Florida Department of Education offers examples of math book concerns

Six days after rejecting the use of several math textbooks because of concerns about “impermissible content,” the Florida Department of Education on Thursday quietly posted a handful of examples of its rationale to its website.

One question about adding and subtracting polynomials reads, “What? Me? Racist? More than 2 million people have tested their racial prejudice using an online version of the Implicit Association Test.” It goes on to provide mathematical models that measure bias.

The Florida Department of Education identified this question as one with “impermissible” content in math textbooks up for adoption for 2022-23. [ Florida Department of Education ]

In another relating to number sequence, it offers content, language and social-emotional learning objectives. The latter is that “students build proficiency with social awareness as they practice with empathizing with classmates.”

In a disclaimer sentence on its instructional materials page, the department stated that members of the public complained about the questions during a two-week commenting period in January about the math adoption.

“These examples do not represent an exhaustive list of input received by the Department,” the statement reads. “The Department is continuing to give publishers the opportunity to remediate all deficiencies identified during the review to ensure the broadest selection of high quality instructional materials are available to the school districts and Florida’s students.”

The department had come under fire from skeptics who questioned whether any of the 54 books contained any of the offending material that Gov. Ron DeSantis and others claimed appeared in them. In releasing the items, the department aimed to counter the critics who accused Republican leaders of manufacturing a controversy to advance a political agenda.

Related: Florida still won’t explain why it rejected math textbooks

DeSantis and his team had argued that the books included inappropriate material about “critical race theory,” and that publishers were working in concert to indoctrinate children. The allegations baffled many educators, not to mention the publishers who were caught off guard by the action.

The department sent two one-line emails to the publishers on April 15. The first alerted them that the list of approved math books had been posted online, and the second advised them that they could appeal the decisions if they wish. Some of the publishers including Savvas and Big Ideas Learning have said they intend to seek additional reviews from the state.

Related: Here are the math textbooks Florida rejected for having unwanted topics

Several school districts, meanwhile, are reconsidering the titles they have already adopted, or plan to approve, based on the state’s announcement. They are not required to buy books off the state approved list, but may use only half of their state funding for instructional materials for items not on state lists.

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