Colorado students who have been struggling with math the past few years may see some additional support in future years, thanks to recently introduced legislation: HB23-1231 – Math in Pre-Kindergarten Through Twelfth Grade. The bipartisan legislation seeks to reverse a trend in declining math scores since 2020, and is designed to boost math achievement by establishing a new state focus on math instruction and support for students.
The bill would implement evidence-based strategies in the Colorado Department of Education, school districts, charter schools, and educator preparation programs, as well as make a significant investment in after school programs focused on math and STEM improvement. Parents and caregivers will also receive tools to support students who need additional support.
PEBC’s Board of Directors supports HB23-1231, and on March 16, PEBC’s Wendy Ward Hoffer, a former National Board Certified math and science teacher in Denver Public Schools, and now an author of multiple books on high-quality mathematical instruction, testified in support of the bill at the House Education Committee, where the bill passed unanimously in its first hearing.
Why does Wendy think that this bill is an important first step in supporting student understanding of mathematical best practices? Why should the state focus on boosting math achievement? Read on to hear Wendy’s testimony to the House Education Committee, where she identified three critical reasons why math is important for all students and citizens alike:
1. Math prepares us for life.
As humans, we are called upon to solve problems every single day: What time do I need to leave? Which cell phone plan should I get? Understanding math helps us answer these questions and more wisely, function in society and avoid getting ripped off. Making meaning of math takes time, effort, and commitment from students and educators alike. Teachers who understand math deeply and cultivate learners’ growth mindsets can effectively advance their abilities to address problems, mathematical and otherwise.
2. Numeracy is a civil right.
Math acts as a “gatekeeper” subject, filtering who is admitted to advanced courses and higher education. In Colorado, as in most states, standardized testing persistently show mathematical achievement gaps along racial lines, with Black and Latinx students’ scoring well below their white peers. In the 1980’s, civil rights activist Robert Moses created a peer math tutoring initiative because he recognized that high quality math understanding is a great opportunity creator and a powerful lever to increase equity.
3. Math fuels success.
Elementary math lines us up for middle school math achievement, which opens doors to advanced high school courses and prepares us for college entrance exams and coursework. These can pave the way to lucrative STEM careers. Conversely, students who do not pass algebra by the end of ninth grade statistically have a one in five chance of graduating high school. Economist Henry Levin calculated the many benefits to society of a more educated populus: “higher employment, better health, less crime, and lower dependency.” To this end, math education is a superhighway to individual and collective economic success.
For too long, America has been frenemies with math – loving to hate it, while using math achievement as a filter that limits opportunity for some. Now is our time to wholeheartedly fall in love with math, to effectively prepare young people for lives as problem solvers, create pathways to achievement for all and foster economic success. For these reasons, HB-1231 is a worthy investment in our students, their futures and equality of opportunity in Colorado.