Inclusive Mathematics Classrooms: Advocating for Policies, Practices, and Resources
“Currently, 66 percent of US science and engineering professionals are White or Asian men; if White and Asian women are included, the number is 88 percent.” (McGee, 2020, p.21, original italics)
The “long-standing, thoroughly documented, and seemingly intractable” issue of mathematics educational inequity is familiar to generations of educators (Aguirre et al., 2017). Some of what we “know” about equitable mathematics instruction can be framed by approaches that consider pedagogy, engagement with mathematical practices, and purposes for studying mathematics. In this webinar, we discuss the different ways to support equitable instructional practice in mathematics classrooms for students that are Black, Indigenous, Latinx, multilingual, cognitively diverse, or members of other groups minoritized in the study of mathematics. In addition, we consider new questions and the work yet to be done.
Some researchers have promoted approaches that put pedagogy at the forefront. Culturally relevant (Ladson-Billings, 1995) and culturally sustaining (Alim, Paris, & Wong, 2020) pedagogies seek to enhance access for racially minoritized groups by centering student identities, and decentering “whiteness” as normative. In terms of pedagogy and classroom activity, many view mathematics and mathematics education as “culture free” or somehow politically neutral. Unfortunately, political motivations (such as economic or military supremacy) often inform reform efforts and guide the creation of standards, curricula, and pedagogy (Martin, 2013). Others have emphasized Universal Design for Learning as an approach to support cognitively diverse students. Unfortunately, tinkering with pedagogy cannot solve larger systemic issues.
Other researchers have looked to engaging students with mathematical practices to ameliorate issues of inequity. By placing the tool of mathematics into the hands of students, teachers support the development of conceptual knowledge, agency, and mathematical identity (Goffney, Gutiérrez, & Boston, 2018; Moschkovich, 2013). Moreover, by promoting student engagement with mathematical practices, teachers ensure access to rigorous tasks. For many students, engagement with mathematical practices (and mathematically rigorous classrooms) remains elusive because “tracking” is one of the most persistent and widespread obstacles to equitable mathematics access (NCTM, 2020). The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) has recommended that schools end the practice of tracking because it represents a structural impediment to students’ mathematical development (NCTM, 2020). How can we address beliefs around tracking held by teachers, parents, and other stakeholders to generate the political will to expand access for more students?
A third way to support inclusivity is to expand on the putative purposes for studying mathematics. One of the storylines is that “the main goal of mathematics education is to produce a STEM workforce” (Herbel-Eisenmann et al., 2016). Students are also motivated by other purposes. For example, students from minoritized backgrounds of all levels have stated or exhibit interest in “helping” their communities (McGee, 2020; Rogoff, 2014). Whether they are children who are willing to “pitch in” to a larger project (Rogoff, 2014) or STEM graduate students looking to support the “next generation” (McGee, 2020), minoritized students can be highly motivated by using mathematics as a tool to address community problems or as a context for mentoring. How can “broadening participation” include the broadening of the purposes for studying mathematics?
How do we prepare teachers of mathematics to enact the ideals of pedagogy and purpose so that they can be powerful educators and advocates for underrepresented and minoritized youth? As McGee (2020) stated, “...asking Black students to be resilient without adequate and proper supports (supports that are uniquely designed and implemented with consciousness of racism and gendered racism) is oppression.” (p.149). What work remains to be done at the district, school, programmatic, and classroom levels to ensure that every student has the opportunity to study mathematics in a way that honors the various aspects of their person?
In this webinar, the discussion will be guided by experts in mathematics instructional equity. Professor Jonee Wilson is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Her research focuses on examining instructional practices that support and honor historically marginalized students specifically in the context of inquiry-oriented mathematics classrooms. Professor Beatriz Quintos Alonso is an Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of Maryland. Her work uses socio-cultural and critical perspectives to explore student learning at the elementary level and education as a tool for a democratic society that includes the knowledge and perspectives of Latinx students and their communities. Dr. Babette Moeller is a Distinguished Scholar at Education Development Center. Her work focuses on ensuring that K–16 students with disabilities benefit from educational innovations and reforms. Professor Kathryn Chval is the Dean of the College of Education and Professor of Mathematics Education at the University of Illinois Chicago. Her research focuses on preparation and support structures for teachers of mathematics, multilingual learners, and curriculum standards and policies.
 A storyline is described as “…a broad, culturally shared narrative that acts as the backdrop” for interactions (Herbel-Eisenmann et al., 2016)
Aguirre, J., Herbel-Eisenmann, B., Celedón-Pattichis, S., Civil, M., Wilkerson, T., Stephan, M., Pape, S., & Clements, D. H. (2017). Equity within mathematics education research as a political act: Moving from choice to intentional collective professional responsibility. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 48(2), 124-147.
Alim, H. S., Paris, D., & Wong, C. P. (2020). Culturally sustaining pedagogy: A critical framework for centering communities. In N. Nasir, C.D. Lee, R. Pea, & M. Mckinney de Royston's (Eds.) Handbook of the cultural foundations of learning (pp. 261-276). Routledge.
Goffney, I., Gutiérrez, R., & Boston, M. (2018). Rehumanizing mathematics for Black, Indigenous, and Latinx students. Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
Herbel-Eisenmann, B., Sinclair, N., Chval, K. B., Clements, D. H., Civil, M., Pape, S. J., ... & Wilkerson, T. L. (2016). Research Committee: Positioning Mathematics Education Researchers to Influence Storylines. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 47(2), 102-117.
Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. American educational research journal, 32(3), 465-491.
Martin, D. B. (2013). Race, racial projects, and mathematics education. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 44(1), 316-333.
McGee, E. O. (2020). Black, brown, bruised: How racialized STEM education stifles innovation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
Moschkovich, J. (2013). Principles and guidelines for equitable mathematics teaching practices and materials for English language learners. Journal of Urban Mathematics Education, 6(1), 45-57.
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). (2020). Catalyzing change in middle school mathematics: Initiating critical conversations. Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics, TODOS: Mathematics for all (2020). Mathematics Education Through the Lens of Social Justice: Acknowledgment, Actions, and Accountability. Available at: https://www.todos-math.org/socialjustice