This Week at Global Math – 2/2/21


Curated By Chase Orton @mathgeek76

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Partnering with Parents in Elementary School Math

Presented by Hilary Kreisberg and Matthew Beyranevand

In this session, you will deepen your understanding of parents’ needs and wants as they pertain to their children’s elementary mathematics education, as well as examine your own beliefs about partnering with parents. We will provide guidance for teachers and leaders on how to communicate with parents and caregivers, as well as offer practical tips that educators and school leaders can use immediately to systematically change their relationships with families.

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“Are you sure you’re in the right class?”
“Are you sure you’re in the right class?” My new complex analysis classmate had waited until I was seated, smiling gently as he asked. In each retelling of this now all-but-cliché micro-aggression (among others), I emerge victorious – armed with a savage comeback and the resolve to dismantle stereotypes about women of color in mathematics through my own achievements. In truth, I wasn’t sure that I did belong in that class; I had enrolled in the “honors” section only because the others were either full or conflicted with my work schedule. I remember little of my actual response beyond its awkward, muted rage, and the lingering self-doubts that my various forms of privilege and past successes in mathematics could not buffer against.
In the decade since, I sought to support my students, and particularly my female students of color, in cultivating the types of positive mathematics identities that I had struggled to maintain throughout my own schooling. Drawing from Dr. Erica Walker’s (@EricaNWalker) research on mathematics identity, I designed student reflections around their experiences with and perceptions of mathematics, hoping that routinely integrating stories of diverse mathematicians and mathematics origins would gradually shift their own narratives. I implemented further lessons, developed in collaboration with my Math for America colleagues, around Imposter Syndrome – seeking to address the self-doubts that continued to haunt our less confident students even after they had experienced success in our classes. It was disheartening to realize this year that, once again, our most disengaged and struggling students were disproportionately young women of color. Even successfully completing the most challenging problems and communicating their strategies to peers yielded only fleeting improvements.
I had assumed until lately that my own mathematics identity had finally solidified, equipping me with sufficient tools to support my students along their own math journeys. It was just this semester, however – upon enrolling in my first mathematics course as a doctoral student – that I recalled how stubbornly and insidiously one’s mathematics anxieties endure. I chose to take a mathematical foundations course with a favorite professor, having loved and enrolled in nearly every available formal logic course and set theory course as an undergraduate. Even so, I found myself paralyzed with self-doubt over our first assignment before so much as looking at the problems. Only at my friend and classmate’s commitment to attend office hours together did I work up the courage to go – again, despite already knowing and liking our professor. It is doubtful that any praise of my mathematics skills or recounts of past successes would have reassured me.

With new insights into our students’ experiences, and in coming to understand one’s mathematics identity construction as an ongoing (perhaps lifelong) process, I am left wondering how to shift beyond merely positive math identities and toward what Dr. Ebony McGee (@RelationshipGAP) terms “robust” mathematics identities: ones grounded in authentic enjoyment of mathematics and internal motivations to succeed as opposed to, for instance, disproving stereotypes or making one’s family members proud (see Figure 1 below for a summary of McGee’s (2015) Fragile and Robust Mathematics Identity Framework). Perhaps one step toward this goal lies simply in supporting our students in building and maintaining mathematics learning communities of peers they can relate to, as Walker has articulated. I can attest to the benefits of not only talking through problems with one’s friends, but also of rallying together to attend office hours and laugh at the occasional micro-aggression.

– Nasriah Morrison [@nasriahmorrison]

Six Direct Actions: BHM Reading; Org Joining; Math Talks/Trails
The six direct actions below are:

A) Follow/read Mathematically Gifted & Black.
B) Read some/all of the Notices of the AMS Feb 2021 issue.
C) Donate to Lathisms’ fundraiser for nonprofit status.
D) Join TODOS and vote in their Board Election.
E) Sign up to give a talk through TMWYF, or convince others you know to do so.
F) Learn about Math Trails and consider whether you can implement them at your own learning site(s) in an action-oriented manner.
With February comes Black History Month. Many white people found themselves saying, hearing, reading, writing, or thinking about “anti-Blackness” for the first time ever within the past year. For some, this apparent reckoning was long, long overdue. Rather than BHM being a month long respite from what educators usually do, I hope to use this month to examine my year round practices and see where I have evolved and where I still need to focus.
Still, there are particular ways in which BHM is celebrated in mathematics communities; here are two:
A) Check the Mathematically Gifted & Black (MGB) twitter account for daily spotlights; their full February calendar is available here.
B) Check the Notices of the AMS February 2021 issue (PDF) which kicks off with “A Word From…” Robin Wilson.

The mention above should not be construed as implicit support for the AMS. (It is true that I support MGB!) You may wish to learn more about a recent occurrence at the AMS around a sub-optimally named fellowship, and the nastiness directed towards a targeted few after pointing out this problematic feature. There are some AMS members reconsidering whether to maintain membership at all. See, e.g., the comment here (more generally, you can search twitter by latest as done here).
Segueing to other organizations, here are two recommendations for direct actions that you can take:

C) Support LATHISMS (site; twitter) by donating to their fundraiser around forming a nonprofit organization.
D) Join TODOS (site; twitter) where there is currently an ongoing Board Election for President, Vice President, and Director. Only members can vote, and I can comfortably say that this has been the most worthwhile org membership I have purchased: position papers and webinars alone justify the very reasonable cost.

In my personal capacity as a TODOS member, I endorse (and have already voted for):
Florence Glanfield for President-Elect;
Sylvia Celedón-Pattichis for Vice President;
Marian Dingle (@DingleTeach) for Director.
Finally, two items on what I am doing personally with math talking/teaching:

E) I gave a talk through Talk Math With Your Friends (TMWYF) that can now be found on YouTube [see also this related thread on imposter syndrome, which connects to Nasriah’s writing above!]. Thanks to the organizers for inviting me, and I remind GMD readers that they are looking for other presenters: Check the previous GMD Newsletter from Sep 8 2020 for a TMWYF contribution. Who can you encourage to participate? [Note: I’ve also accepted an invitation to speak at an ISDDE Virtual Conference in March 2021 called Designing for Equity; the plenary address will be from Robert Berry, who was the first MGB honoree this year.]
F) I have continued to think about “Math Trails” – which have been around since at least the mid-1980s – and ways in which they can be oriented more towards justice. You can find some of my thinking around this in the context of Stars On A Flag threaded here. In particular, there is a trail item around considering the aesthetics of a star arrangement, but it arises in the context of flag design if a new state is admitted to the US. I argue that we cannot be content to think about statehood only in the abstract context of whether star arrangements are pretty – even as I love the depth of mathematics involved in such a question. This is why my current assignment, in which students are to write a math trail item, has two additional prompts:

  1. name a justice-oriented context to which their item connects, or in which they are interested;
  2. look up who their House Representative is, and check Congress dotgov to see what connects to their item/context.

Which of the six action items above, from A through E, can you commit to?
What other actions are you taking, or planning to take, one full month into 2021?
– Benjamin Dickman [@benjamindickman]

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