Teaching Social Justice by the Numbers

The following article is based on Rethinking Mathematics: Teaching Social Justice by the Numbers, edited by Eric Gutstein and Bob Peterson

                Math matters! Many students believe that math is irrelevant and often ask their math teachers why they need to learn math. Students resistant to math have never been able to see how mathematics is relevant in their lives. We use math daily, and we need to show our students that math knowledge equips them with a toolset for functioning in day-to-day life. Two educators, Eric Gutstein and Bob Peterson, propose a new vision for math education. They suggest that math instruction is often divorced from the real world. They advocate  that the key is to “teach math in a way that helps students more clearly understand their lives in relation to their surroundings, and to see math as a tool to help make the world more equal and just.”

                These educators are dedicated to changing current modes of math instruction and invite us to shift our thinking about the math classroom to weave social justice into the math curriculum. One suggestion they make is to teach math across the curriculum. This allows students to meaningfully link math to their lives as opposed to viewing it as a subject reserved for the period from 9:00am to 10:00am. To practically achieve this, we would have to desegregate our subjects and integrate math, language and art together in meaningful ways.

                An interesting recommendation they make is to teach children to read the world with math. This requires what they call “criticalmathematical literacy.” This is a process of understanding the mathematics, understanding the mathematics of political knowledge, understanding the politics of mathematical knowledge and understanding the politics of knowledge. This process helps students develop analytical skills, which are so necessary for their academic careers and beyond. A detailed discussion of this process is beyond the scope of this article, so for more information check out the Rethinking Schools Website
For more information regarding math instruction and academic support, contact Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space 416.925.1225 or visit www.ruthrumack.com.

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