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Letter by Silicon Valley Technology Leaders on Math Education


Data Science 4 Everyone recently learned of a public letter signed by Silicon Valley technology leaders connecting the needs for AI and data science professionals with the critical efforts of math educators and the foundational content they teach. The letter also celebrates an earlier announcement in February by the University of California system that encouraged the development of introductory data science courses throughout the state to gain Area C mathematics eligibility in the senior year of high school, while reinforcing several other mathematical content expectations for university admissions in these programs. DS4E has not yet independently confirmed these leaders directly signed this letter.


These developments build upon several conversations in the state about the relevance and appropriateness of the high school mathematics sequence for all students, especially in a world of changing technology. While the University has clearly signaled a need for more learning experiences in these areas through this new recommendation, we also caution that the new guidelines risk unintentionally disqualifying data science, statistics, and even computer science courses previously developed for students across the state in recent years prior to this announcement. These include several “low-floor, high-ceiling” programs designed to engage students who do not see themselves traditionally in math or STEM fields – and would otherwise not elect to take further math courses at all. 


These new guidelines may also risk disenfranchising many students across the state from college access to the UC system. A prior letter to UC submitted from 15 college access groups cautioned significant risks to historically marginalized students already enrolled in existing courses, and since the announcement, over 100+ school math leaders across the Golden State have expressed concerns about the process by which these new recommendations were reached in another open letter


We concur that AI engineers need calculus and linear algebra in the same way bridge engineers need geometry and physics. It would be erroneous to claim otherwise. Nor does anyone intend to lower expectations, but rather raise both the depth and usefulness of academic outcomes most critical for today. We are also united on the most important idea expressed: we all want more students to take more mathematics in high school. Willingly. We concurrently fear today’s required approach renders math indifference rather than math preparation. Moreover, critical differences emerge when considering what is most important for students across sectors, job types, and work environments today, and with what and when to specialize.


DS4E is committed to building common ground and intentional, thoughtful, and careful approaches to the integration of emerging technology education into the K-12 curriculum. No one is better positioned than our technology leaders to give clear guidance on the preparation necessary for specializing in these fields or in academic research. Yet this work necessitates moving at an appropriate speed and with the right input from many and more diverse experts, including industry leaders across sectors, faculty across disciplines, and K-12 educators across many community contexts to ensure the most students possible participate in the AI economy. 


To that end, we hope technology leaders can help guide the education sector to understand 1) What skills and content preparation is ideal for students who intend to specialize in Data Science or the design of AI tools? 2) What skills, critical thinking, and other content is ideal for students across all careers and life pursuits to appropriately, safely, and ethically leverage these tools for problem-solving? 3) In what additional school subjects should universal AI and data literacy be reinforced? 


DS4E has extended invitations to the signing industry leaders to join a Data Science 4 Everyone Advisory Board to inform this work, along with a humble request on behalf of the community to philanthropically support these ongoing efforts across the country, and ensure resources are made available to the countless teachers, schools, and districts who are tirelessly building these opportunities on a daily basis. 


Have questions about what data science education entails in K-12 education? See our FAQs here


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