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NGOs: Stop Teaching Greater/Less Than In Math; “Value Judgments”

“Why did the administration rely on a set of numbers to determine whether or not I belong in physics, calculus, or chemistry?”

greater than less thanTel Aviv, April 15 – A coalition of non-governmental organizations has petitioned the Ministry of Education to remove all references to different numerical values as “greater than” or “less than” in the arithmetic and mathematics curricula, saying that such terms send the wrong message about equality and value judgments.

Students and Teachers United in Protest over Institutional Discrimination (STUPID), an umbrella group of political and education organizations, submitted a petition to Minister of Education Naftali Bennett today, urging him to restructure mathematics education in Israel to reflect the sensitivities they emphasize, such as acceptance, pluralism, and equality. Too much of children’s primary education, they wrote, is based on destructive notions such as assigning numerical values to people or objects, when their true value defies quantification.

“We can no longer encourage our young people to develop the assumption that four is inherently less than five,” they wrote. “The entire vocabulary of the mathematics curriculum cements mores and cultural assumptions that simply do not belong in a society that strives for inclusion.”

STUPID coordinator T. Pesh explained that numbers are inherently prejudiced. “People make all sorts of unwarranted assumptions about others based on sets of numerals, and that cannot be what we encourage in our schools,” he said in an interview. “In the short term we cannot expect the minister to implement every single one of our requests, but over the next several years, I do believe we have a change to eliminate such discriminatory notions as grades and scores.”

Other STUPID activists pointed to how their own bitter experiences in school could have been prevented or remedied if the principles in their petition were in place at the time. “My self-esteem has suffered ever since I scored what people considered ‘poorly’ on an exam in the sixth grade,” recalled Hope Liss. “It’s a patently unfair idea that just because I can’t answer as many questions the way the teacher wants as somebody else can, I should be judged in some way, and suffer as a result.”

Liss notes that her entire career has been shaped by the trauma of that moment. “Not being viewed as capable in comparison to my peers, I was doomed to be assigned to certain classes and to be excluded from others,” she continued. “Why did the administration rely on a set of numbers to determine whether or not I belong in physics, calculus, or chemistry? They had no right to do that. But I can’t blame them – they were raised in a system that viewed people through the prism of numbers. We, however, can grow beyond that.”

“I visualize a day when we no longer discriminate on the basis of anything,” she concluded. “My ex-boyfriend will have no right to tell me I can’t be with him anymore – that would be discrimination.”

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