Math isn’t racist. Our garbage public school system is

Tiana Lowe

As wokeness has seeped into new subjects of the public school curriculum, not even math is spared. With states such as California now trying to eliminate tracking students based on merit in the name of minimizing racial inequity, USA Today has finally asked the quiet part out loud: Is math racist?

Although the paper’s piece does not itself opine on the matter, the assertion of various public schools that eliminating gifted tracking has resulted in better student performance goes unchallenged, with the opposition from parents of color buried well below the fold.

Ironically enough, it’s not math that is racist. Instead, it’s the very notion that “math is racist,” as it logically follows that racial achievement gaps result not from our garbage public school system but because students of color are simply less capable of learning as well as their white counterparts.

Even looking at the raw data, without drawing any extrapolations or explanations, belies the myth that math is racist. Across the board, Asian Americans outperform white students in math, and that’s despite the fact that the demographic suffers from the worst income inequality in the country.

But the real reason this myth is fictitious is because the gap begins to disappear the further away from the traditional public school cartel a student goes. A study in the journal Education Next found that over a 12-year period, black students in charter schools made gains in math achievement four times greater than those in district schools. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, a project run by the Education Department, has also found that across subjects, the racial gap between white and black students graduating high school is significantly smaller in private schools than in public schools. And when black parents take matters into their own hands, the results may be even stronger. A 2015 study determined that black homeschooled students performed 23 percentage points higher in math than their publicly educated counterparts.

Furthermore, the whole notion of math being racist ignores the very history of the subject. Although the Greeks gave us Euclidean geometry and some trigonometry, it was quite literally advances made by medieval Muslims that took Europe out of the dark ages, gifting the West with the numerical system and algebra required for the creation of calculus by Newton and Leibniz. Even today, Terry Tao, an Australian American of Chinese descent, is widely considered one of, if not the singular best mathematician alive.

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As for my own experience, I tutored probably a dozen Latino students in inner-city South Central LA and Santa Ana and saw just how underserved they were by their teachers as well as just how quickly they adapted and excelled when I got to work with them directly. As an admittedly mediocre math major, I can personally vouch for the fact that I was often the only white woman in my very international classrooms and that my best math friend and one of the most brilliant peers I worked with (nay, relied on to pass exams) is a black woman.

The only thing racist here is keeping black and brown students stuck in a failing public school system. The problem isn’t the students. It’s the system.

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