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Rethinking Mathematics review

Rethinking Mathematics offered an interesting array of math lesson plans that were created with a social justice mindset. We thought the introduction was particularly effective in providing background information about the many relations between math and the many inequalities, oppression and exceptionalism present in our world.

In the second section of the book we were given a variety of detailed accounts from practicing and experienced teachers. Their honesty exposed the downfalls and successes of their lessons.

We felt that the lessons were effective in teaching the students about cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds that differed from their own.

Topics from the final section of the book revealed how teachers from different content areas could incorporate social justice math into their curriculum and pedagogy as well.

This book should be an essential for math teachers, especially those in elementary, middle and early high school, because it offers creative ways of incorporating social justice into a subject that on the surface appears to be unrelated. However, we all agreed that the book should qualify that such social justice/math lessons should be implemented sparingly to avoid overwhelming students and losing their attention.

Homosexuality in the classroom

For this week we read  an article titled “Lesbian: I use math class to teach young kids about homosexuality so I can ‘hide’ it from parents”. The article can be found at . The article focuses on Alicia Gunn, an elementary public school teacher in Ontario. Alicia also happens to be an open lesbian. Gunn has received much notice for the way that she openly teaches about homosexuality in her classroom. She has received backlash as well as numerous awards for her teaching methods. She uses the fact that she teaches numerous social justice issues to save her from any accusations that she focuses on homosexuality. She incorporates open discussion about these social issues with deep analysis of rates, graphs, and charts. For Gunn social justice shouldn’t just be present on one day a year but on every day.

Next week we have decided to read chapter 21 from rethinking mathematics entitled “The square root of a fair share”.

This chapter focuses on teaching students about square roots by using real life examples that focus on their future aspirations at home.

Revealing inequalities through research and math

Our reading this week proposed a lesson plan that allowed students analyze statistics unveiling the inequity behind “success” within schools. Through this project students were able to see first hand that research and statistics can be used to discuss relevant and meaningful issues. It intended to convince students of the power of math in relation to students across the nation as well as their unique stories as well.

What we found most interesting about this piece is the way it concluded. The teacher supported the analysis of broad school inequities yet she didn’t want to address such issues within her own school. This inevitably would have brought about discussions that the teacher was for whatever reason unwilling or unable to facilitate. This opposes what we’ve been taught in EDUC 533 this semester, to not be afraid to discuss social justice issues in any content area.

For next week we’ve chosen to read an article written by a teacher that’s not afraid, but rather been inspired to address social justice concerns through math.


Rethinking Mathematics PLC: Episode 3

Our readings for this week were based on the intersection between mathematics and race.

In the first reading, “Rethinking Mathematics and Its Intersection with Race” we read the transcribed dialogue of Danny Martin by Eric Gutstein. One of the interesting things we noticed was how he related learning math to freed slaves, who wanted to learn math lest they be cheated. The idea of not being cheated was also important for sixth graders as well. We felt it was brave to use ex-slave narratives in the math class, but also noted how we thought this was an important step in reaching different people in the class. We agree with the idea of critical self-reflection as an important aspect in improving as a teacher.

In the second section, “Race, Retrenchment, and Reform of School Mathematics”, one of the main ideas was how teaching math needs to be connected to the lives and experiences of African American students to enable them to do well in society and take full part in democracy. This involves being aware of the dominant culture and noting that not all students have the same background at home. Many times, the class is taught under the ideas of a white-dominant society which ignores those of other cultures. We also realized that we need to be careful as educators to notice how state-wide test can hold implicit assumptions about the test takers, and we need to attempt to help make the test better understood by all the students who take it.

Key Questions:

How do you think the ideas of math and race intersect, and how does this affect the classroom?
How can you teach in a way that everyone feels involved and appreciated in the lesson?

Our reading for next week focuses on teaching mathematics for racial justice.

Rethinking Mathematics PLC #1

This past week we read chapters 1-3 of “Rethinking Mathematics, Teaching Social Justice by the Numbers.” These chapters focused on teaching math “across the curriculum” as well as the historical, cultural and social implications of the field of mathematics.

While science and math are commonly associated, our reading emphasized the significance of math in many subjects and aspects of life. This only reinforced our mission statement from the previous week. In history, numbers are essential in portraying dates, population statistics and general trends. Statistics provide concrete evidence of past and present inequality issues, such as biased media representation and unequal job distribution among different genders and races. Through the suggested activities, students are given first-hand exposure to how vital and fascinating math can be in the real world.

In the third chapter we’re presented with the account of a dedicated math teacher who guided a small group of girls in using math to convince administrative officials that their (prominently Latino) school should not be closed down. At the end of the process, the girls were left feeling accomplished and appreciative of math. This is the mentality we hope to instill in our future students through engaging activities like the ones suggested in the first two chapters. It’s inevitable that students who are enthusiastic about the subject will learn more.

As practicing teachers what initiatives have you taken to show the importance of math in everyday life? How have you combined social justice issues with mathematics and it what ways has this proven difficult?

We have assigned ourselves chapters 5 and 7 for the next class. After reading we expect to be able to answer the following questions:

In what ways should we incorporate math into the teaching of modern, global issues? How can we teach these profound topics in an appropriate way that the students cannot only understand but value? What complications should we expect to arise when relating social justice and mathematics?