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Making Space for Data Science in High School Mathematics

data scienceMaking Space for Data Science in High School Mathematics

September 16, 2021

Making Space for Data Science in High School Mathematics

Teaching math is not just geared towards helping students expand their professional opportunities - it’s about helping them develop an understanding of their world. However, research suggests that the way we have historically thought about teaching secondary math, as a regimented series of courses that ‘logically’ follow one another, isn’t necessarily the best for all students. One student may love the theoretical nature of Calculus; another may love understanding the practical application of data. Studies suggest diversifying our approach to teaching mathematics, and specifically allowing data science to play a greater role, will allow students to develop the quantitative skills to “understand and critique the world,” one of the primary purposes of math education named by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM).

What is a One-Size-Fits-All Math Pathway?

Almost all schools follow a standard math course pathway that aligns to student grade-levels. We start with basic math, work our way up through algebra, geometry, and trigonometry - all stepping stones on the march toward calculus. This approach, however, is undergoing increasing scrutiny. A Joint Position Statement of the Mathematical Association of America and NCTM states, “Although calculus can play an important role in secondary school, the ultimate goal of the K-12 mathematics curriculum should not be to get students into and through a course in calculus by twelfth grade but to have established the mathematical foundation that will enable students to pursue whatever course of study interests them when they get to college.”

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The Relationship Between Data Science and the World

The ability to use and understand data has become an increasingly essential skill. Over the last two years alone, ninety percent of the world’s data has been created (Marr, 2018). There is an increasing consensus supporting the idea that the ability to interpret and leverage data should no longer be confined to STEM fields. In February, 2020, Stanford Graduate School of Education professor Jo Boaler hosted a summit to address the outdated mathematics curriculum in American schools. Boaler’s central argument is that the way math is taught today gives students little insight into the ‘why’ of the subject. Data science does the opposite, since the world is expressed through data, it allows students to discover knowledge on their own terms.

Recent Developments And Policy Shifts

Fortunately, many high schools and colleges are adjusting their approaches and diversifying pathways to include courses like statistics, data science and quantitative reasoning. Unlike traditional math classes, these courses focus on real-world data. Applications may include a wide-range of policy issues from housing access, policing practices to examining the role of census data in political representation.

Colleges are also expanding their math course options to include data science and students are signing up in droves. A course at the University of California at Berkeley, Foundations of Data Science, saw an enrollment of over 1,000 students in its second year, making it the fastest growing course in campus history. The course combines statistics and computer science with real-world relevance and also helps to satisfy the undergraduate math requirement.

Data science courses are also being offered at more and more high schools. In California, 17 school districts have adopted a data science course that was initially conceived by Jo Boaler and her team at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. The course was piloted at the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Student in front of equations on blackboard

How Does Yup Support The Teaching of Data Science?

So let’s say schools continue to embrace a more universal approach to teaching math by offering courses in data science. How do we ensure that students feel comfortable with this new approach to math and that they’re equipped to succeed? Unlike other virtual tutoring platforms, Yup explicitly hires tutors with an expertise in mathematics. With the click of a button, students are connected to one of Yup’s expert math tutors. Yup holds the highest bar for talent recruitment, hiring just 5% of applicants and then supporting them with rigorous on-the-job feedback to ensure that Yup tutors consistently drive student learning. Yup tutors are prepared to support students across all math subjects, including the rapidly expanding field of data science.

We’re excited to see how this new approach to teaching math develops. Contact partnerships@yup.com to learn more about bringing Yup to your school district.


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