The Last Run Continues – May 16, 2023

Curated By Nate Goza @thegozaway
View this email in your browser

Online Professional Development Sessions

Tonight at 9:00 PM EST

Building Thinking Classrooms: Six Years Later

Presented by Peter Liljedahl

In this session, Leigh Nataro and Peter Liljedahl engage in a conversation about what has changed and what is new with regards to Building thinking Classrooms since his first Global Math Department presentation in March 2017.

If you have questions for Peter, we will try to ask them during the webinar! Send them to Leigh at

Unfortunately this session is full! As always we will be recording the session and it will soon be available on BigMarker, YouTube, and in podcast form.

For those of you who are registered click here to view the webinar!

Register for Our Final Webinar on 5/30 at 9:00 PM EST

Finding Joy in Math

Presented by Howie Hua

It is common for a math educator to hear “I’m not a math person” or “Oh, I hate math.” How can we show that math as a subject is something to go towards rather than avoid? In this talk, we will discuss ways of finding joy in doing math inside and outside of the classroom.

Click here to register for this webinar!

#GMDWrites Again!

Taking Care and Caution with Data Literacy
By: Lizi Metts

Data has become an integral part of our society and culture – from the constant creation of data on mobile devices to the everyday use of data in media and news coverage of current events, politics, and public health. The newfound ubiquity of data opens up opportunities for relevant and meaningful contextual engagement of mathematics using data and data analysis practices and has prompted calls to support students’ data literacy and to modernize mathematics curricula. By ‘data literacy,’ I mean the necessary skills and abilities to access, make sense of, interpret, critique, represent, and ethically use data. As data has become more and more a part of our social world, it’s becoming more apparent that data literacy is important for students – for their lives now and for their futures outside of our classrooms. Data literacy is becoming increasingly necessary for democratic participation as well as economic success, as data is used in a variety of economic contexts and the creation of Big Data careers.

There is a lot of potential here for mathematics education to keep up with these modern needs. Data Science curriculum developers and supporters contrast data science to traditional mathematics learning pathways in which algebra and geometry lay the foundation for calculus. Indeed, there are numerous data science curricula available for teachers to implement and activities like “Data Talks” (think number talks, but with data visualizations) that make incorporating data literacy accessible to math teachers. In my own teaching, I fell in love with teaching statistics. It felt mathematically meaningful but also rich and engaging for my students. I began to incorporate real data into my lessons, whether students were collecting their own data for my AP Statistics class, or I sourced data to create function models for Algebra II and Pre-Calculus, I saw data as an opportunity to make mathematics matter to my students. However, this work was also really complex, both mathematically and socially – finding data, trying to support my students to engage with messier numbers, and opening up discussion about the realities of our social world. My own experience in teaching data literacy has led me to approach the broad and urgent uptake of data science education with a sense of caution.

Problematic Roots in Statistics

Statistics, as an area of study, offers a formalized and rigorous lens through which one can investigate real-world questions and data. Furthermore, statistics standards are embedded in school mathematics standards starting in grade six, creating curricular opportunities for supporting students’ data literacy. However, the language, logic, and philosophy of statistics (and especially the canonical ideas in statistics that have made their way into school standards) are entangled with eugenics and white supremacy. For example, three major statisticians, Francis Galton, Karl Pearson, and Ronald Fisher, made substantial and long lasting contributions that have shaped the discipline. These contributors however, were also eugenicists, and were motivated by providing scientific and mathematical evidence of white superiority (to learn more, check out Aubrey Clayton’s 2020 article, “How Eugenics Shaped Statistics”).

Galton was responsible for foundational understandings of regression and correlation and advanced the concept of normal distribution to model the variation of human abilities. These inventions were based on his understanding of race and white superiority – he not only centered whiteness in his models, but he also used his models to argue for racial hierarchies. Pearson has been credited with improving the theoretical rigor of statistics with the introduction of significance tests. In particular, he brought about the Chi-square test to measure the deviation between empirical results and the theoretical distribution. This “scientific” definition of difference was an important and dangerous part of an argument for white racial superiority. These logics were furthered by Fisher who promoted significance testing as “objective basis” and introduced a gatekeeping logic for statistics as a discipline: “A profession must have power to select its own   members, rigorously to exclude all inferior types” (Fisher, 1917). Statistics and data analysis practices are contextual and socio-historically situated, and by inviting students to engage in this kind of mathematical practice, they too will contend with contextual and socio-historical dimensions.

Reimagining Data Literacy

It is dangerous to ignore the ways data literacy is defined by a culture of power that has weaponized data in the past. As data science continues to gain momentum and math education recenters on data literacy, there is potential to invite new and more affirming and inclusive epistemologies. For example in their book, Data Feminism, Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein offer an  emergent framework for changing data practices and discourse in service of equity and justice. Framing data as a tool to examine and critique power, they define seven principles of data feminism:

  1. Examine power – how does power operate in the world?
  2. Challenge  power – how can we challenge unequal power structures and move towards justice?
  3. Elevate emotion and embodiment – how can we learn and know in different ways, including how we live and feel in our own bodies?
  4. Rethink binaries and hierarchies – how are binary systems of counting and classification used to perpetuate oppression?
  5. Embrace pluralism – who can we learn from?
  6. Consider context – where does data come from? For what purpose was it created? What goals does it serve?
  7. Make labor  visible – who were the many hands involved in the creation and analysis of data?

Data feminism is an example of rigorous treatment of data that makes space for and values multiple ways of knowing and takes seriously the social and historical context of data creation and use. This kind of approach makes it possible to marry authentic disciplinary data practices with expansive and experiential ways of knowing and learning.

A more just and expansive approach, however, is not a given. Without care and caution, data literacy can be used to uncritically serve meritocratic and capitalistic goals. Data literacy might make mathematics more relevant or interesting, but to whom and for whom? How important is access and relevance if ultimately, it serves the needs of whiteness while continuing the cycle of oppression? Therefore, we are on the edge of a precipice – to allow data literacy to function as mathematical proficiency has historically, or to take the opportunity to disrupt the status quo and to use data for justice and liberation.

Wisdom I’ve Learned During My Time In GMD

Since 2016, I’ve had the honor to write and curate for the GMD newsletter and present a GMD webinar. I’ve learned much from this community. And for my final submission, I would like to share some.

The unfortunate reality is that we work in a system of math education that values test scores as the ultimate metric of success and progress. But this focus on raising test scores creates math classrooms that reward mimicry, answer-getting, and passive thinking. Students wait to be told what to learn and how to learn it. The focus on test scores diminishes their identity, reducing them down to test scores that need to be raised. This focus also diminishes our own identity and erodes our passion. None of us became math teachers because we’re passionate about raising test scores and training students to be test-takers. We are motivated by more noble calls to action—our vision of equity and seeing all of our students thriving in math class.

Teaching is a craft we learn best through each other.

We work in a system of silos—school buildings, separate campuses, grade levels, bell schedules, and especially our classroom walls. These silos threaten our sense of well-being because we often find ourselves without the collegial relationships and the co-thinking conversations we need to help each other thrive as teachers. But if the GMD has taught me anything, it’s that we are capable of directing our own professional development and we’re capable of becoming active partners in each other’s professional growth.

But only if we’re willing to leave our silos. Which brings me to my last piece of wisdom I’ve learned from others:

Seek vantage—particularly from the student perspective.

By far, the most powerful way to accelerate our own learning is to spend time in other math classrooms. It’s how we can reclaim control over our professional growth and learn how to activate our own sense of agency. Freed from the cognitive demands of teaching, we can begin to shift our perspective on what’s going on in math classrooms. We can watch math class from the student perspective and tap into their experience. And from this vantage in the room, we can see missed opportunities more clearly. And we begin to think of the missed opportunities that may be occurring in our own classrooms.

  • How are we showing our students we believe they’re capable? Who is doing the thinking in the room?
  • How effectively are we elevating student voices? How are we centering marginalized voices?
  • Who holds the authority for learning? How is authority shared with students? How do they have ownership over their own learning?
  • How are we valuing multiple perspectives in the room? Do all of our students feel like they belong in math class and have something to contribute?

Let’s teach math together!

I know the Global Math Department reaches far and wide, and geography may work against us. But I’m earnest. Let’s teach math together! And afterwards, let’s share a meal and share some stories about what we’ve learned on our teaching journey. Since November of 2020, I’ve been living a nomad life in my tiny home on wheels called Stoop. And when I can, I love to stop in towns and teach math with folks. You can find out more about that story here.

See you down the road!

Chase Orton

Learning from Black Feminist Mathematics Pedagogies:
How positionality influences interpretations of mathematics curricula
We — Marlena (@MarlenaEanes), Lara (@LaraJasien), and Mike (@MichaelLolkus) — are prior teachers committed to improving mathematical experiences for marginalized students at scale. Marlena is a second-year doctoral student at Vanderbilt University studying under Dr. Nicole Joseph (@profnicolej) in the Joseph’s Mathematics Education Lab (JMEL), a lab with a special focus on Black girls and women (BGW), their identity development, and experiences in mathematics. Lara is a researcher at CPM Educational Program and Mike is a curriculum writer there.

The three of us came together to engage in a research project aimed at understanding how a secondary mathematics curriculum could disrupt patterns of injustice in mathematics education. We have taken up Dr. Joseph’s Black Feminist Mathematics Pedagogies (BlackFMP) framework to guide our analysis of CPM’s new Inspiring Connections curriculum, which has an explicit goal of supporting teachers to be culturally responsive to their students as they practice ambitious mathematics instruction.

We are learning a lot from our collective work — we continue to learn about the vision and implications of BlackFMP, curriculum design, each other, and ourselves. We share our experiences doing this curricular research and the important implications for teachers as we reflect on our teaching experiences throughout the research process. We structured this article as a pseudo-interview, with questions that we mutually agreed were important to answer. Our responses to these questions are not off-the-cuff but instead are considered responses. Overall, we hope this article gives you insight into — or at least spurs you to reflect on — how your experiences might influence how you interpret the purpose of different aspects of your curriculum based on the potential impact that it has on students.

1. How did BlackFMP become your framework for analysis? Why BlackFMP?

We chose BlackFMP because it is one of the few frameworks that explicitly addresses how to disrupt injustice in mathematics education. We are familiar with and value other mathematics-specific equity tools including those available through, an organization promoted by leading math-ed organizations such as Achieve the Core.

What we really appreciated about BlackFMP was the way it builds on mathematics education research and shows how the important, decades-long scholarship on ambitious mathematics instruction is necessary but insufficient for making meaningful changes in mathematics education at scale. We also appreciated the way BlackFMP drew attention to Black girls specifically, calling out the way that Black girls’ marginalization is compounded by the ways they are racialized and gendered in mathematics classrooms, and United States society more broadly. BlackFMP taught us that it is important to attend to the needs of specific groups and the specific ways that they experience oppression in mathematics education if we hope to disrupt that oppression. At the same time, we think that attending to and designing against the ways that Black girls are marginalized in mathematics education will benefit all students. If we design for those who are marginalized first, rather than as an afterthought, everyone wins.

2. What is BlackFMP?

BlackFMP is a framework or a model for mathematics pedagogy that is grounded in the theory of intersectionality. To describe it at a very high level, intersectionality tells us that we must attend to the complex relationship between systems of power and oppression and multiple dimensions of someone’s identities (e.g., race, class, gender, sexuality) if we want to understand the outcomes of social institutions like mathematics education. Building on this theory, Dr. Joseph builds BlackFMP from the four dimensions of Ambitious Mathematics Instruction, Academic and Social Integration, Robust Mathematics Identity, and Critical Consciousness & Reclamation. Below we provide a series of questions we synthesized based on how we apply these dimensions in our coding.

3. Who are you and how does your positionality inform how you see various dimensions of BlackFMP in mathematics curriculum?
Marlena: I am a Black, heterosexual, cis-gendered woman from the upper-class suburbs of Chicago. As a student, I attended predominantly white schools where I was the only Black girl in my grade for 6 years. My positionality impacted my career tremendously: I became a math teacher to become the representation within the classroom that I yearned for as a child. Due to my experiences as a learner being othered, as I code I frequently consider whether or not those students who are traditionally left out in math curricula will be seen and to which degree will they be seen. As a doctoral student, I frequently think about the ways in which whiteness is centered in math curricula and traditional ways of knowing and this informs how I see the dimensions of BlackFMP as a way to decenter whiteness in order to ensure that all students are welcomed in the math classroom.

Lara: I’m a white, heterosexual, cis-gendered woman who grew up with middle-class parents. My parents were divorced so I split my childhood between the city in CA’s bay area and rural life in South Dakota. I’ve also experienced trauma related to a childhood caregiver’s untreated mental illness and addiction/self-medication. This trauma made my early adult years a challenge and made me yearn for a career with meaning. My joint interest in mathematics and well-being led me to pursue mathematics teaching and eventually mathematics education research. It wasn’t until I became a high school math teacher in a community where my whiteness made me the minority that I began to realize my white privilege: my career trajectory of (what I count as) success despite the challenges I faced was not primarily an outcome of my hard work. When I use BlackFMP today to analyze mathematics curriculum, I remember who I was as a young teacher who was just starting to see her own unearned privilege as she taught students who saw her privilege very clearly. I think about all the ways I enacted the status quo with my students, and I draw on BlackFMP to help me see the ways a curriculum might have helped me do it differently.

Mike: I am a white, cis-gendered heterosexual man from the middle-class suburbs of a mid-sized city in Indiana. While my educational experiences were embedded in racially and economically diverse classrooms, I was awarded unearned privilege as I navigated life in a society normed by whiteness, maleness, and heterosexuality. I began to recognize the pervasiveness of my privilege through my partnerships with students and families as a high school mathematics teacher in New Jersey with a Black and Latinx student population. With my students in mind, I continued to push back against and learn more about practices that maintain white supremacy culture in mathematics classrooms through my doctoral program focused on teaching mathematics for social justice. Utilizing BlackFMP has supported my understanding of what can be centered in the immediate future when we actively work to decenter whiteness in secondary mathematics classrooms and work toward a more equitable and truly reimagined mathematics education.

4.  In what ways have your experiences as a mathematics teacher been reaffirmed or challenged through your interactions with and reflections on BlackFMP?

Marlena: BlackFMP has reaffirmed the ways in which I taught that humanized my students. Through our robust discussions, there have been times when I realized that classroom practices I attributed as cursory were not, rather, these were practices I implemented based on my positionality. BlackFMP has challenged the ways in which I viewed equity work in mathematics. I left corporate America for graduate school, after being burnt out from working in education, and I previously viewed equity work as futile. BlackFMP has reignited the hope that I have for equity in math education.

Lara: My experiences as a mathematics teacher have been given new clarity by BlackFMP – it gives me a new lens that helps me attune to the finer points of how instruction can be oppressive and/or liberatory. For example, BlackFMP tells me that critical consciousness isn’t enough: mathematics instruction needs to support students to reclaim mathematics as by and for them. I think what I have really gained out of my work with Dr. Joseph’s BlackFMP is rooted in my conversations with Marlena and Mike: we affirm each other’s intellectual contributions but also clarify, extend, and push back on each other’s ideas. I think it is essential in this kind of deep learning that we surround ourselves with people who are willing to take risks to challenge us. I wouldn’t have learned as much without them.

Mike: Broadly, reflecting on and analyzing CPM’s curriculum with BlackFMP has reaffirmed much of my mathematics pedagogy at the high school and collegiate levels. Most importantly, though, our conversations about BlackFMP have supported me in further recognizing how I perpetuated whiteness despite my good intentions. For instance, our team has had multiple conversations about growth and fixed mindsets, raising multiple questions, such as, Why is a growth mindset needed? and Who does a growth mindset serve? While I embraced the philosophy of and engaged my students in lessons about growth mindset as a high school teacher, this team and our analysis with BlackFMP has supported me to more critically interpret the hidden messages of growth mindset as an individual endeavor in which students, particularly those who are marginalized by a society normed by whiteness, must think themselves into achieving without attention toward the systemic barriers they face.

5. How has your thinking about equity in mathematics education changed since you began using BlackFMP to analyze a secondary mathematics curriculum?

Marlena: Prior to using BlackFMP to analyze curriculum, I saw equity work as either occurring in a vacuum or occurring at the surface level without truly attending to oppression and intersectionality. This work has allowed my thinking to grow beyond individual teachers and individual schools doing equity work, to consider how we can attend to equity in math education at the curriculum level.

Lara: I think one of the biggest things I have learned in this project has been the importance of “calling a thing a thing.” In a project, meeting, Marlena shared those words of her graduate advisor, Dr. Nicole Joseph. This has become our shared new standard for what counts as robust challenges to the status quo. I have come to realize that not “calling a thing a thing” actively perpetuates problematic narratives. For example, as Mike shared, growth mindset perpetuates the problematic narrative that perseverance is an individual endeavor and mindset is a problem to be fixed within individuals. Calling a thing a thing means naming the systemic practices that encourage students to develop a fixed mindset: standardized tests and college entrance exams, most grading practices, narrow ways of defining acceptable participation, etc. While I believe there is some power in the ideas of growth mindset (e.g., telling students they are gifted or smart can make them averse to taking risks and making mistakes and so not being gifted or smart anymore), the big picture of how the system and we as participants in it (as researchers, curriculum writers, teachers, etc.) encourage fixed mindsets has to be explicit and disrupted. Mindsets are just an example of this larger phenomenon of “calling a thing a thing!”

Mike: Prior to this project, I believed that only radical change to the mathematics education enterprise would result in truly equitable learning experiences. Engaging in conversations about and engaging in analyses with BlackFMP has supported my recognition of what changes are possible for supporting students to have more just experiences in secondary mathematics classrooms in the immediate future. I continue to reflect on the tension between radical, systemic change, and the role of incremental change that serves students in classrooms today, such as that of BlackFMP. Our project gives me hope for both.

6. What’s next?

Scholar Danny Martin has critiqued NCTM and the entire system of mathematics education, saying in essence that we need to tear the whole thing down and re-imagine it. He’s probably right. By focusing on BlackFMP, we take another tack, because, paraphrasing Dr. Joseph, kids are going to be in school on Monday. We want to make change that can support students today and tomorrow, but we also wonder, can BlackFMP be a tool to help us move toward re-imagining the system in Martin’s sense? One thing that we have seen that BlackFMP helps us do is name problems, and see when problems aren’t named. We frequently have conversations about what could have pushed a particular “author’s vision” (a portion of the curriculum that provides teachers with insights into the authors’ intent and strategies like pocket questions and math language routines) to be more robust by “calling a thing a thing.” Kimberlé Crenshaw — law scholar and coiner of the term intersectionality — said in her TEDtalk, “If you can’t name the problem then you can’t see the problem, and if you can’t see the problem then you pretty much can’t solve it.” As we continue to be able to see new things through our application of BlackFMP, we will continue to spread the word about what we learn. We encourage you to do the same by checking out podcasts (check out these two by Dr. Joseph for NCTM and NCSM) and exploring how the BlackFMP questions we shared influence your interpretations of curriculum.

Contribute to One of Our Final Newsletters

We’d like to hear from folks who have attended our Webinars over the years! If you’d like to share, use the prompt below:

How have the GMD newsletters or webinars impacted your teaching?
Share your thoughts (100 – 250 words is ideal) with us for inclusion in our Newsletter in May 2023.

We’d also like to give anyone who has written for us in the past to contribute a final article!

Please reach out on Twitter or send an email to if you’d like to contribute!

Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Twitter
Visit our Website Visit our Website
Copyright © 2023 Global Math Department, All rights reserved.

Email us at:

unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *