is intended to make math education more equitable. Chapter 1 (of fourteen) is titled “Mathematics for All”; Chapter 2 is called “Teaching for Equity and Engagement.” The goals were chosen through a series of focus groups of teachers and others; then three math-education experts, a mathematician, and a retired math teacher were tasked with developing a research-driven plan for achieving the goals.

When the first draft of the C.M.F. was released for public comment, phrases such as “equity” and “social justice” attracted negative attention from right-leaning press.

But more fierce and fine-grained criticism of the C.M.F. came—perhaps surprisingly—from people who have done a lot of work promoting diversity and equity in math and other stem fields. “Everything I’ve read about this proposal is going to make matters worse,” Adrian Mims said, of the initial draft of the C.M.F. Mims is the founder of the Calculus Project, a program that has been remarkably successful at getting more students of color to take and succeed in advanced math courses. “Modifying curriculum that way will not bring equity,” he said. “It will just bring in a lower track.” The lower track he refers to is the data-science track, which he argued would not prepare students for a possible future career in data science, let alone in engineering, physics, economics, or computer science. “And we all know who ends up in that track—Black, Hispanic, and low-income students.”

In un articolo più recente di Education Next Tom Loveless fa il punto sulla questione mettendo in risalto aspetti differenti rispetto al precedente articolo.

California’s proposed math curriculum framework has ignited a ferocious debate, touching off a revival of the 1990s math wars and attracting national media attention. Early drafts of the new framework faced a firestorm of criticism, with opponents charging that the guidelines sacrificed accelerated learning for high achievers in a misconceived attempt to promote equity.

Unlike most of the existing commentary on the revised framework, my analysis here focuses on the elementary grades and how the framework addresses two aspects of math: basic facts and standard algorithms. The two topics are longstanding sources of disagreement between math reformers and traditionalists. They were flashpoints in the 1990s math wars, and they are familiar to most parents from the kitchen-table math that comes home from school. In the case of the California framework, these two topics illustrate how reformers have diverged from the state’s content standards, ignored the best research on teaching and learning, and relied on questionable research to justify the framework’s approach.

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