Reflect & Discuss: NCTM Supports Research and Researchers

By Robert Berry posted 01-10-2018 16:19


In a previous blog, we outlined NCTM’s 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. In a 2017 Journal for Research in Mathematics Education article, Dr. Luis Leyva highlighted the intersecting nature of whiteness and gender as contributing to racialized and gendered spaces that produce inequities in mathematics education. 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. NCTM supports open and civil conversations that move the field of mathematics education towards unpacking issues impacting school mathematics and the impact on student learning. 

NCTM stands beside mathematics education researchers and their research that serves to challenge often unexamined norms and practices of school mathematics. Several mathematics education researchers, Dr. Luis Leyva, Dr. Rochelle Gutiérrez, and others, have come under criticism in media whose aim is to denigrate and demean researchers and their work absent any effort to engage in open and civil conversation. These researchers have been threatened both personally and professionally. Intellectual engagement, debate, and professional disagreement on a wide variety of issues are to be expected and welcomed, but personal and threatening attacks are unacceptable. Gutiérrez’ December 2017 commentary in the Journal of Urban Mathematics Education contextualizes how critical scholars in mathematics education are targeted and offers a framework for understanding and dealing with the critiques.

Most recently, Dr. Laurie Rubel, has been targeted for her work published in Journal of Urban Mathematics Education. In this article, Rubel synthesizes four equity-directed instructional practices: standards-based mathematics instruction, complex instruction, culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP), and teaching mathematics for social justice (TMfSJ). In an effort to support open and civil conversations, we invite you to read the paper, create discussion groups, and use the questions below to reflect on the article and then engage in discussions.


Reflect and Discuss Questions:

  1. Rubel summarizes Rochelle Gutiérrez’ characterization of dominant versus critical concepts of equity and categorizes four instructional practices according to these categories. Drawing further on Gutiérrez’ work, the idea here is that there is a tricky balance (and inherent contradiction) between teaching students to “play the game” (master the dominant mathematics) and working with students “to change the game” (which can include using mathematics to interrogate power structures). In your own teaching or work with math teachers, how do you navigate working towards this balance, of playing the game and changing the game?

  2. Rubel refers to the ideology of color-blindness, according to which a teacher might state that s/he doesn’t “see color” but only “sees children.” Relatedly, a teacher might state that s/he is teaching mathematics, and that mathematics is objective and neutral. How do you respond to colleagues who make these statements? What responses might be productive in inspiring further reflection about these statements?

  3. Rubel presents an analysis of the difficulty for a set of white teachers in connecting mathematics to their students’ lives in an urban schools context. How do you connect mathematics to your students’ experiences, and what challenges and successes have you experienced? What are your strategies in learning about your students, their families, and their communities? Rubel notes that efforts to support teachers in learning about students’ communities can end up reinscribing deficit views of these communities. For teacher educators who are attempting to support mathematics teachers in becoming more knowledgeable about students’ home lives, what kinds of activities or processes might support that goal but better guard against reaffirmation of previously existing deficit views?

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