This article from KQED MindShift makes the argument that with appropriate instruction, math can be accessible to nearly every student. Highlighting the math and neuroscience research of Jo Boaler and others, a strong case is made that math failure stems from ineffective instructional methods and learners’ negative attitudes and beliefs about their own math abilities. It does not stem from natural ability or genetics, as is often assumed. In fact, a study cited in the article suggests that “only 2 to 3 percent of people have such significant learning disabilities that they can’t learn math at the highest levels.”
Acknowledging this is one step, but putting it into practice is another. Boaler suggests fostering a growth mindset and avoiding a fixed mindset. That is, teachers should help even the lowest-achieving students understand that they can reach advanced math understanding, even if it takes longer than their peers. Assigning problems that are open-ended, discussion-based, and as Boaler puts it, “low floor/high ceiling” will give students at different levels the opportunity to participate.