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Equity in Mathematics Education


A Position of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics

Question: What does creating and sustaining a culture of equity in the teaching and learning of mathematics require?

NCTM Position

Excellence in mathematics education rests on equity—high expectations, respect, understanding, and strong support for all students. Policies, practices, attitudes, and beliefs related to mathematics teaching and learning must be assessed continually to ensure that all students have equal access to the resources with the greatest potential to promote learning. A culture of equity maximizes the learning potential of all students.

A culture of equity depends on the joint efforts of all participants in the community of students, educators, families, and policymakers:

  • All members of the community respect one another and value each member’s contribution.
  • The school community acknowledges and embraces all experiences, beliefs, and ways of knowing mathematics.
  • All necessary resources for optimal learning and personal growth of students and teachers are allocated.
  • High expectations, culturally relevant practices, attitudes that are free of bias, and unprejudiced beliefs expand and maximize the potential for learning.
  • All students have access to and engage in challenging, rigorous, and meaningful mathematical experiences.

Equitable practices encourage teachers and students to value and respect the work of all members of the classroom community and to believe that all students can make important contributions. Such practices empower all students to build a relationship with mathematics that is positive and grounded in their own cultural roots and history. In the classroom, teachers must encourage students to share their thinking, listen to others, and support and contribute to the community’s learning. Different solutions, interpretations, and approaches that are mathematically sound must be celebrated and integrated into class deliberations about problems. All members of the classroom group must accept the responsibility to engage with and support one another throughout the learning experience.

Teachers, along with families and policymakers, must participate in the school-based, collaborative decision making necessary to provide equitable practices that support the learning of all students at the highest possible level. NCTM believes that schools in which teachers and students experience equitable practices afford greater opportunities to engage students with significant mathematical ideas while supporting the greater goal of helping students learn to care about others and treat all human beings with dignity and respect.

(January 2008)

NCTM position statements define a particular problem, issue, or need and describe its relevance to mathematics education. Each statement defines the Council's position or answers a question central to the issue. The NCTM Board of Directors approves position statements.

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