Is this how it’s going to be from now on each summer? Guns, police, death and protests?
Math educators on twitter were searching for a response. Jose Vilson called for integrating issues of equity into standard curricular topics. So did Avery Pickford: “Imagine MP #9: Use mathematical tools to critique social constructs and promote positive change.”
What could this look like? Rethinking Schools has a book. Radical Math has a “Guide for Integrating Issues of Social and Economic Justice into Mathematics Curriculum.” It includes advice, sample problems, and a lengthy table with links to online data resources sorted by mathematical area. For example, under “fractions” they list a link to the site “Cost of War”. They also suggest lessons on AIDS, the lottery, gentrification and factors impacting high school graduation rates.
Scrolling through the guide, I wondered what a version of the guide would look like under other political influences. A statistics lesson on political affiliation and bias in? Using percents to show the failure of the welfare state? If equitable math instruction involves incorporating your politics, does having wrong politics make you a worse math teacher? I worry about this, but that doesn’t mean this project isn’t important and worth pursuing.
Beyond a socially relevant curriculum, there is also the question of policy. Danny Martin questions whether NCTM is truly committed to equity in mathematics. After all, NCTM’s focus (in Principles to Action and other documents) is on excellent teaching, curriculum and resources equitably distributed. This, Martin argues, is a policy that is fundamentally incapable of closing achievement gaps, even if it would lead to absolute gains for all.
I’ve read the NCTM response a few times now, and I can’t make sense of it. It seems to accept Martin’s critique while simultaneously reframing it. (“While we have made progress, we have not made enough progress. We all need to do more.”) In any event, the last lines are the most interesting: “Those interested in collaborating in this work should contact NCTM at email@example.com.”
(Thank you to Bryan Meyer, Megan Schmidt and Tracy Zager for sharing many of the links above.)
~by Michael Pershan (@mpershan)