Did Florida Reject Math Textbooks, Citing References to Critical Race Theory?

Yes, but some of the textbook pages being spread online as "examples" are unrelated. 

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Ron DeSantis
Image via Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Claim

Florida has rejected a number of mathematics textbooks on the basis that they allegedly reference critical race theory (CRT).

Rating

Context

Although Florida has indeed rejected a number of mathematics textbooks on the basis that they allegedly contain references to CRT, the specific content the Department of Education found objectionable has not been made public. Also, a number of alleged textbook excerpts circulating online that include references to sexual abuse and slavery are not, in fact, content from those textbooks.

Fact Check

The Florida Department of Education rejected a number of mathematics textbooks for public schools that the department said contained references to critical race theory (CRT), and other “prohibited topics or unsolicited strategies.” On April 19, 2022, Gov. Ron DeSantis said the material in the rejected textbooks was “proprietary” and as such would not be made public. 

In a statement on its website, the Department of Education said 41% of the submitted textbooks on the list would not be included for the following reasons (emphasis added):

The approved list followed a thorough review of submissions at the Department, which found 41 percent of the submitted textbooks were impermissible with either Florida’s new standards or contained prohibited topics – the most in Florida’s history. Reasons for rejecting textbooks included references to Critical Race Theory (CRT), inclusions of Common Core, and the unsolicited addition of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in mathematics. The highest number of books rejected were for grade levels K-5, where an alarming 71 percent were not appropriately aligned with Florida standards or included prohibited topics and unsolicited strategies. Despite rejecting 41 percent of materials submitted, every core mathematics course and grade is covered with at least one textbook.

The department did not share information on the specific content that it objected to and the textbook publishers told The New York Times they had not received details about the objections. 

“It seems that some publishers attempted to slap a coat of paint on an old house built on the foundation of Common Core, and indoctrinating concepts like race essentialism, especially, bizarrely, for elementary school students,” DeSantis said.

In 2021, Florida banned CRT from all classrooms in the state, arguing that instruction “must be factual and objective, and may not suppress or distort significant historical events.” Back then DeSantis took issue with the curriculum, describing it as “the theory that racism is not merely the product of prejudice, but that racism is embedded in American society and its legal systems in order to uphold the supremacy of white persons.”

Snopes has covered CRT and the controversies surrounding it previously.

In recent years, Florida has passed legislation limiting the ways that race, gender, sexual orientation and social-emotional wellness can be taught and discussed in classrooms. DeSantis is also expected to sign legislation that prohibits instruction that could potentially make students feel uncomfortable about historical events because of their own race, sex, or origins.  

The Department of Education also cited materials from the Common Core as objectionable. Common Core is a nationwide effort to standardize mathematics and literacy curriculum expectations, and Florida and a number of other states have pushed back against it. 

While the exact content described as objectionable is not publicly available, this did not stop many on the internet from sharing posts falsely purporting to show pages from the rejected mathematics textbooks. 

One post on Facebook claimed that a question in a math textbook that also mentioned sexual abuse was in one of the rejected books. In reality, the question was from a math textbook in a Philadelphia high school (a claim we fact-checked back in 2018). Some of the questions related to the life of the Black poet Maya Angelou, as outlined in her autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Another post, sent to us by readers, argued that a series of math questions that referenced slavery was also in the rejected textbooks. These questions were in fact from an elementary school in Georgia and generated controversy back in 2012. 

Sources:

Archie, Ayana. “Florida Rejects 54 Math Books, Claiming Critical Race Theory Appeared in Some.” NPR, 18 Apr. 2022. NPR, https://www.npr.org/2022/04/18/1093277449/florida-mathematics-textbooks. Accessed 20 Apr. 2022.

“Did a Teacher Assign Math Homework That Referred to Sexual Assault?” Snopes.Com, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/math-homework-sexual-assault/. Accessed 20 Apr. 2022.

“Florida Bans ‘critical Race Theory’ from Its Classrooms.” AP NEWS, 10 June 2021, https://apnews.com/article/florida-race-and-ethnicity-government-and-politics-education-74d0af6c52c0009ec3fa3ee9955b0a8d. Accessed 20 Apr. 2022.

“Florida Still Won’t Explain Why It Rejected Math Textbooks.” Tampa Bay Times, https://www.tampabay.com/news/education/2022/04/18/florida-still-wont-specify-why-it-rejected-math-textbooks/. Accessed 20 Apr. 2022.

Goldstein, Dana. “Florida Rejects Math Textbooks, Citing ‘Prohibited Topics.’” The New York Times, 18 Apr. 2022. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/18/us/florida-math-textbooks-critical-race-theory.html. Accessed 20 Apr. 2022.

Golgowski, Nina. “‘If Eight Slaves Pick 56 Oranges…’ Georgia School under Fire for Racist, Violent Math Homework.” Mail Online, 8 Jan. 2012, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2083734/If-slaves-pick-56-oranges–Georgia-school-racist-violent-math-homework.html. Accessed 20 Apr. 2022.

“School Under Fire For Slavery In School Worksheet.” HuffPost, 8 Jan. 2012, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/examples-of-slavery-in-school-worksheet_n_1192512. Accessed 20 Apr. 2022.

Solodev. Florida Rejects Publishers’ Attempts to Indoctrinate Students. 17 Oct. 2020, https://www.fldoe.org/newsroom/latest-news/florida-rejects-publishers-attempts-to-indoctrinate-students.stml. Accessed 20 Apr. 2022.

“What Is Critical Race Theory and Why Are Some People So Mad at It?” Snopes.Com, https://www.snopes.com/news/2021/05/27/what-is-critical-race-theory/. Accessed 20 Apr. 2022.