Cover: Supporting Equitable Math Instruction in California

Supporting Equitable Math Instruction in California

Findings from the 2022 Learn Together Survey and the 2022 American Instructional Resources Survey

Published Mar 21, 2023

by Ashley Woo, Elizabeth D. Steiner

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Research Questions

  1. To what extent does California math teachers' provision of standards-aligned, grade-level instruction vary by the types of students they teach?
  2. To what extent do California math teachers prioritize culturally relevant math instruction, and what kinds of supports do they need to more adequately provide culturally relevant math instruction?
  3. How much guidance do California math teachers provide to students about math opportunities available in high school and beyond?
  4. What are teachers' perceptions about the continuity of new programs or initiatives at their schools?

In 2023, California will implement a new statewide math framework that will drive curriculum decisions and pedagogical approaches for years to come. Although the state's content standards for mathematics are not changing, a statewide framework could nevertheless shift instruction by providing educators with guidance on how to implement content standards. Such guidance could describe the kinds of instruction, instructional materials, and professional development that would support successful implementation of standards-based instruction. Districts, schools, and teachers may require numerous coordinated supports to implement the framework's relatively novel priorities, including guidance on curriculum material selection and adoption, professional learning, and teacher preparation.

RAND researchers draw on two teacher surveys, the 2022 Learn Together Survey (LTS) and the 2022 American Instructional Resources Survey (AIRS). Both surveys draw on RAND's American Teacher Panel, which is a nationally representative sample of more than 22,000 teachers across the United States. The researchers leveraged data collected from math teachers in California to paint a picture of math instruction throughout the state. These data illuminate ways in which state and local education leaders can foster equitable instruction in the context of the state's new framework.

Key Findings

  • Ninety-one percent of California math teachers reported that they spent the majority of their five most-recent lessons on grade-level, standards-aligned topics.
  • One-third of California math teachers reported skipping standards-aligned math content occasionally or frequently. These teachers were most likely to replace skipped content with content from prior grade levels.
  • Half of California math teachers reported regularly using at least one standards-aligned curriculum material, but this rate was lower among teachers serving high-poverty schools and secondary teachers.
  • Although culturally relevant math instruction was not a top priority for California math teachers when selecting instructional tasks or activities, roughly four in ten teachers said that they had a major or moderate need for more or better culturally relevant curriculum materials.
  • Few California middle school teachers advised students on the high school math courses available to them.
  • About half of California math teachers expressed concerns with continuity of programming in their schools, suggesting a need to sustain efforts to improve math instruction in the state.


  • Provide teachers with the curriculum materials and professional learning to successfully enact culturally relevant math instruction.
  • Integrate statewide goals into the next curriculum adoption cycle and support the equitable adoption of standards-aligned curriculum materials.
  • Provide teachers with support on how to advise students on their future math pathways and create structured opportunities to provide students with equitable access to guidance.
  • Sustain efforts to improve math instruction by messaging a shared vision, coherently embedding supports into multiple aspects of the instructional system, and periodically gathering feedback from teachers.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was conducted by RAND Education and Labor and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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