Professor warns California’s equity-based math curriculum will be a ‘complete failure’

A Stanford math professor issued a stark warning Thursday on California’s new math curriculum, arguing the push for “equity” could backfire academically as students continue to reel from post-pandemic learning loss. 

Brian Conrad, who read the entire 1,000-page teaching framework, joined “FOX & Friends” to discuss why the effort to include conventional math curriculum is critical in preparing kids for careers and college later in life. 

“There are these things like advocating these alternative math options which are claimed to be pro-equity, but in fact the experience of San Francisco, for example, shows that when you block eighth-grade Algebra one, which was done in the effort to help to improve the demographics and the high school success rates, in fact, it was a complete failure,” Conrad told Brian Kilmeade. “And yet this has been popping up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It’s being proposed in Connecticut and other places, and this doesn’t work.

“People should stop thinking that this kind of fantasy is going to actually help,” he continued. “Go back to the earlier grades, give teachers better motivation. The core material still remains the essential foundation.”


California Gov. Gavin Newsom

California Gov. Gavin Newsom

The state’s Board of Education approved the new “equity” and “social justice” based mathematics framework for its K-12 schools in July. 

After multiple revisions and years of development, the board unanimously passed the 2023 Mathematics Framework for California Public Schools which seeks to renew the state’s “commitment to ensuring equity and excellence in math learning for all students.”

The document, which saw three revisions and two public hearings, aims to “structure the teaching of the state’s math standards around ‘big ideas’ that integrate rather than isolate math concepts,” “allow students to ‘see themselves’ in curriculum and in math-related careers by making math instruction culturally relevant and empowering” and “instill confidence in learners by dispelling myths about who can and cannot learn math.”


Conrad noted one of the central concerns surrounding the new framework is it is based on “false promises” stemming from the idea that the new course work will sufficiently prepare students looking for careers rooted in science and math. 

“The primary concerns, which are shared by many other quantitative experts, involve both the access to Algebra One in eighth grade, which is the standard way to reach calculus in high school for future STEM careers, economics and so on, college degrees,” Conrad said. 

“And also false promises that certain alternative math options in the later part of high school will lead to certain great careers, but as designed, many of the most popular such courses will be dead ends, not preparatory for those careers,” he continued. 

The math professor penned an op-ed in The Atlantic this week, warning the watering-down of the essential STEM-based curriculum could be coming to a classroom near you – at a time when students continue to reel from the effects of virtual learning. 

According to the Nation’s Report Card, only 23% of eighth graders in the state are proficient in math. But despite the dismal numbers, giving teachers “better materials” could lead to better motivation and a “huge improvement” in academic achievement, Conrad argued. 

“First of all, a lot more resources into the elementary grades because that way that that’s where the disparities open up, and there are a lot of these I call fake-equity promises that certain later courses in high school that have been newly designed are going to open up access to data science and computer science,” Conrad said. 

“There should be more awareness that the conventional math curriculum remains the essential foundation for college degrees in those directions,” he continued. “And so they should improve the motivation and the context materials given to teachers, so kids can see the still very contemporary value in a lot of the conventional curriculum, but unfortunately, that’s being misrepresented in more and more places now.”

When the framework was announced, State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond said it would provide “teachers and schools with a path to greater excellence with greater equity.” The framework also includes a section on integrating “social justice” into lessons to “empower” students.


FOX News’ Lindsay Kornick contributed to this report. 

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