This Week at Global Math – 1/26/21







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Curated By Nate Goza @thegozaway

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Online Professional Development Sessions

Join Us Next Tuesday 2/2:

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.

To register for this webinar, click here.

Research and GMD – Join the Study!

The Global Math Department and researchers at North Carolina State University are undertaking a study to learn about teachers’ learning experiences from participation in the GMD. You can participate in this study if you have participated in the GMD as a presenter, attendee of a GMD conference, or reader of the GMD newsletter. 

We invite you to click the link to join the study as a participant and to learn more!

Check out past and upcoming Global Math Department webinars. Click here for the archives or get the webinars in podcast form!

You can also visit our YouTube Channel to find videos of past sessions and related content.

#GMDWrites

Recentering
 
In my geometry courses, I loved teaching triangle center points. (Thank goodness this is a group of self-defined nerds, or starting a post off with that might be a real problem). The idea that we can define center from multiple points at the same time defined by different constructions held deeper meaning. To me it signaled that when you measure from a particular perspective, you get a different result than other people who measure from a different point of view. The orthocenter, incenter, circumcenter, and centroid all result from measuring using different line segment constructions of triangles (altitudes, angle bisectors, perpendicular bisectors, and medians respectively). Each one of them has a different purpose within the triangle, and they each come with particular perspectives on defining “center”. Yet, some of them come with a rather peculiar placement within or even outside of the triangle body, like when you measure the orthocenter of a right triangle and it lands on the vertex. Calling these instances a “centerpoint” almost seems odd, and yet we know exactly what we’re measuring when we do so. 
 
I have been wondering. What are the different centerpoints in math education? I believe each of us is measuring from some centerpoint. How do you justify your reasoning for measuring by the centerpoint you choose? 
 
I believe that there are multiple centerpoints in mathematics education, just like within a triangle. I also believe that they *do not* nor ever will coincide in the same point. In my mind, each centerpoint of mathematics education, just like with triangles, measures something specific and different than the others. And, just like with the different centerpoints, there are benefits and consequences to measuring by the different points we choose. 
 
For many months, I have felt this recentering occurring in math education. It’s as if we are making a collective shift. For the past ten months, many have been asking, “What even is standardized testing measuring?”. For some, standardized testing is a centerpoint. To these people, it represents teaching to a “standard”, that they share no responsibility in defining, yet use as a marker for knowing whether or not their students are learning. As the consistent call that students are “behind” due to virtual learning echoes loudly, COVID-19 continues to erode that measuring by any sort of “standard” at this point is only measuring the difference in resources, funding, and access to internet, food, and health care. 
 
From a different angle, some might say that math education is centering the “be kind” movement, that as math teachers our ultimate job is to create kind citizens. This is important and inherently good. In the aftermath of the United States presidential inauguration and the events of January 6, we have to ask if centering kindness at the expense of justice measures the right thing. If, by trying to “be kind”, we become peacekeepers instead of peacemakers, we ultimately create “kind” citizens who are quiet when faced with overt acts of racism, sexism, ableism, and classism to maintain the status quo. For many, because they are at peace, kindness is an easy centerpoint to use, as they disregard the lack of peace and justice for others.
 
One last centerpoint I see in math education is learning/teaching math for social justice. Dr. William Tate wrote, “Until recently, embedding mathematics pedagogy within social and political contexts was not a serious consideration in mathematics education. The act of counting was viewed as a neutral exercise, unconnected to politics or society. Yet when do we ever count just for the sake of counting? Only in school do we count without a social purpose of some kind. Outside of school, mathematics is used to advance or block a particular agenda.” (Tate, 2013) This centerpoint, then, measures math education as students’ ability to use mathematics to change their world for the better, to act justly with mathematics. 
 
We know what the other centers have brought us. Centering on standardized testing has brought us a system focused on viewing every child as a number, using math to do more harm than good, all in the name of comparison. The centerpoint is nowhere near the center mass, and in fact measures the outer edge of learning. Why are we surprised when standardized testing reflects back to us that systems of injustice exist and can be quantified? 
 
Centering on the passivity of kindness allows more students to pass through our classrooms without being pushed to recognize the beauty that comes with diversity, that teaches students through the use of mathematics that “others” are whole beings worthy of respect and equal treatment. Why are we surprised then when “kindness’” is in reality a mask for whiteness, a mask quickly removed when moments of injustice occur? 
 
Why do we keep centering math education on centerpoints that produce outcomes that we know are not fair? Not equal? That do not promote justice or goodness? That maintain the status quo? With the decades of centering math education in these known spaces, what would it take to get the main body of educators to recenter to measure a new space? What would centering on math for social justice look like? How would you justify its centering? I think that the mainstream of math education has never taught math for social justice, and therefore we don’t know what our collective power could be if we measured from here. Maybe it’s time to recenter the purpose of math education to see if we can measure something new. 
 
Lauren Baucom
@LBmathemagician

A Few Lessons from Recent Research on Social Justice Mathematics
 
Because of the spotlight thrown on issues of racial injustice in the U.S. in the past few years, I have seen a renewed interest among math teachers in integrating such issues into curricula. I welcome this turn, because “to be silent about tragedy that affects your students is to render their feelings invisible” (@ArisWinger). However, I also wanted to share some of what we’re learning from research, because social justice mathematics teaching is not at all easy or straightforward.
 
There’s been a strong coalition of math folks working for social justice for decades (see, for example, Marilyn Frankenstein’s work, Gutstein & Peterson’s book), but many teachers still report that they feel ill-prepared to do this work. One reason is that it often seems to require intense curriculum writing; there may not be a wealth of resources ready to insert into an existing course. Not to mention, it is not a simple matter of taking a mathematical topic, finding a real-world injustice application, and creating a lesson. Instead, it can require exploring and learning about entirely new fields, and responding to students carefully so that students leave the lessons feeling empowered rather than overwhelmed. You might have to navigate resistance from parents, school administrators, and even students. 
 
Nevertheless, there are many reasons to engage in this work. Bartell (2013) argues that “the purpose of education is not to integrate those who are marginalized into existing society but rather to change society so that all are included” (p. 131). Math education, in this view, should prepare students to analyze and combat oppressive systems, strengthening their agency as change-makers. Moreover, research shows that social justice mathematics can help students feel empowered, both about mathematics and about injustice in society. For privileged students, social justice math can help them develop empathy for others. 
 
Some recent research offers other important insights for getting started: 
  • Focus on issues that students care about. One teacher in my (2020) study has learned through experience that some topics may be overwhelming for students, and can produce strong emotional reactions. Kokka (2017) also found that students who had faced similar challenges to what they were studying, such as struggling to pay rent, had “strong emotional reactions such as anger, sadness, worry, and frustration” (p. 73). Nasriah Morrison (@nasriahmorrison) told a similar story in a previous GMD post of being exhausted and retraumatized by a lesson on police brutality, highlighting the harm that can come from “the prospect of any students being made to complete a series of tedious calculations with the goal of assessing whether their lived experiences were truly ‘valid.’” Instead of using math to verify, for example, an issue of racism that students know very well is real, I recommend starting by asking students what problems they want to use math to explore. 
  • Think about local, not just national, issues of injustice. You might ask what systems students see holding people in their community back, and what questions they have about them. This can open up opportunities to mathematize aspects of their world that students are curious about and ready to explore. Gutstein (2007) argues that members of a community “have a clear and critical understanding of the political forces allied against them” (p. 111), so problem-posing pedagogies that draw on local issues can help students work on issues they are already invested in, knowledgeable about, and want to get better at combating. 
  • Ask students and families about their comfort level with challenging topics. The teacher in my study who realized that some students had a strong emotional reaction to her lesson decided in the future to give a survey to both parents and students previewing upcoming topics, and asking about their comfort level in discussing such topics. She also prepared alternatives for students who may have too close a personal experience with an issue of injustice.
  • Try to leave your own agenda behind. A teacher in Kokka’s (2017) study emphasized that her goal was not to change students’ minds, but rather to elicit students’ opinions and give them the tools to come to their own, mathematically-based conclusions. The teacher in this study asked strategic questions and encouraged students to gather mathematical evidence, only stepping in to guide when she needed to combat stereotypes or other harmful statements. 
  • Try to anticipate partial and problematic understandings that students may have. Another lesson that the teacher in my study said she had learned was that students may need scaffolding for not just the mathematical topic, but also the social injustice under study. In her first teaching of a lesson, she showed a brief video and then released students into groups to discuss a topic, only realizing later that students did not fully understand the topic and were discussing it in common but highly problematic ways. I recommend thinking about the worst narratives floating around society about that topic, and either preemptively providing information to combat those narratives, or at the very least developing a specific plan for how you’ll respond should they appear during your lesson. 
  • Find community! One of the most important lessons the teacher in my study stressed was that you should not try to go it alone in integrating math and social justice. She runs her lessons by her co-teachers and colleagues, but also recommends connecting with folks on twitter and at conferences. Many people have been engaged in this work for decades, and have much wisdom to share. Check out the Creating Balance Conference and the hashtags #SoJustMath & #socialjusticemath for starters. 
 
Finally, here are some other resources for getting started with social justice math:
Written by Samantha Marshall (@sammieamarshall)

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This Week at Global Math – 1/19/21




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Curated By Nate Goza @thegozaway

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Online Professional Development Sessions

Tonight!

Building Fact Fluency Through Virtual Storytelling

Presented by Graham Fletcher

When we ask students to memorize their facts, we are essentially asking them to memorize over 100 isolated equations. This approach doesn’t allow students to explore the relationships between numbers that are foundational to mathematics. In this session, we’ll explore the important role that context plays in developing fact fluency. By purposefully sequencing a series of tasks and activities through the same context, students can begin to make connections and develop an understanding that is scalable well beyond single digits.

To register for this webinar, click here.

Volunteers Needed: Editor of Captioning for Webinars

We want our webinars to be accessible to everyone, but we need help to meet that goal.

The reason the Global Math Department community is so wonderful is because we have a solid group of volunteers working behind the scenes.  Since our webinars are free, we cannot afford software to caption the recordings of our webinars.  Captioning in YouTube works at times, but needs to be edited to be accurate.  If you have 4 hours a month that you could devote to editing the webinar captioning, please let us know. (If we have multiple volunteers we will distribute this workload!) 

Send an email to globalmathdepartment@gmail.com to express your interest in volunteering.  Training will be provided and you can work at your own pace.

Check out past and upcoming Global Math Department webinars. Click here for the archives or get the webinars in podcast form!

You can also visit our YouTube Channel to find videos of past sessions and related content.

#GMDWrites

The Narcissism of Mathematics Education
 
In “The Narcissism of Mathematics Education”, Alexandre Pais says that “mathematics education research is narcissistic because, lacking a concrete object, it sees nothing but itself”.  Math education researchers who talk about “mathematics for all” turn a blind eye to the reality that many students are in math class for the school credit, and so mathematics is not actually “for all”. Instead, math education researchers—and by extension people interested in this research—create “an imaginary world where mathematics can be an adventure into knowledge, the ultimate problem solving technology or the most crucial component of critical citizenship”. 
 
The math education research community, as he claims, is sometimes so optimistic about the role of math in kids’ lives that we don’t stop to consider when kids may be in it for the grades and not the math. By subtracting from reality the economic role of school math, the research community flourishes under the illusion that math has inherent relevance while creating the very problems it seeks to address.
 
That’s quite the claim, and in response I say, cool, then let’s be narcissists. I don’t entirely agree with his argument. But even to the extent that he’s correct, it’s still an open question where this thinking takes us. The recent events at the Capitol and everything else kicking off 2021 make clear that taking a critical approach to mathematical, quantitative, statistical, scientific, and data literacy is now more important than ever. 
 
I think about a thread by Aristotle Ou, in which he, Jenna Laib, and Marian Dingle talk about asking students to feel and act in response to U.S. poverty rates and economic justice.
 
I think about the mathematics of machine learning algorithms, which have been used in AI technologies to perpetuate gender and racial bias. The Algorithmic Justice League has a new film, Coded Bias, which is screening in virtual theaters beginning this week.
 
I think about Kendra Pierre-Louis’s open question about how often the media covers white supremacists versus people who have experienced white supremacist violence.
 
I think about how many executions are happening now and how much racial bias continues to exist in a school-to-prison pipeline that can ultimately end in death.
 
I think about how $1400 is not enough and the mathematical models that have supported fiscal conservatism for the past four years.
 
I think about the minimum wage, teacher salaries, experiments around UBI, and the economic and mathematical “common sense” that drives repeated arguments against wage increases.
 
I think about the overwhelming whiteness of mathematics that results in this.
 
I think about this analysis of Paycheck Protection Program funding given to charter schools, religious schools, and private schools across the U.S.
 
I think about the spatial relationship between COVID fatalities and vaccinations in the U.S.
 
I think about pharmaceutical price hikes, bonus formulas, and what we let people do with math when we’re too preoccupied by whether the math is technically correct.
 
These mathematical questions matter. They touch students’ lives in ways that are sometimes hard to see and other times grievously easy. They are as real as grades and should be among the driving forces behind everything that goes on in math education. Sadly, this is not always the case.
 
@melvinmperalta

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This Week at Global Math – 1/12/2021







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Curated By Chase Orton (@mathgeek76)

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Online Professional Development Sessions

The Global Math Department Webinar resumes next Tuesday, January 19th!

Building Fact Fluency Through Virtual Storytelling

Presented by Graham Fletcher (@gfletchy)

When we ask students to memorize their facts, we are essentially asking them to memorize over 100 isolated equations. This approach doesn’t allow students to explore the relationships between numbers that are foundational to mathematics. In this session, we’ll explore the important role that context plays in developing fact fluency. By purposefully sequencing a series of tasks and activities through the same context, students can begin to make connections and develop an understanding that is scalable well beyond single digits.

To register for this webinar, click here.

Check out past and upcoming Global Math Department webinars. Click here for the archives or get the webinars in podcast form!

You can also visit our new YouTube Channel to find videos of past sessions and related content.

The GMD Needs Your Input

Global Math Department and researchers at North Carolina State University are undertaking a study to learn about teachers’ learning experiences from participation in the GMD. You can participate in this study if you have participated in the GMD as a presenter, attendee of a GMD webinar, or reader of the GMD newsletter. 

We invite you to click the link to join the study as a participant and to learn more!

Click Here to participate in this study

#GMDWrites

Gratitude
by Amber Thienel (@amberthienel)
 
Dwayne Reed’s (@TeachMrReed) pinned tweet on his Twitter page reads, “Even if you weren’t the best teacher today, chances are, you were still someone’s favorite. Keep at it.”
 
 
Humans in general are not the best at expressing gratitude. Sometimes we just assume that others know how we feel about them. Or at least we hope that they do perhaps based on what we do and how we act.
 
Angela Duckworth (@angeladuckw) shared some advice in an opinion article from Education Week (@EdWeekTeacher) called “What Your Students Will Remember About You.” She said:
          
Don’t assume that people who have changed your life know how much you appreciate them. What is obvious to you may be invisible to them.
 
Do start a tradition of writing gratitude letters to people you haven’t properly thanked. If you can, muster the courage to read your letter aloud. Perhaps your kids will see you wipe a tear from your eye. Perhaps you will have to explain why. I can’t think of a better way to kick off the new year.
 
Originally, I was drawn to the article because of the tag line, “The best teachers care about students unconditionally but, at the same time, ask them to do things they can’t yet do.” And I do think this article is a good reminder that pushing students out of their comfort zone is important. And even if at first they resist they will thank you for it because they know you care about them. But I think this article is also a good reminder of how important gratitude is. This gratitude should extend to yourself as well.
 
Minaa B. (@MinaaBe) is a writer and licensed therapist whose mission is to “help people cultivate healthy relationships with themselves and others by being intentional about practicing self-care through the lens of boundaries and community-care.” This is an image from her Instagram page.
 
 
It’s important to remember, especially after a week like last week, that our students need us. And in order to show up for them, sometimes we need to take care of ourselves. Show gratitude to yourself. “Even if you weren’t the best teacher today, chances are, you were still someone’s favorite. Keep at it.” (@TeachMrReed)

Active in 2020 & Proactive in 2021
by Benjamin Dickman [@benjamindickman]
 
Among the many twitter-interactions I chanced upon in the first week of 2021, here is one that caught my eye [anonymized because this view runs deep]:

One more tweet:

Are math educators, as compared to other educators, especially “ill-equipped” for a “day after”? I speculate that the answer is No, and/but that there is a more widely held belief that it doesn’t fall into our purview — that the “quadratic formula” is too far from insurrections and coups to adjust, whereas a history teacher would have the knowledge and space to tweak their lesson so as to address the attack on Capitol Hill: an act of domestic terrorism that was encouraged by republican politicians, who knowingly support ecosystems of disinformation and conspiracy theories, and who now want us to unify(?) and heal(?) with racist, anti-Semtitic, violent, white supremacists who seek to invalidate an election based on unfounded claims of fraud. (No thanks!)
 
Educators have a responsibility to react by telling children the truth, and there is plenty to react to these days. The same Wall Street Journal to welcome Op-Eds that claim the outgoing prez* “champions U.S. liberty and prosperity” went on to target BIWOC through a hit piece on #DisruptTexts that followed its misogynistic “kiddo” policing of Dr. Jill Biden’s honorific. These “opinions” do not reach the national level of a “day after” but I wonder how well we are equipped to respond to them. I am not sure whether WSJ Op-Eds in 2021 will all require reaction, although I empathize with the many who feel that they are stuck in a cycle of inaction. Today, though, I want to talk about action.
 
These are a few actions that I have taken since 2020, and I transparently share a subset below in the hope that others who feel caught up in a reactive cycle can shift towards a proactive 2021:
 
  1. Donations. I made a few small adjustments last year: When others have offered to compensate me in some way, I have shifted from outright refusal to asking that they donate the amount that they believe is appropriate; the most recent three times that I have done this, I have pointed others to Found in Translation, which I hope the reader will check out. When this last occurred, it was after assisting a former colleague’s child with their non-routine Calculus homework; that is to say, I successfully converted assistance on an antiderivative to money that can help sustain a program designed for low-income women. Similarly, when I was asked to give a talk on justice in mathematics education during the stressful month of October 2020, I asked whether there was an honorarium; transparently, the NSF sponsored conference offered 1100 USD for a Zoom hour. So, I agreed to write and deliver the talk, and I gave the honorarium to six different Senate races. In other words, I successfully converted NSF math education funds into money that helped Democrats compete in the Senate. Lastly, I am of the belief that restrictions on stimulus checks (“stimmies”) should err on the side of Too Generous, and that those who receive these extra moneys while in the privileged position of not seeing a significant interruption in income should consider giving the money away. I gave my first stimulus check to a double-matching campaign organized around cash bail; I gave my second stimulus check to a local food bank. This is not to guilt the reader or flex on anybody; and, I think that if you are at a real loss for how you can engage in direct action, then donating money to trusted organizations is a good choice.
 
  1. Math Education. I have been contributing to the Global Math Department newsletters while also managing the GMD twitter account; this involves a fair amount of highlighting others’ powerful work, and has also – for those paying attention – involved a lot of proactive posts about elections (POTUS/VP in Nov 2020 and then Georgia in Jan 2021). Sometimes this means amplifying calls for action (e.g. from MoMath, which has yet to respond) and other times it means proactively thinking about boycotting ICM 2022 in Russia, or asking questions about ICME 2020 (now hybrid in 2021) in China as relates to ongoing human rights abuses in Xinjiang (thread). It also means that I am actively trying to incorporate Teaching Tolerance anti-bias standards into an Algebra 2 course, and that I am preparing to shift a junior/senior elective math course towards projects on, among other topics, Social Justice Math Trails. (Here are a subset of references compiled by a student who worked with me on a senior project last May around this topic; pull-quotes are in blue and her writing is in red.) There is plenty more to say here; off top, a shout out to the three people who reached out to me proactively over the winter break to Zoom around contemporary happenings (e.g. antiracist pushes in math education), as well as a separate shout out to Winger and Harris for their excellent book.
 
  1. School-based Organization. This is the one area in which I will avoid detailing specifics; suffice to say that Rochelle Gutiérrez’s paper Strategies for Creative Insubordination in Mathematics Teaching is a must-read. Other than that, I have continued in my capacity as one of the two faculty members taking part in our high school’s social justice club, and I volunteered my time during Fall 2020 to participate in an Anti-Racist Committee that consisted of various stakeholders (faculty; staff; admin; students; alums; families; trustees). This was at a time in which the outgoing prez* was using BDV to weaponize her position as EdSec in policing language (like “white privilege” or talking about race, gender) used by private universities; I have no doubt that, were the racist-in-chief to have been reelected, we would have seen this tactic pushed out further (e.g. targeting public schools directly and threatening non-profit status for independent schools). I plan to push our collective AR recommendations hard in this calendar year, and one of my 2021 goals is to stop recreating mission statements and guidelines.
 
  1. Political Candidates. The four areas here are not mutually disjoint, and/but I have grown tired of the superhuman rhetoric around Stacey Abrams. To be clear, Abrams’ work is transformative and extraordinary; yet, she is fully human – not “super”human – and, as she would tell you, there are many whose collective work went into “Georgia’s evolution.” Therefore, to those of you who are looking at organizing and potential political candidates for 2022, I strongly urge you to learn more about Danielle Allen as she looks into running for Governor of Massachusetts. Watch this video (2m18s) and check out her site. There is a republican gov in MA now, and here we have a Democrat Black woman with two doctorates (Cambridge University, Harvard University) who worked with a transdisciplinary team on a Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience produced through the Safra Center for Ethics of which she is the director. I have read through two of Allen’s books: one containing original research on the Declaration of Independence and another about her firsthand experiences with the criminal in/justice system and her incarcerated cousin (Adichie calls it “unbearably moving”). A supporter of RCV and MacArthur Fellow; an organized thinker who can govern based on institutional experience as well as lived experience; I hope that you will learn more and consider signing up under the site’s Take Action tab.
 
Let us push to effect proactive, collectivist change in 2021.

Get Involved with the Newsletter

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This Week at Global Math – 12/15/20







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Curated By Nate Goza @thegozaway

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Tonight!

Wonder, Plan, Run, Reflect: Action Research in the Math Classroom

Presented by Theresa Hickey

Being a responsive educator means getting to know your learners, leveraging their strengths, and tailoring your approaches so that the highest level of learning can take place. To do this, you need to try new things. But how will you know if your adjustments are making a difference?…. Action research! Join us for some great tips on designing and running this research in your own classroom!
 

To register for this webinar, click here.

Check out past and upcoming Global Math Department webinars. Click here for the archives or get the webinars in podcast form!

You can also visit our new YouTube Channel to find videos of past sessions and related content.

#GMDWrites

We Who Believe
By: Hema Khodai (@HKhodai)
 

Why do I write for the Global Math Department Newsletter? When I’m stuck in life and unsure of the next right thing I turn to the children, who never fail to lead the way even as they are continually failed by us.
 
Bean leads me daily and I marvel at the decisions she makes, the ways she engages with this world, and her resolve to be a part of the good this life has to offer. As I write this, she is leading me in a graduate-level seminar on writing (she knows I’m only half listening); selecting a font that captures her mood and sets the context for her story, authentically representing the essence of the characters and their lives, and illuminating the harsh and beautiful truths of the world we live in.
 
“Do you ever write to share information or convince others of an important idea?”, I ask.
Her response is precise, “I want my writing to reflect the person I am.” She continues generously, “My stories remind you that people who do bad things aren’t bad people. My characters and I, we’re not afraid to do things to help people.  The system is garbage sometimes. (It’s important for my writing to bring that to light.)”
 
So here I am, sharing with you a story that is true in mathematics councils and associations across the continent. I am tired of being the only. In this story, folx rigorously defend the superiority of mathematics over people while performing a charade of “wokeness”. I tell you the people “leading” the work have not done the work and have no interest in the work beyond maintaining their status and power as leaders in mathematics. They have not studied Black scholars nor invested time and energy into authentic relationships with racialized folx whose demands for humane experiences in the teaching and learning of mathematics are largely ignored. They merely apply thick layers of whiteness onto calls for liberation and abolition and parrot quotations from Dr. Dena Simmons that we can’t let SEL turn into “White Supremacy with a hug”. They continue to center the curriculum (standards in America) rooted in settler colonialism and anti-Blackness and promote resources (curriculum in America) that are not created by Indigenous, Black, and racialized (PoC in America) folx. These are not bad people. They just do incredibly bad things. 

The characters in this story, of whom I am one, are not afraid to name the mathematical processes of gatekeeping in mathematics education. Processes that stop short at representation and continue to silence voices that seek justice for entire generations and communities of children underserved and disempowered in mathematics classrooms. These are the folx who would argue with me about whether Rochelle Gutierrez is actually Dr. Gutiérrez rather than read her work to understand how mathematics education in its current form is dehumanizing. The ones who flinch at the suggestion of using the seminal works of a Black scholar.  Help me understand, an article from 2009 by a Black scholar is “outdated” but a mathematical trajectory from thirty years ago is “timeless”? I’m kidding, I don’t care to understand your racism.
 
Systems of mathematics education are garbage most times and especially so during a pandemic that mocks your repeated attempts at “academic integrity”, “abolition of streaming”, and all the other things that keep you from doing the real work of loving kids. But off you go to prepare your Slides, activities, and cool Bitmoji classrooms, the trappings of an ‘anti-racist’ mathematics education that hasn’t liberated you or the kids.
 
I’ll tell you this folx, I’ll be back in 2021 to continue this story of we who believe in freedom.
 

Lessons for the After Times
 
These last nine months have been…not normal. We’ve changed and adapted almost every aspect of our personal and professional lives and dealt with immeasurable loss and grief. At times, it seems like everything is awful (and truly, many things are awful).
 
But throughout these Corona Times, I’ve wondered: Are there things that we’re doing now that we can hold onto, even after the pandemic is over? Things that will serve us well in the After Times?
 
An obvious answer is that we’re learning to use technology to capture students’ thinking. I teach pre-service math teachers, and my students have been learning how to use all sorts of new technology in their student-teaching placements. They’re using video tools like SeeSaw and FlipGrid to capture students’ mathematical thinking. This has given them more thorough explanations than when students were working with just pencil and paper, especially for early elementary students who can say a lot more than they tend to write. They’re also planning interactive and exploratory lessons with PearDeck and Desmos, especially in secondary placements. Tools like these show us what students are thinking about during the lesson, and they give students multiple ways of engaging (even with their videos off). 
 
We’re turning to these technologies out of necessity — because it’s so much harder to know what students are thinking when we only see them in a little Zoom box. But even when we can see each other face-to-face, what insights into student thinking can tech tools offer? What new learning opportunities can we foster?
 
But even beyond the tech, I think (I hope?) we’re learning to cut each other (and ourselves!) some slack. Everyone is experiencing the pandemic differently — and struggling in different ways — but it’s been a hard year for everyone. As a result, I’ve noticed that, when assignments are missing or emails go unread, folks are starting to ask “What’s wrong? Is everything okay?” We’re checking in with empathy, instead of assuming that others are being negligent or lazy. Perhaps because we’re going through a collective trauma, we’re more likely to give others the benefit of the doubt. 
 
I hope that we can continue doing that, even when there’s not a global pandemic. Even in “normal” times, students and colleagues are dealing with death and loss, racism and other systems of oppression, food and housing insecurity, physical and mental health crises, and existential dread. What would the world look like if our default was to reach out with kindness and concern?
 
We’re also learning to connect in new ways — and to disconnect when we need to. Personally and professionally, we’ve been able to connect with folks from afar. We can join webinars and conferences without worrying about the cost or time of travel. We’ve been celebrating birthdays and graduations and weddings (and funerals) with loved ones that we don’t usually get to see. And the flip side of spending so much time online is that we have to disconnect, too. It’s become even more important than ever before to take breaks from the screen and to get some fresh air. 
 
Some of these have come out of sheer necessity — singing “Happy Birthday” on Zoom because it’s too dangerous to gather together or taking a tech break because we simply can’t bear to look at a screen for another moment. But what if we can continue having joyful moments with far-flung friends and family? What if we can maintain boundaries for our work-life balance?
 
Of course, none of this negates what we’ve been through, what we’re going through, or what is yet to come before the pandemic is over.
 
But I’m holding onto hope: Hope that we can let go of practices that weren’t really serving us in the Before Times. Hope that we will make it through these Corona Times. Hope that we can re-imagine and build a more humane After Times.

Written by Brette Garner (@brettegarner

Encountering Boundaries of Human and STEM: 
Some Wonderings as Told Through Six Panels

 
Two tweets caught my attention this week (images are linked): 

Inspired by these tweets and a few other thoughts I’ve been sitting with for a while, I wanted to process some wonderings through six panels.
 
Thanks for reading the GMD in 2020. See you next year.
 
@melvinmperalta

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This Week at Global Math – 12/8/20







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Curated By Nate Goza @thegozaway

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No Webinar this Week!

Next Tuesday 12/15

Wonder, Plan, Run, Reflect: Action Research in the Math Classroom

Presented by Theresa Hickey

Being a responsive educator means getting to know your learners, leveraging their strengths, and tailoring your approaches so that the highest level of learning can take place. To do this, you need to try new things. But how will you know if your adjustments are making a difference?…. Action research! Join us for some great tips on designing and running this research in your own classroom!
 

To register for this webinar, click here.

Check out past and upcoming Global Math Department webinars. Click here for the archives or get the webinars in podcast form!

You can also visit our new YouTube Channel to find videos of past sessions and related content.

#GMDWrites

Swimming in Water: Carceral Pedagogy in the Math Classroom 
 
By: Lauren Baucom and Sara Rezvi

Poetry has a way of cutting to truth, of separating waves from the shorelines all the while observing both simultaneously.  In his powerful poem, Guante notes that ‘white supremacy is not the shark, it is the water’. We swim in it, we are surrounded by it – these heady waters, this deep throbbing silence. Because of its constant presence, for many, it goes unnoticed, the water set as an unquestionable background. So, too, is the everpressing presence of carceral pedagogy in educational spaces. As writers of GMD, we refuse to participate in this silence. We mourn loudly. We bear witness deeply. We grieve. And we demand that these ideologies have no place within the mathematics classroom.
 
What is carceral pedagogy? How does it intersect with the mathematics classroom? What does it look, sound and feel like? Like the words of Guante, will we ever know it exists if we do not take time to recognize the waters in which we are constantly surrounded?
 
In a recent #Slowchat, Dr. Ilana Horn (@Ilana_horn) defined carcerality as “the physical domination and confinement of bodies in institutions, especially when they reinstate white supremacy.” Elsewhere, Dr. Bettina Love (@BLoveSoulPower), has discussed carcerality as systemic domination imposed by laws and enforced by incarceration. For the purpose of this piece, we define carceral pedagogy in the mathematics classroom to be the physical, mental, and social domination presented by the systems of white supremacy through laws, written and unwritten, that confine students’ bodies, minds, and spirits in the dehumanizing experiences  of their mathematics education. 
 
 In this moment of virtual teaching when teachers have a voyeuristic ability to track, watch, and mandate policies through their surveillance apparatus of choice (ClassDojo, Zoom, Google Meets, etc), we’ve experienced how EduTwitter has taken the purpose of education as a source of liberation and used this time and space to incarcerate students’ minds and bodies through a system of compliance and oppression. Children are subjected to the ever-present disciplinary gaze of the carceral teacher. Some examples include: (1) when they can’t visit the bathroom in their own homes, (2) being forced to turn on cameras to be counted as present, and (3) being told not to eat in class when their caregiver offers them a snack. We must name these efforts of carcerality as they have quickly seeped into this new world of online learning during a pandemic. Rather than offering grace, compassion, and boundless love, carceral teachers have led the charge in creating spaces that invade privacy and invalidate the need to attend to growing bodies.
 
Simultaneously, we must revisit the mathematics classroom space of face-to-face teaching to understand how carcerality has been used in the past to oppress the bodies and minds of students. 
 
In many classrooms, we have been sold the myth that students from low income areas require carceral style classroom pedagogy in order to succeed, and that without this type of oppression, they aren’t capable of doing the work. This kind of ideology is rooted in systems of white supremacy and dehumanization. We reject the narrative that the carceral teacher (who often is white) alone knows what is best for families and children of color. It is not the children that are lacking, but the carceral teacher. 
 
There has been much research to show how students of color, specifically Black girls, have been denied their right  to joyfully belong in math spaces. Using the ocrdata.ed.gov site, we can find countless examples of the literal barriers that imprison students to classes that are unworthy of their brilliance. How is it possible that in a district where almost 4 out of 10 of the students enrolled are Black, that less than half are allowed entry into Calculus classrooms? What unwritten laws govern the body language of students who appear “deep in mathematical thought” versus those who are “lazy, unproductive, and unmotivated”, physically barring them from mathematical spaces? We find it interesting that these narratives begin for students of color at young ages and continue onward into adolescence, almost as if these ideas are baked into our societal consciousness – as if we are all swimming in it.

Carceral pedagogy is often thought of to be discipline-based classroom practice, but it is also curricular. With the constant reminder from textbooks that mathematics was created in Europe by White males and no one else, the lack of representation confines students’ minds and social identities. Texts such as Francis Su’s (@mathyawp)  ‘Mathematics for Human Flourishing’ and Talithia Williams’ ‘Power in Numbers: The Rebel Women of Mathematics’ eloquently work to decenter this notion that mathematics has only ever been a Eurocentric endeavor rather than a Human one. Elsewhere, I (Sara) along with my co-authors, have argued that mathematics, just like literacy, needs to have its own set of windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors.  
 
Another example of carcerality that appears in the mathematics curriculum occurs when a teacher requires a particular method of solving, rather than being open to the expansive, liberatory solving process that mathematics encourages. 
 
Carceral classrooms are about control; when we try to control students’ thinking we create a low/no-trust environment with students that entraps their minds and eliminates the need for creativity, ingenuity, and authentic, original thought. 

How is it that this meme can be so readily found when we describe math classrooms? That this concept of illegality in alternative thinking is synonymous with math classrooms, rather than the liberatory experience we know mathematics to be?
 
In closing, we reflect on the immediacy and urgency of Arundathi Roy’s quote. The pandemic is a portal. How we swim through it or whether we drown in it, is up to us. Where it leads to is up to us. We engage deliberately in the practice of freedom dreaming, of imagining a world beyond the violence enacted upon children in mathematics classrooms. 
 
We are swimming in rough waters these days, full of murky sediment, glimpsing blearily into the unknown void. We have named here the silence, the complicity of holding onto dysfunctional systems that dehumanize children in the name of carcerality, of disciplinary productivity that seeks to mandate how we engage in mathematics (and beyond) as human beings.  We ask the reader to consider the following – If we are more aware of the water, is that enough? Is our awareness enough? Do we keep swimming? Or do we change the scope of our navigations?

The Global Math Department and researchers at North Carolina State University are undertaking a study to learn about teachers’ learning experiences from participation in the GMD. You can participate in this study if you have participated in the GMD as a presenter, attendee of a GMD conference, or reader of the GMD newsletter. 

We invite you to click the link to join the study as a participant and to learn more!

Get Involved with the Newsletter

Our team of writers and curators is committed to produce content that is reflective of our Statement of Solidarity and with the goal of moving these words into action.

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This Week at Global Math – 12/1/20







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Curated By Chase Orton @mathgeek76

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Webinar Tonight! — December 1st, 2020

Bringing the Math Back: Lessons in Educational Recovery from Around the World

We’ve been told repeatedly that we are teaching in unprecedented times, but in fact this is not the first round of education recovery post-natural disaster in modern times. We will look at lessons from around the world and how various nations reshaped their mathematics classrooms after interruptions due to disease, war, and weather-related phenomena. In these stories of resilience and innovation, we will imagine how our own classrooms may be reimagined in the wake of Covid-19.

Presented by: Brianna Kurtz

To register for this webinar, click here.

Check out past and upcoming Global Math Department webinars. Click here for the archives or get the webinars in podcast form!

You can also visit our new YouTube Channel to find videos of past sessions and related content.

#GMDWrites

The Definition of Smart
 

I have been grappling with the idea of “smart” this year. Who do we consider “smart”? What fields of study do we consider the realm of “smart” people? (Mathematics is high on that list.) How are “smartness” and school success and fulfillment in life related?

I don’t have answers yet, but I came across a definition by Tressie McMillan Cottom (@tressiemcphd) that has shifted my thinking:
 

“Smart is only a construct of correspondence between one’s ability, one’s environment, and one’s moment in history. I am smart in the right way, in the right time, on the right end of globalization.”

 
I love Tressie’s definition and until something better comes along, this is the definition I’m working with. Mostly, I appreciate the recognition of “smart” being relational, as opposed to some kind of Platonic ideal. Smart as a construct of correspondence also fits nicely in the constellation of ideas that have been helping me grow as a math educator: (1) rehumanizing mathematics (Dr. Rochelle Gutierrez, @RG1gal); (2) unlearning deficit frameworks, particularly “current conceptions” (Dr. Maria Zavala @mdrzavala); and (3) redefining who is a math person (Howie Hua, @howie_hua).

Behind all of these ideas is the understanding that we are constructing mathematics, and we are constructing our measures of success (smartness). And therein lies our power: In accepting that these are things we make, we can decide to make something different. If we value different abilities (persistence over speed), and create different environments (collaboration over competition), we will produce different definitions of smart. The power is in knowing that our current definitions of both smart and mathematics are the result of decisions made by humans, and that we can make new decisions.
 
Two last things about this sentence: “I am smart in the right way, in the right time, on the right end of globalization.”

  1. I appreciate the humility in this definition. We could all use a bit of humility when thinking about our smarts.
  2. Acknowledging our moment in history feels like a call to action. How many “smart” people are we losing to the wrong side of all manner of structural violences?

Big, challenging questions, but I believe in our ability to figure them out together – we are a smart bunch.

by Idil Abdulkadir (@idil_a_)

Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Idil for being this week’s guest writer! Have an interest in writing for the Global Math Department Newsletter? Check out the invitation at the end of this Newsletter.
 

Focusing on the Positive

“It’s human nature to focus on the negative, but often a lot more is going right in your classroom than is going wrong.”

2020 has been a tough year to say the least, but good things are happening in 2020—we just might need a shift in perspective to help us see them. Simply learning how to look at a situation from a different point of view can change our negative interpretations to more positive ones.

With this in mind, I want to share this 2018 article by Patricia Jennings and MindShift (@MindShiftKQED) called “Changing How Educators See Negative Experiences in the Classroom.”

  

I invite you to give a read. And then take a look around you. What are some good things that are happening this year? How can we look at 2020 with a positive perspective?

by Amber Thienel (@amberthienel)

Thorn, Rose, Rosebuds
 

For this week’s entry in the Global Math Department newsletter, I’m keeping it simple by adhering to the “thorn, rose, rosebud” framework: one thing that’s no good; one thing that’s good and happened; and two things that are good and on the horizon.

Thorn 
Ellie Murray (below), Dave Kung (tweet) and others (e.g.) drew attention to a print ad from AT&T in the NYTimes. It is nice that the response to “thorny” ads like these is swift, but there were surely numerous points from brainstorming to publishing during which this could have been interrupted. I’m all for the call out, and/but: If you find yourself somewhere in the pipeline with the opportunity to disrupt before materials like these appear, be the one who speaks up!

Rose
As mentioned in a past newsletter, the Fields Institute planned and held its LGBTQ+ Math Day!


You can read more about the event in the AMS Inclusion/Exclusion blog post or on the event page (site hosted by Anthony Bonato). Relatedly, check out the sequence of tweets from Laurie Rubel here.
 
Rosebuds
Marian Dingle is giving a talk this Friday! It is entitled “Opening the Mathematical Gates: Moving Toward Inclusivity and Belonging,” and if past talks are any indication, it will most surely be worth your time. You can visit the talk page or find it in the tweet below (note the timing: Friday, December 4th, at 8PM EST):

Finally, the United States is at an exciting turning point such that a weaponized Department of Education, headed by unqualified republican megadonor / “shoot the grizzly bears” betsy devos, is transitioning to an incoming administration that will have a First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, who holds a doctorate in education! The new administration has a “Join Us” website, and so I am personally urging YOU as a reader of the Global Math Department newsletter, if eligible to work in the United States, to consider submitting your CV/resume for consideration. A government, like any organization, is only as strong as its people; perhaps nothing will come from it, but I believe that an influx of applications by GMD readers would be a step in the right direction:

by Benjamin Dickman [@benjamindickman]

The Global Math Department and researchers at North Carolina State University are undertaking a study to learn about teachers’ learning experiences from participation in the GMD. You can participate in this study if you have participated in the GMD as a presenter, attendee of a GMD conference, or reader of the GMD newsletter. 

We invite you to click the link to join the study as a participant and to learn more!

Click Here to participate in this study

Get Involved with the Newsletter

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With this in mind we are calling for new volunteers to expand our perspectives and raise our collective voices to move this publication forward. If you are interested in becoming a regular contributor or would like the opportunity to contribute as a guest writer, please fill out this form.

 

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This Week at Global Math – 11/24/20







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Curated By Nate Goza @thegozaway

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Online Professional Development Sessions

No Session This Week.

Next Week, 12/1 at 9:00 PM ET.

Bringing the Math Back: Lessons in Educational Recovery from Around the World

We’ve been told repeatedly that we are teaching in unprecedented times, but in fact this is not the first round of education recovery post-natural disaster in modern times. We will look at lessons from around the world and how various nations reshaped their mathematics classrooms after interruptions due to disease, war, and weather-related phenomena. In these stories of resilience and innovation, we will imagine how our own classrooms may be reimagined in the wake of Covid-19.

Presented by: Brianna Kurtz

To register for this webinar, click here.

Check out past and upcoming Global Math Department webinars. Click here for the archives or get the webinars in podcast form!

You can also visit our new YouTube Channel to find videos of past sessions and related content.

#GMDWrites

Numbers and Sense
 

Last week in Washington, D.C., I overheard a conversation on the train between two strangers:
 
A: I just don’t believe COVID is real.
 
B: But the news is reporting that cases in the U.S. are rising. How could you ignore that?
 
A: Where are the infected people? The news is just reporting numbers. Numbers aren’t the facts! Numbers aren’t the infection. The people have the infection! Show me the people!
 
I’ve been thinking about that conversation. I’ve been thinking about numbers and about how we process and react to them. I’ve been thinking about tweets like these:


 

And about podcast episodes like Dispatch 1: Numbers from Radiolab, which talks about the numbers connected to COVID. 
 
With the pandemic came a national conversation largely spoken in the language of mathematics. Education scholar Bill Barton describes mathematics as any system for dealing with the quantitative, relational, and spatial aspects of human experience. How are people dealing with the quantities, relationships, and spatial life of COVID?  What are people doing or not doing with this knowledge?
 
We teach students how to do all kinds of things to quantities, relationships, and space. They learn how to represent them as objects, cut these objects up and piece them back together, and reconfigure them into increasingly abstract forms. But often, quantities, relationships, and space are not abstract. They point to things that touch our lives such as whether COVID cases are low enough that schools can remain open or how district borders affect racial segregation in schools.


 

How often are teachers helping students process the quantities, relationships, and spaces in their lives? In a literature class, students talk about their personal reactions to a Toni Morrison novel. In an art class, students talk about the meanings and intentions behind their work. But in a traditional math class, it’s like students learn how to cook without ever being asked what they think about the food. 
 
To be fair, not every mathematical concept needs to be tied to a “real-world” context. But numbers can matter, and numbers don’t speak for themselves. Numbers can make us feel. They can make us act. They can change how we see ourselves and one another. How this happens is not automatic. Like everything else, our relationship to numbers is a learned phenomena.
 
The Slow Reveal Graphs by Jenna Laib (@jennalaib) is one way we can promote quantitative and spatial literacy while also giving students space to talk about how certain numbers and graphs impact them and why. This instructional routine does a nice job promoting “number sense” by giving equal weight to “number” and “sense”. The slow reveal graphs take a rigorous approach to data analysis. But at the same time, there is nothing inherently objective about numbers. Numbers are always accompanied by a regime of perception that makes some things “make sense” and other things unrecognizable. For instance, consider how a “1% fatality rate” can make the world look a certain way depending on how you think about it while also hiding information about issues such as race and class. The slow reveal graph routine invites students to think deeply about this connection between numbers and perception.

Maybe the numbers aren’t the facts. But we can’t avoid our responsibility to engage with numbers and ask where they come from, how they make us feel, and when they lead us to act. Mathematical sense making is not a purely technical affair. Instead, it’s a practice also concerned with ethics and responsibility and a willingness to challenge what even constitutes “common sense”. This is the essence of mathematical sense making, which gives students the agency and hope to decide what is sensible beyond the boundaries of what society already tries to impose on them.

@melvinmperalta

Why Don’t You Care?
 

Please answer this question for yourself.

This will be evaluated on the Final Examination.

@HKhodai

Learning to be a Teacher in a Pandemic

 
Virtual teaching is tough → biggest understatement of the year. But what about learning to be a teacher amidst a pandemic?

My name is Jess Moses, and I am a senior at Vanderbilt University, in the elementary education program. My teacher education has been upheaved by the pandemic. My student teaching placement got cancelled. In the semester where I expected to have the opportunity to teach more than I ever have, I haven’t worked with a single group of students.,  The secondary students in our program have been able to work with mentor teachers, so I was curious about what they are learning. I spoke with Maria Aguilera, also a senior at Vanderbilt, in the secondary education math program. We work together as research assistants on Project SIGMa (Supporting Instructional Growth in Mathematics), and we wanted to unpack some of her learnings from a semester in the online classroom. We sat down for a chat, and these are some of the key things we noticed.

Maria shared her experience applying her learning thus far about teaching in these unexpected times. Across our conversation, a theme emerged of pedagogical shift— transformation of all of her abstract knowledge about what an engaging, caring, conceptually-oriented mathematical classroom looks like.

Her first instinct when faced with the question of virtual teaching was to think about the different pedagogies she had been learning through her program and how to translate them exactly into virtual teaching. However, she soon realized that, instead of attempting to fit in-person teaching into this virtual space, she could embrace virtual teaching as something new. This was the first pedagogical shift. There would be some overlap, but this was an opportunity for all teachers, whether new or veteran, to be learners and collaboratively experiment with different pedagogies to discover what is effective, and when, in a virtual classroom.

So far this semester, Maria has felt supported by her professors, undergraduate cohort, and mentor teacher. Her mentor teacher has been a thought partner as they learn to navigate virtual learning together. Maria says that creativity is her strongest asset right now, as there is a lack of information about effective technologies and pedagogies for the virtual math classroom. With the resources that do exist, the overarching question about efficacy still applies: “effective for whom?” It can be easy to forget about all the non-content elements that make up teaching when you stare into a black screen every day talking to students’ floating profile pictures.

Building classroom community when you have never heard students’ voices or seen their faces requires another fundamental pedagogical shift regarding what community is and how it may be constructed. Maria has been thinking about the fact that her students still don’t know much about their classmates; some of them haven’t even seen their school yet or walked the hallways. She wonders what the impact of this is for the overall classroom community and what the transition to in-person teaching will mean for the community of learners. Will the students know their classmates? Will they want to engage in non-content related activities such as clubs or sports? 

A third pedagogical shift is around our notion of student engagement, which is being pushed beyond previous conceptions and understandings. Previously, student engagement was often gauged through physical and verbal cues, which inform the teacher of a student’s understanding, or lack thereof. Maria expressed that, in her program, she had been taught to use these visual and behavioral cues for confirmation of student engagement. However, now, she’s had to think beyond what she can see to understand student engagement; a task that requires creativity and courage. To her, student engagement now looks like student responses in the chat or sharing random memes/gifs to convey how they are feeling. Student engagement can also mean logging into the school online portal or joining the class call at 7:05 a.m., when class starts.

Even though so much is uncertain, including when schools in Nashville will return to in-person teaching, there are many lessons that Maria, as a pre-service teacher, is learning from this experience. For example, she mentioned learning how to incorporate technology and using it fluidly during live class sessions. It has also been remarkable how students have adapted to the new technologies her mentor teacher introduced at the beginning of the year, such as Peardeck and Desmos, and how these specific technologies allow her to provide more students with immediate, intentional feedback to an extent that was impossible during in-person teaching.

She is hopeful that some of the things we are attending to now will continue to be foregrounded when we return to in-person teaching. Maria has noticed a higher emphasis on social emotional learning and is considering how best to bring this attentiveness back into her secondary  math classroom, which can tend to be more content-focused. Maria and her mentor teacher begin classes with a daily check in where students pick a “would you rather” or drag an icon to an emoji to let them know how they are feeling at the start of class. These check-ins happen at the beginning and end of class, which is new. Maria and her mentor teacher ask students to give them a “temperature check” about their confidence about their understanding of a given topic. Our students are human beings first, and we are all given the opportunity to attend to this humanity, especially as we reflect on our own needs as humans.
 
Written by Maria Aguilera (@aguileramf) and Jess Moses (@Jess_Moses1)

The Global Math Department and researchers at North Carolina State University are undertaking a study to learn about teachers’ learning experiences from participation in the GMD. You can participate in this study if you have participated in the GMD as a presenter, attendee of a GMD conference, or reader of the GMD newsletter. 

We invite you to click the link to join the study as a participant and to learn more!

Click Here to participate in this study

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This Week at Global Math – 11/17/20







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Curated By Nate Goza @thegozaway

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Tongiht!

PCMI in the Time of Pandemic

Presented by Monica Tienda and Barbara Lynch
 

The Park City Math Institute (PCMI) is an intensive 3-week residential conference that’s been around in some form or another for 30+ years. The Teacher Leadership Program of PCMI offers a phenomenal professional opportunity for classroom teachers unlike anything else around. The global pandemic may have interfered with 2020, but come see what’s up for PCMI 2021!
 

To register for this webinar, click here.

Check out past and upcoming Global Math Department webinars. Click here for the archives or get the webinars in podcast form!

You can also visit our new YouTube Channel to find videos of past sessions and related content.

#GMDWrites

Centering #BlackMathWeek
 
Highlighted By: Sara Rezvi (@arsinoepi)

This month’s contribution to GMD seeks to highlight the grace, vulnerability, brilliance, and joy of #BlackInMathWeek
 
With permission from the organizers, I write here on why it matters to highlight and uplift these stories (especially as a non-Black person of color), and the importance of centering and standing in solidarity with Black mathematicians, math educators, and math ed scholars. 
 
Dr. Noelle Sawyer shares the following about #BlackInMathWeek and why it was created: 
 
Black in Math Week was November 8th – 13th, 2020! It was a week on Twitter to celebrate community among and uplift Black mathematicians. Black in Math Week is a part of a series of “Black in X” Weeks. They started with Black Birders Week after a white woman called the police on a Black birdwatcher in Central Park. You can find the page at @BlackInMath on Twitter. Throughout the week, the twitter page highlighted profiles of Black mathematicians, Black Mathematicians in the media, advice to aspiring mathematicians, a focus on Black math educators, and all culminated on a movie night on Friday November 13th with the Netflix Movie: Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey. A few of the organizers for the week were Marissa Loving (@MarissaKawehi), Candice Price (@916ice), Noelle Sawyer (@blkmathmagic), and Dwight Anderson Williams II (@mathdwight). If you’re interested in checking out what happened during Black In Math Week, search the tag #BlackInMathWeek for general posts, #BlackInMathRollCall to find Black mathematicians on twitter, #BlackInMathMedia to find appearances of Black mathematicians in the media, and #MyBlackMathJourney to see the stories that Black mathematicians shared about how they’ve gotten to where they are today.
 

Here are some must-read threads to check out:
 

Anna Gifty’s (@itsafronomics) powerful thread on representation and the microaggressions that occur in schooling and childhood connects to how racism and exclusion in math is reproduced. 
 
This tweet from @BlackInMath highlighting Dr. Candice Price’s (@916ice) work in mathematics by meeting a mathematician virtually. In the vieo Dr. Price talks about protein folding, topology, and network theory in environmental studies along with her WHY for becoming a mathematician.  #BlackInMathMedia
 
LaShonda Mackey (@msmackeymath) writes here on the importance of being seen mathematically by teachers and the impact of being challenged above and beyond a standard curriculum.
 
This thread from Dr. Brook Alemayehu (@bta77) on challenges, pushing through, intellectual humility, and finding a passion for teaching mathematics. 

 

Some ways you can center #BlackInMathWeek: 
 

  1. Have students read Dr. Candice Price’s Favorite Theorem Blog post on Scientific American and give students the opportunity to reflect on favorite theorems or math observations of their own! This can be done for any age. Alternatively, there is a podcast. Check out: My Favorite Theorem Podcast ft John Urschel
  2. Read through #MyBlackMathJourney. The hashtag offers insights on the realities of learning mathematics as a Black person.
    1. What are some common themes reflected here? Why does that matter?
    2. How can non-Black people show solidarity and push back against Black peers, colleagues and classmates being silenced, belittled, or harmed in math spaces? 
    3. How should mathematicians openly discuss the realities of racism in mathematics (and beyond)? What internal work and self-interrogation needs to be done? 
  3. Listen to Black Math Ed Scholars and check out #BlackInMathEd. Create a watch party with other teachers at your school and have a conversation about the insights brought forth here by the scholars linked below: 

 

The election and its aftermath are a mirror – one in which white people in particular, and NBPOC need to look at our reflections. We live in a country that is built on stolen land and stolen people, on genocide, enslavement, and the torture of Black people and of this country’s continued inability to reckon with that truth. The erasure, fragility, and defensiveness that ensues from this fact is why there were alt-right, white supremacist parties marching in the nation’s capital this weekend. 
 
How do these realities impact how you are interacting with Black students? What do they see when you say nothing in your math spaces? Math is and always has been political in the United States. The right to study fully, to equal access to education, to qualified teachers that see the full humanity and brilliance of Black children has remained out of reach both historically and in the present day. 
 
What are some ways that you can do better for Black people? Today? Tomorrow? Daily? Without gain for self? Without centering you? Without co-optation or commodification? 
 
How can you approach this work with humility, grace, and a genuine desire to do better (even if you might mess up)? None of us can do this alone, but it is incumbent upon us to NOT leave our current realities alone either.  

One of our Own
 

Last Saturday, on November 7th, the majority of news outlets following the election polls called the 2020 election for Joe Biden as the 46th elected President of the United States of America. And while educators may have been divided over the outcome of the election, there seemed to be a common chorus coming from teacher groups across the nation.


 

Betsy Devos, who served as the Secretary of Education, was consistently ranked as President Trump’s most unpopular Cabinet Secretary. Unfortunately, she was also one of the few who never got fired, making her tenure as SoE one of the longest. Her goal of dismantling public education through the use of corporate capitalism was met with constant resistance from educators across the system.

 

One of the reasons Betsy came under constant scrutiny from the education field was because of her lack of experience in a school setting. Devos was never a teacher, never worked in a school position, and visited very few schools in her time as SoE. In the last year of the pandemic, Devos used her political agenda to pressure schools to open full time, and then used the resistance from that decision to push for school choice options that allow federal, public funds to be used in charter and private schools, without accountability.


 

On November 7th, for the first time in a long time, educators heard an encouraging message involving public schools. President-Elect Joe Biden said, “Jill’s a military mom, an educator. She’s dedicated her life to education, but teaching isn’t just what she does. It’s who she is. For American educators, this is a great day for you all. You are going to have one of your own in the White House.” [emphasis added]
 
Whether Dr. Biden will have as much influence on education policy as has been anticipated will remain in question. But I can’t help but think of the relationship I have with my own spouse, and hope. My husband works in another social sector of agriculture. Our jobs are very different, and yet, over the course of our marriage we have found many common threads. 
 
After long days of teaching, I would come home and share my heart with him for my students; sometimes joyful, sometimes in sorrow. He has laughed with me at the jokes my students have told, and held my hand as I cried for the students that I lost. He listened as I told him how frustrated I was with the systemic injustices found in education, and vowed to help me find a way to help. Through those many conversations, he noticed how his work changed, how he began to humanize the people he was working with, to open doors for more people, to disrupt injustices head on. 
 
I’ll never forget the time we were with some friends who were championing school choice being open to all students because of the positive experiences they had with their own children. We listened quietly as several people advocated for the lack of accountability in school funding. During that conversation, he caught my eye, gave me a side smirk, and a wink. He knew I was ready to dismantle that entire conversation. And when the pause in conversation came, I didn’t hear my voice first. I heard his. “Well, actually…”
 
And then, I listened to the spouse of an educator speak to the alternative side of school choice with facts, statistics, and known injustices as if he had spent years studying. And in fact, he had. He not only listened to me, watched series with me like “America To Me”, but he took to researching so he was knowledgeable on his own. 
 
I remember riding home that night and asking him how he knew all that stuff about education. His response was, “Well, I guess when you’re married to an educator, you realize how important education really is, and it moves you.” 
 
This is my prayer for President-Elect Joe Biden. I hope that Biden himself has been moved by Dr. Jill Biden, simply by listening to her stories about teaching, to her frustrations with the system, and to her heart as an educator. I hope he goes home after hard days to hear her stories, and to remember why he needs to fight hard for teachers, students, and public schools. I hope he remembers he has someone who has done the work in the White House with him. And I hope that Biden’s administration and work in education policy show a direct link back to his being married to an educator, that he would see just how important education really is. 
 
She doesn’t have to be the next Secretary of Education for that hope to exist. She can simply be Dr. Jill Biden, married to Joe Biden, President-Elect of the United States of America.


 

Lauren Baucom
@Lbmathemagician

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This Week at Global Math – 11/10/20







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Curated By Chase Orton @mathgeek76

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No Webinar this Week.

Check out past and upcoming Global Math Department webinars. Click here for the archives or get the webinars in podcast form!

You can also visit our new YouTube Channel to find videos of past sessions and related content.

Coming Next Tuesday: November 17th, 2020!

Park City Math Institute in the Time of the Pandemic

The Park City Math Institute (PCMI) is an intensive 3-week residential conference that’s been around in some form or another for 30+ years. The Teacher Leadership Program of PCMI offers a phenomenal professional opportunity for classroom teachers unlike anything else around. The global pandemic may have interfered with 2020, but come see what’s up for PCMI 2021!

Presented by: Monica Tienda and Barbara Lynch

To register for this webinar, click here.

From the Writing Team

Not Doing Math When You Should Be

 
I love math memes. Here is one that I recently saw:
 

I was amused by this meme because I knew that the result of the US Election was decided without the Nevada count: The President-Elect is Joe Biden, the Vice President-Elect is Kamala Harris, and the people of the United States voted out a failed fascist and overt racist. COVID can be stopped with masks and distancing, yet the sitting president* encourages mask-less gatherings (some of which become super-spreader events). The People of the United States deserve to vote, and voting by mail during a pandemic should not be a concern due to interference in the United States Postal Service. Families in the United States, irrespective of their citizenship status, deserve to remain together; we should not be caging children or losing track of the kids and parents separated from one another. As hard as it may have been to Cast your vote, it should have been easy to Decide your vote.
 
But. Over 71 million people voted for the pro-COVID, anti-USPS, cager/separator of children. donald trump has always been a loser. He aimed to enrich himself by running for president in 2016 without the goal of actually winning; it has been to the detriment of the United States, and the world, that he Lost at Losing and emerged electorally victorious. In 2020 he ran for re-election, but this time he wanted to win; as we now know, he lost like the loser he will always be. We cannot, as a nation, simply cast off those who voted for him despite these four years of intentional harm directed primarily at marginalized peoples. 71 million is simply too large a number. We also cannot “meet them halfway” on questions of fascism versus anti-fascism, or racism versus anti-racism. I don’t have game-changing advice on these voters right now. Not yet. Sorry.
 
What does “not doing math when you should be” mean? I have been doing math, incidentally, but it hasn’t been strictly school math.
 
There are a lot of current joyful happenings in the world of mathematics:
 

  • I hope that you are following BlackInMath during this #BlackInMath week
  • I was excited to see my former classmate-then-coworker Dr. Brandie Waid publish an NCTM MTLT article called “Supporting LGBTQ+ Students in K-12 Mathematics”
  • There is great work happening on mathematical gerrymandering that goes way beyond the “ChartThrob” casting of some white dudes on CNN and MSNBC whose math amounted (mostly) to arithmetic:

In the tweet above, I mention that the most impressive mathematical feat of this election, from my perspective, has been the voter organization of Stacey Abrams and others. With two competitive Senate races coming up in Georgia this January, I urge you to engage with the math that you should be doing.
 
To that end (who are the “others” besides Abrams, you may be wondering), here is a spreadsheet entitled “Georgia BIPOC-led voter outreach organizations (created by They See Blue Georgia)” via Cathery Yeh:

I want to go back to “doing math.” I want to dedicate more of my brain space to teaching and learning and shifting school mathematics (including a longstanding battle against Calculus, as Nas discusses below). I want to do types of math that go beyond Nevada’s slow counting—no disrespect to counting. And: Now that we have lodged a major victory in the presidential race, we need to do the math on how to keep pushing the United States forward. That starts with the Blue State of Georgia, and continues with, for example, understanding that so many of today’s 16/17 year olds can vote responsibly in the 2022 midterms.
 
We must engage in the types of math that ensure we live the words of John Lewis, as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris quoted in her acceptance speech, when both reminded us that “democracy is not a state—it is an act.”
 
What is the math that you should be doing?
 
Benjamin Dickman [@benjamindickman]

The Cases for Discrete Math

 
Since my first middle school viewing of “Stand and Deliver,” I dreamed of taking calculus in high school and, much later, instilling the same excitement for college-level mathematics in my own middle school algebra students. Beyond Hollywood fantasies of rising from arithmetic to perfect AP Calculus scores in under two years, the expectation of taking calculus in high school has become all but normalized over the last few decades. Significantly, high school calculus is often promoted as a mechanism for both engaging historically underrepresented students in STEM and in increasing access to STEM careers. To both these ends, and with no disrespect to Jaime Escalante or my own wonderful calculus teacher, I propose an alternative: all students should be required to take a full year of college-level discrete math as their terminating high school mathematics course.
 
Arguments against the push to take calculus in high school often cite the rapidly growing number of seniors enrolling in calculus out of a desire to bolster their college applications despite inadequate mathematical preparation or interest. Consequently, as reported by the Mathematical Association of America, a large percentage of students who successfully pass the AP Calculus Exam retake Calculus I in college because university math departments often claim that even students earning high AP scores are still poorly prepared for college-level mathematics. With significant research and discussion around the detriments of tracking students, I am less interested in these elitist pushes toward reserving calculus for only the most mathematically “gifted” high schoolers.

Having been lucky enough to teach both a conceptual calculus course last year as well as the start of a discrete math course to seniors within our wholly de-tracked high school, I argue that discrete math is both the more equitable as well as the more rigorous option for students regardless of their post-high school plans.
  
Case 1: For High Schoolers Interested in STEM Careers
 
The entryway into coding afforded by the typical discrete math course renders it an obvious selection for students pursuing a wide range of STEM careers. Its appeal to students of pure mathematics, however, has historically been a bit more varied. Only ten or so years ago, my undergraduate math department—troubled by low student retention in the subject—opted to make discrete mathematics a required course for mathematics majors, their stated goal being to more adequately prepare students for advanced study in mathematics through rigorous exposure to proofs.
 
Despite skipping multivariable calculus and lower-division linear algebra, I found that my familiarity with formal logic as a result of taking discrete math enabled me to successfully complete the core upper-division courses for the major. In this way, discrete math provided more extensive exposure to the types of problems and reasoning I would experience as an advanced math student than my AP Calculus class. By contrast, students at my university who had excelled in calculus but had not taken discrete math or other courses building formal logic skills frequently expressed frustration at their upper-division math courses’ unexpectedly heavy emphasis on proofs. Offering discrete math at the high school level will not only provide more students with the requisite skills for success in future math classes but also a more representative view of what the field entails.
 
Case 2: For High Schoolers Not (Yet) Interested in STEM Careers
 
With broad applications in economics and other social sciences, calculus is often marketed to high school students seeking careers outside of STEM as a “necessary evil” that will benefit them in future research endeavors. By including units on combinatorics, Bayesian probability, and formal logic, discrete math similarly provides students with essential tools for analyzing “real-world” phenomena through a mathematical lens. An intuitive understanding of conditional probability, for instance, might go so far as to help patients decide on the best course of treatment. The importance of teaching logical deduction to all students prior to their high school graduation is particularly uncontroversial. (For a fun read on the topic, Professor Eugenia Cheng makes a compelling case in The Art of Logic in an Illogical World). 
 
Unlike calculus, however, the comparatively minimal prior content knowledge required for even college-level discrete math courses provides new entry points for students who have experienced limited past success in the subject. While the most common arguments advocating against high school calculus take issue with students’ insufficient exposure to intermediate algebra and trigonometry, discrete math defines all core concepts within the scope of the course. This quality allows students to explore a range of low-floor, high-ceiling non-routine problems early on with minimal anxiety. 
 
In all these ways, discrete math presents a unique combination of accessible, rigorous, and transferable skills and concepts that will universally benefit students regardless of their future career interests. If you are convinced and interested in designing a discrete math course (and possibly collaborating), check out this open-source textbook as well as this cool graph theory resource
 
Nasriah Morrison [@nasriahmorrison]

 

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This Week at Global Math – 11/2/20







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Curated By Nate Goza @thegozaway

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Tomorrow Night at 9:00 PM EST

Breakout Rooms for Teaching Math

Teaching mathematics includes student to student collaboration. Learn how to create structures that keep students focused, positive, and talking in breakout rooms. The gradual release structures can be used in any grade level.

Presented by: Theresa Wills

To register for this webinar, click here.

Check out past and upcoming Global Math Department webinars. Click here for the archives or get the webinars in podcast form!

You can also visit our new YouTube Channel to find videos of past sessions and related content.

From the Writing Team

We Need Each Other More Than Ever
 

How are you doing?
 
This question has taken on new significance in these past months. What is ordinarily somewhat superficial demonstration of care has taken on new tones of concern.
 
Since March, my doctoral student Katherine Schneeberger McGugan and I have been following a group of secondary mathematics teachers who are all teaching remotely this fall. Katherine has been interviewing them as they manage their work in the strange new world of pandemic teaching, and we write each interview protocol to start with the sincere version of the question, how are you doing?
 
The title of our study comes from something a teacher told us in our first round of interviews last spring: we have a whole different job now.
 
And it’s true. We used to think of students as absent or present. With online teaching, students are now absent, logged in with camera off and not engaged, logged in with camera off but engaged, and logged in, camera on, and engaged. Remote lessons take two to three times as long to plan for, since it is so much harder to improvise discussions or the sharing of work –– oh, and you need slides for so many things that could have been communicated in other ways. Those informal interactions we had with students really shaped our relationships. The quick doorway talks helped us develop relationships with students more than we realized. How do you have those quick asides –– those little check ins –– as students enter or exit our space, when that space is virtual?
 
Teachers also report a few upsides. A lot of them tell us that they are learning and loving new technologies, especially Desmos. Some of them are finding meaningful collaboration with department colleagues as they share the extra burden of online lesson planning. Everyone is a first-year teacher now, one interviewee told us. People need each other more than ever.
 
Across the teachers in our study, it is clear that everyone is working twice as hard to feel half as effective at reaching their students and helping them make sense of the mathematics. If you find yourself in a similar situation, know that you are in excellent company. If you have wisdom to share, we invite you to please do so with the Twitter hashtag #zoommath and tag @GlobalMathDept so we can help get it out to the community.
 
We really do need each other more than ever, because everyone is a first-year teacher now.

Written by Ilana Horn (@ilana_horn) with contributions from Katherine Schneeberger McGugan (@kath_schnee)

Who Counts?
 

“Counting is hard”. This is a common quip among combinatorialists. It plays with the idea that counting is something we learn early on in life, and yet there exist counting problems that can challenge us to our core. 
 
I am writing this on the Sunday night before an uncertain and high stakes U.S. election. Counting is on my mind. Counting is hard. No better time than the present highlights the challenges inherent in counting.
 
But more difficult than the act of counting is the question of who counts. Having privilege means that one rarely has to think about this question. But this question has been and continues to be a source of violence and oppression, both in terms of who gets to do the counting and who gets counted. Let’s do some counting now: 
 
One: settler colonialism (who counts as human?)
   Two: slavery (who counts as property?)
      Three: ownership (who counts as a property owner?)
         Four: suffrage (who counts as having a voice?)
            Five: census (who counts as existing?)
               Six: coronavirus (who counts as worthy of care?)
 
Who counts? This has always been an open question. From the civil rights movement and the courts, to the voter with a ballot and the voter with an open carry firearm, people have always wrestled with questions of counting because for many people, counting is a matter of survival. Counting is often the difference between oppression and liberation. Today, counting is the context through which people are enculturated into our neoliberal traditions, but counting is also a potential tool for protest, accountability, and collective action.
 
Counting is political. Can one escape this? I do not think so. Always, counting is haunted by implicit choices about who gets to do the counting and what is worthy of being counted. We cannot escape the question of who counts. Instead, we are forced to confront the act of counting not only as a technical challenge but also as an ethical one. Counting, ethics, justice, power. At first, one of these words does not seem to belong. I believe that part of our work as educators is to convince people otherwise.
 
@melvinmperalta

On the eve of Election Day in the United States we know that the good people of this community don’t need to be reminded to get out and vote.  However, we thought this might be a good time to take a look back and remind ourselves that math is political, teaching is political, and, now more than ever, rest and self-care are essential.  What follows are three articles from early this year that are on our minds as the election approaches.

From Melvin Peralta on 8/11
 

Math is Political

That’s it. That’s the article.
 
Sometimes, when people see the statement ‘math is political’ they either scratch their heads or run for the hills. What on earth does 2+2=4 have to do with politics?
 
Well, it turns out a lot. As an ongoing Twitter debacle about 2+2=4 makes evident, math has a lot to do with politics. I won’t link any threads or articles about the 2+2=4 issue because many of them appear to miss a significant point: a widespread philosophical argument about mathematical foundations and objective truth has been built on a foundation of harassment aimed at educators of color, many who are women. 
 
Prominent articles and Twitter threads, while helping people become more receptive to a more “playful mathematics” and understand mathematics’ cultural dimensions, are also contributing to an erasure of women of color by prioritizing mathematics over them and the ideas they are actually trying to promote. These ideas include promoting critical mathematics education, anti-racism, ethnomathematics, rehumanizing mathematicsethnic studies, and social justice math, among many others. Here’s a collection of things to look out for or look more deeply into:

  • Today (August 11) is the TODOS live session with Dr. Rochelle Gutiérrez where participants will reflect on ways to rehumanize mathematics. The live session will take place at 4pm PST / 7pm EST. Registration can be found through this tweet from TODOS.

If you want to support these efforts and the people who stand behind them, consider deeply engaging with the scholarship on critical math education, anti-racism, and ethnomathematics, encouraging others to do the same, and supporting school teachers who want to apply these ideas in the classroom. Recent events have taught me an important lesson, one that I have recently felt a visceral level: silence is complicity. Math educators are part of the same community, and while we may not necessarily agree on everything (which I believe actually makes us stronger), it is important that we step in and speak up for one another.
 
What’s one thing that the coronavirus and racism, homophobia, patriarchy, ableism, and postcolonialism have in common? Too many people still think they don’t exist. How will we as educators of math–the supposed last bastion of ‘rationality’ and ‘truth’–respond?
 

@melvinmperalta

From Hema Khodai on 8/11
 

Rest as Self Care
By: Hema Khodai (@HKhodai)
 

I constantly and continually fail at disrupting grind culture. It is a new practice to me, who glorified it not too long ago, measured my worth by it, and judged others by their inability to excel within it. Some label it as ascribing to the model minority myth, the desire to mitigate racial violence by leaning into whiteness. Some identify it as an immigrant mindset, an inheritance from those who traveled over distant lands and seas for a chance at survival. Some name it as a remnant of indentured servitude, memory that lives in bloodlines of survival inextricably linked to productivity. Some say I exemplify grit and resilience and have overcome so much adversity in my personal life. These romanticized notions of self-liberation through determination and hard work enmesh us deeper in capitalism, they lack a precision of language I attend to: grind culture is rooted in white supremacy.


 

Here are some ways complicity in grind culture appears in our lives with prompts to disrupt them:

  • Upholding individual disruptors as paragons of antiracism and/or mathematics education.
    • Grassroots movements grow to a tipping point at which they become profitable. 
      • How might we show our appreciation and support in non-monetary ways or ways that sustain improvements in the living and working conditions for the communities we live and work in?
    • We are the sum of all of our interactions with the planet and its inhabitants. 
      • How do we meaningfully honour the communities and collectives that these individuals learned from?
      • How do we meaningfully honour the collective work of folx without coopting or profiting off their support and brilliance?
    • Classrooms (be they virtual or physical) are microcosms of larger society. 
      • Who do you uphold as a mathematician in your classes? Who remains invisible?
    • Indigenous, Black, and racialized folx often are not compensated for their labour in racial justice work. 
      • How might we measure our worth outside of capitalism?
  • Uncritical consumption of self-directed learning. 
    • FOMO is real. 
      • How do we disengage from compulsive engagement with social media? How do we disrupt our performance of wokeness?
    • Greed is real. 
      • How do we selectively and collectively learn without signing up for every webinar? How do we share opportunities for coalition building?
    • Gatekeeping is real. 
      • Who do you invite to greater learning in your mathematics classes? Who remains barred at the gates?
  • Constant striving to amass antiracist knowledge. 
    • Book Club Hopping is trendy. 
      • How do we intentionally plan time to develop our understanding of new knowledge and transfer it into our daily living?
    • Cultivating Genius is trendy. 
      • How do you uphold students and their lived realities as funds of knowledge over the mathematical canon?
  • Lack of intentionality in the ways we move and live. 
    • Overscheduling is a thing. 
      • How do we hold healthy boundaries that promote collective well-being?
    • Controlling kids is a thing. 
      • How do you hold time and space for students to learn mathematics and identify as doers of mathematics?
  • Endorsing the supremacy of mathematics.
    • Math is not neutral. 
      • How does your district use/misuse/abuse data to justify the back to school plan?
    • Math is not objective. 
      • How do you promote criticality in mathematical thinking over efficiency and accuracy?

 
What is the Plan?
 

 
What is your plan to start or continue discussions to illuminate for our families, friends, and colleagues the ways Black and Brown lives are regulated, directed, misinterpreted, and controlled and taken?
 
As we prepare for and start the new school year, knowing that in many districts Brown and Black lives continue to be placed at risk, considered to be expendable as we “hope for the best”, what is your plan for return to school?
 
What is your plan to contribute your labour and energy to the collective efforts of educators to abolish carceral pedagogy and imagine humanizing ways to teach and learn mathematics?
 
What is your plan to support the self-care efforts of Indigenous educators, Black educators, and racialized educators?
 
What is your plan to promote rest as self-care for yourself and your students? 
 
What is your plan to be a part of a collective that strives for liberation?
 

I humbly cite and uplift the work of Tricia Hersey (The Nap Ministry) and Awo Okaikor Aryee-Price (The Edu-Sage’s Companion) whose words and wisdom I learn from.

From Lauren Baucom on 10/27
 

Mathematics is political. 

Adolphe Quetelet was a Belgian statistician who was obsessed with collecting data about physical and social human characteristics. His preoccupation with understanding human growth led to what is now known as the Body Mass Index, but formerly known as the Quetelet Index. Yet, his main purpose was not to understand height and weight distributions among adults, but rather to define “The Average Man”. Setting distributions against the normal curve, Quetelet became hyper-focused on identifying what “The Normal Man” looked like in physical traits, and acted like social characteristics. But, in defining what is “normal”, one also defines what is “abnormal”. A quick google search for “the average man” quickly demonstrates how exclusionary it is to be deemed “normal” mathematically. Average according to these images means White, with brown hair, and approximately 5’10. Under this definition, the majority of the world is deemed abnormal. 

By placing human beings on a binary scale, Quetelet introduced a new tactic for humans to assure that being White and male meant being the dominant human species, a tactic that could be measured precisely. Since then, the normal curve has been used to measure many physical and social attributes that were never intended to be placed on a binary scale, a scale that erases our diversity as a human race and creates a system of hierarchy. 

Occuring in the 1830’s, Quetelet’s work was not the first to use mathematics for political purposes and it certainly hasn’t been the last. In more recent times, the mathematics behind algorithms has been used for many political purposes, including policing systems that disproportionately target communities of color. In the last 6 months, the politicizing of mathematics has been increasingly evident with the various ways of counting COVID-19 cases, or even the lack of reporting the data at all. Many of the decisions of how to count and what to report have been tied to who was in power of the state government, rather than what mathematics to use. 

In many ways, understanding that mathematics is political can be turned into an advantage or a position of power. Yes, Quetelet had a particular motive for using the Normal curve to define normality among humans; but in doing so, he also provided a way to prove the existence of massive inequalities along the socially constructed variables of race, gender, and class. As teachers of mathematics, we must reconcile the above cases where mathematics was used to help some gain and to oppress others, and we do so through this second reminder: 
 

Teaching mathematics is political. 

As teachers, we make hundreds of decisions each day on how and what to teach our students. Each one of those decisions is viewed through our lens, perspective, and past experiences. If we were taught in a room where raising hands was required to speak, we may use some of those same practices in our classroom. If we were taught privileging procedures and speed over conceptual development, this may show up in how we teach our own students. Failure to recognize the many, many decisions that we make each day in our teaching practice is a dangerous path, one of which begins to “normalize” what we do, and abnormalize the work of other teachers. 

For many of us, the curriculum that we use is decided for us. Many curriculums have a particularly political perspective that is viewed through the lens of what I am calling, “Mathematical exceptionalism”. Mathematical exceptionalism seeks to normalize the learning of mathematics as a sterile, benign learning process based in objectivity. Mathematical exceptionalism completely denies the privileging of White, Eurocentric, male mathematicians in curriculum, pedagogy, and access to upper level mathematics courses. Similar to the work of Quetelet, by using the Mathematical Exceptionalism lens for teaching mathematics, as teachers, we simultaneously define and counter-define who math is for and who it isn’t, to the detriment to the majority of the world who do not fit this definition of “normal”. 

The same is true not only for who we show can do mathematics, but also for the context we use to teach with. We must be careful not to repeat the mistakes of former mathematicians: to define some of mathematics as “normal” and some of mathematics as “socially just”. Teaching students to understand and act on the mathematics of known injustices is just as much mathematics as teaching students the quadratic formula. By ab-normalizing mathematics centered on justice, we place it among the outliers and define those who teach this way as “different”. Recognizing the diversity of mathematics brings beauty and awe. As math teachers, it is just as much our job to celebrate the diversity of mathematics itself as it is to celebrate the ways and contexts with which mathematics can be taught. 

It’s time to remember that math in the math classroom has always been political. Let’s honor the diversity of mathematics by teaching in a way that celebrates “the beauty of the people around you”.  
 
And if you live in the US, don’t forget to vote
 
Lauren Baucom
@Lbmathemagician

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