We discussed the teacher workbook, available online, titled A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction: Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction. You might be wondering what the difference is between racist math and anti-racist math?
Here are some of the signs of white supremacy in math education, according to the book, along with my comments in parentheses:
– The emphasis is more on getting the “right” answer than on understanding the concepts and reasoning. [But understanding concepts and reasoning will get you the right answer!]
–Independent practice is valued over teamwork or collaboration. [Good students of whatever race always hate group work because they end up doing all the work while the rest of the group gets the credit for it.]
–Maths are taught in a linear fashion and skills are taught sequentially with no real understanding of prior knowledge. [But the need for “prerequisite knowledge” implies the need to teach “sequentially”!]
–Students are required to “show their work” in a standardized and prescribed manner. [Math is one of the few disciplines that can arrive at a universally accepted “right answer,” but it’s also important for students to learn the process to get there. “Showing your work” is how teachers assess the student’s understanding of how to solve problems. Otherwise, a right answer is just guessing. And if you don’t have to show your work or arrive at the right answer, what is left?]
And here are some of the things teachers need to do to teach math in an anti-racist way, according to the book:
–Identify and challenge the ways in which mathematics is used to defend capitalist, imperialist and racist views. [So mathematics cannot give evidence for capitalism and other “views”; rather, the “views” invalidate the mathematics. Note the intrusion of the old Marxist enemies of “capitalism” and “imperialism.” I thought we were talking about racism.]
–Exhibit students to examples of people who have used math as a resistance. Provide learning opportunities that use math as resistance. [Math as resistance? The book doesn’t bother to explain what that means.]
–Recognize errors as poorly communicated knowledge. [Mistakes are “miscommunications,” so they are the teacher’s fault? But mistakes are also a kind of knowledge, so they can’t be all that bad.]
–Exhibit students to mathematicians of color, especially women of color and queer mathematicians of color, both through historical examples and by inviting community speakers. [Notice how “critical race theory” bleeds over to other “critical theories” regarding feminism and homosexuality. As well as the good old Marxist targets of “capitalism” and “imperialism,” above.]
–Give credit for the discovery of mathematical concepts by mathematicians of color. Collect concepts attributed to white mathematicians that should be attributed to colored mathematicians. [OK, we’re back to the mostly discredited scholarship of Afrocentrism, which credits all that is good to Africa. It is true that the Egyptians, for example, were really good mathematicians. But the reasons the pyramids have stood for so many thousand years is that in their calculations, they got the right answers!]
Do you think black kids or white kids in the same classes will learn math this way?
Isn’t it racist to think that black students can’t get the right answers, show their work, be responsible for their mistakes, or be successful on their own?
Wouldn’t this patronizing and condescending approach to math education stop black Americans from succeeding in STEM? [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] professions?
It is true that many black Americans have succeeded in these professions and that many blacks throughout history have been excellent mathematicians. But was any of them taught this way?
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay