Stanford Investigates Allegations of Research Misconduct Against ‘Equitable Math’ Advocate

Professor Jo Boaler misrepresented research in her work, complaint alleges

Stanford professor Jo Boaler (
April 11, 2024

Stanford University has opened an investigation into allegations that California’s prominent "math equity" advocate, math education professor Jo Boaler, misused research to support contentious claims that underpin her work, according to an email obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

"We are very aware of the current controversy surrounding Professor Boaler’s work," Stanford’s vice president of alumni affairs wrote to a university alum who had reached out to officials with concerns about the allegations. "At the same time, we are firm believers in academic freedom at Stanford and grant our faculty wide latitude in pursuing their research and scholarship. We are consequently reviewing these anonymous allegations with that in mind."

Boaler herself spoke up about the complaint on Monday, weeks after it was filed in March. In a statement branded with the Stanford logo, Boaler said the allegations are "the same pattern of attack used against Black DEI faculty at Harvard." She referred to the Free Beacon, which first reported on the complaint, as a "far-right publication" and criticized a media report from the Chronicle of Higher Education as a "shoddy and indolent journalistic approach."

Stanford, which did not respond to multiple requests for comment, told the Stanford Daily that it is not a formal probe.

"Stanford takes such allegations seriously and considers them accordingly. The first step is to determine if the matter is one properly resolved in scholarly debate rather than through a formal university process," Stanford spokeswoman Luisa Rapport said.

Boaler, who teaches at the university’s graduate school of education, allegedly misrepresented citations to support some of her contentious claims, including that timed tests cause math anxiety and that students perform better if they aren’t graded. In her statement, she said the allegations "demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of educational research approaches, or a simple difference in interpretation of results," adding that she and "many others who have read their accusations" do not believe they "show any evidence of ‘academic misconduct.’"

Boaler leads a research center at Stanford called Youcubed, which produces teacher trainings, school curricula, summer camps, and more based on her work to promote "equitable" approaches to teaching math. Youcubed online courses for teachers can start as high as $1,800 per person, and upcoming events include a May 16 webinar featuring Boaler and Yolande Beckles—a woman who has several court judgments against her for financial fraud from the U.K. and who has rebranded herself as an "equity" education advocate in California after scamming £12,000 from poor British children.

Boaler has been an "equity" advocate for years and was the most prominent author of the recently adopted, "social justice"-focused California math framework, which seeks to guide the math instruction for the state’s nearly six million public school students. The framework is viewed by critics as undercutting math teaching standards in the name of equity.

Through her Youcubed newsletter, Boaler in 2021 touted the framework’s "social justice" approach, including the guidance—which was removed before final approval—that advanced middle schoolers shouldn’t be offered more challenging courses. She celebrated these ideas as potentially a "new mathematics future for students in California (and possibly beyond)."

She was also cited as a leading influence in San Francisco public schools’ decision to quit teaching 8th grade algebra—a policy that led to disastrous results and is in the process of being reversed. Boaler has distanced herself from the policy, saying she has always supported teaching 8th grade algebra, in a contradiction of past statements.

In 2015, after rolling out the algebra ban, the school district credited her and her Stanford research for "helping us stay strong." And in 2019, Boaler was quoted by the George Lucas Educational Foundation as a "Stanford University mathematics education professor and researcher who has worked with the district."

"San Francisco had a strong team of math coaches and leaders who knew what research was telling them and decided to take it on," Boaler said.

Update April 12, 10:00 a.m.: This post has been updated with comment from Stanford.