A Missouri school district spent more than $61,000 on a new math curriculum that prioritizes “cultural, racial, and gender diversity.” 

Webster Groves School District plans to roll out a new elementary math curriculum from Imagine Learning Illustrative Mathematics this fall. The school board approved spending $61,450 on the change at an April 25 meeting, according to a PowerPoint presentation posted on BoardDocs and reviewed by The Daily Signal

The district chose the program for its “balance of images or information about people, representing various demographic and physical characteristics.” The district, in the wealthy suburbs west of St. Louis, has 10 schools and 4,409 students.

The selection criteria for the kindergarten through fifth-grade curriculum included that the “materials prioritize cultural, racial, and gender diversity and supports the Webster Groves School District Equity Resolution.”

The equity resolution, adopted in 2017, advertises Webster Groves’ commitment to “confront issues of bias and social injustice.”

The district used EdReports’ research in making the choice, which helped Webster Groves determine the curriculum encourages teachers to “draw upon student cultural and social backgrounds to facilitate learning.”

The curriculum “represent[s] different races and portray[s] people from many ethnicities in a positive, respectful manner, with no demographic bias for who achieves success in the context of problems,” according to Susan Bergman, the district’s math curriculum director, citing EdReports’ review. 

“Characters in the program are illustrations of children or adults with representation of different races and populations of students,” the EdReport review continues. “Problem settings vary from rural to urban and international locations.”

EdReports, a nonprofit that reviews instructional materials, is partially funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Illustrative Mathematics touts its commitment to “culturally responsive pedagogy” on its website, saying its materials encourage students to bring “their whole selves” to math class.

“Materials are designed to affirm students as they build positive mathematical identities,” the website says. 

The $61,000 cost includes teacher’s editions, online student licenses, professional learning for staff, and unit-planning guides for Webster Groves’ six elementary schools. The district will spend additional funds on the recurring student handbook cost. 

Webster Groves has evaluated its math curriculum for the past year. Last April, Bergman announced the district’s plans to include the personal pronouns “they/them” in math problems and hire certified teachers as “math interventionists” to fight racism and gender bias in math classes. 

“A persistent myth within math education is that since ‘numbers are universal,’ math classrooms are objective and free of bias,” Bergman said in her presentation. 

“Research shows clearly that any space where learning occurs is neither free of bias, nor resistant to oppressive systems, such as racism, sexism, classism, or xenophobia,” she added. 

The district did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment by time of publication.