NCTM has a history of engaging the mathematics education community on issues at the intersections between culture and mathematics, as well as works critiquing school mathematics and mathematics education using critical theories. Research that addresses systemic barriers to making mathematics accessible to each and every student and improving students’ experiences in the classroom is critical to our students’ success, the future of our nation, and is part of NCTM’s strategic framework.
There is a significant body of research literature examining school mathematics as a political act that challenges the ways in which mathematics education is framed as being culturally neutral. This work links research to practice by recognizing both that mathematics is a compilation of discoveries and inventions of cultures from around the world over the course of history and that education is a social and cultural process. This work acknowledges that school mathematics, at its best, builds upon students’ identities to support their academic success but, as historically enacted in the United States, has too often served as a tool to label and separate students in ways that mirror and exacerbate social inequities. Additionally, research has informed the field that culturally relevant pedagogy and culturally responsive teaching support ways of making mathematics more accessible to each and every learner.
NCTM stands beside mathematics education researchers and their research that serves to challenge often unexamined norms and practices of school mathematics. Specifically, NCTM stands with Rochelle Gutiérrez. Recently, some research and topics within NCTM’s strategic framework of Access, Equity, and Empowerment have come under criticism in media outlets whose aim is to denigrate and demean researchers and their work absent any effort to engage in open and civil conversation. Even more concerning is the uncivil, and at times threatening, discourse this criticism has precipitated and encouraged in social media. Intellectual engagement, debate, and professional disagreement on a wide variety of issues are to be expected and welcomed, but personal attacks are unacceptable.
As the members of NCTM’s Research Committee recently wrote in their research commentary last Spring in the Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, “There is a long standing, thoroughly documented, and seemingly intractable problem in mathematics education: inequity. Children of certain racial, ethnic, language, gender, ability, and socio-economic backgrounds experience mathematics education in school differently, and many are disaffected by their mathematics education experience” (p. 125). Research that addresses this long-standing issue is essential, and it is our collective responsibility to support this critical work and the individuals who do it.
We direct you to some recent NCTM publications that provide additional information on these critical topics:
Access and Equity: Promoting High-Quality Mathematics in Pre-K-Grade 2
Access and Equity: Promoting High-Quality Mathematics in Grades 6-8
The Impact of Identity in K-8 Mathematics: Rethinking Equity-Based Practices
Math is a Verb: Activities and Lessons from Cultures Around the World
Teaching Mathematics for Social Justice: Conversations with Educators
Chapters 21-27 and 38 from the Compendium for Research in Mathematics Education
(The Compendium will be the topic of the November President’s Message)