"For us to add a whole extra requirement that specifically focuses on math and quantitative reasoning ... means that there really needs to be a deep and serious plan in place," Arrillaga said.
She said that plan should include identification of the districts that would be most impacted, a strategy for directing high-quality teachers to those schools, and metrics for evaluating progress in increasing course offerings at underresourced schools.
Across the region and state, educators are divided on the proposal.
At Roybal Learning Center downtown, Robert Montgomery teaches "Transition to College Mathematics and Statistics," a course developed by the Los Angeles Unified School District in partnership with California State, Northridge as an alternative math class for 12th graders. The course includes review of essential math skills and hands-on, group-based problem solving.
One recent morning, Montgomery walked his 23 students through a lesson on comparing risk. He put up a table on the slide projector that showed the frequency of lung cancer among smokers and non-smokers and asked his students, working in groups, to answer a series of questions about the data.
"You just need some very simple math ... It all has to do with that data table," he told them.
Montgomery, who has taught math for 30 years, has long been a proponent of a fourth year of high school math. But, he said, "I got tired of the kids asking, 'Are we ever going to use this?' "
One of his students, Kenia Zelaya, struggled in Algebra I, Geometry and, especially, Algebra II honors, in which she said she received a D grade.
"I used to love math, but when I got to high school I thought math was so hard," the 17-year-old said.
That day in Montgomery's class, though, Zelaya was the first to solve a math riddle involving a group of people crossing a bridge under a particular set of constraints.