In 2021, California set off a national debate on the future of K–12 math education when the state unveiled new guidelines for teaching the subject. The proposed curriculum framework, though non-binding, calls for schools to: offer data-science courses in addition to algebra, pre-calculus, and calculus; have students take algebra in 9th grade rather than 8th; and ask teachers to infuse social-justice concepts into math lessons.
Should U.S. K–12 math curriculum change—and if so, how? Should schools emphasize “deeper understanding” or drilling and memorization? Should they shift their emphasis toward data science and away from calculus? What are the tradeoffs and risks of these different approaches, and which path will best prepare students to thrive as citizens and as workers in our ever-changing economy? In this forum, University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt and his colleague Jeffrey Severts advance one perspective, while Boaz Barak, computer science professor at Harvard, and Adrian Mims of The Calculus Project offer another.