Bringing math class into the data age

Life in the 21st-century is defined by data, tracking everything from our shopping and exercise habits to the spread of disease and the impact of climate change. Some educators are asking how schools can prepare young people to make sense of it all: Should data science become as much a part of the K-12 mathematics curriculum as geometry, algebra and calculus?

Jo Boaler (Image Credit: Sherry Tesler/Light FX Photography)

Intent on elevating data science to a more prominent place in K-12 education, a group of 50 mathematicians, data scientists, teachers and education policy leaders gathered for a daylong summit at Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE) on Feb. 3.

Led by GSE professor JO BOALER, the event brought participants together to strategize next steps for a burgeoning movement to modernize the K-12 math curriculum for the data age.

“The world has changed dramatically in recent years, but our mathematics curriculum has stayed the same,” said Boaler, the Nomellini and Olivier Professor of Education at Stanford and co-founder of, an organization providing resources for math learning. “We urgently need to teach kids what they’re actually going to use in their lives and their work. So we brought together the people we think can make this movement happen.”

The gathering grew out of an ongoing collaboration between Boaler and Steven Levitt, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and co-author of the best-selling Freakonomics books, which apply data science to a variety of topics in contemporary culture. The pair recently co-authored an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times that called for putting data science at the center of high school mathematics.

Read more on the GSE website.