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The Mathematics Education of Underrepresented Groups

Position

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics is committed to the principle that groups underrepresented in mathematics-based fields of study-African-Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, Pacific Islanders, females, children in poor communities, children with disabilities, Asian Americans, among others-should be full participants in all aspects of mathematics education. All students should study a comprehensive mathematics curriculum, at all grade levels, with high-quality instruction and coordinated assessment. Teachers, administrators, and counselors at all educational levels should expect that students from all segments of the population can be successful in mathematics.

Rationale

Historically, students in these groups have neither taken advanced mathematics courses nor entered mathematics related vocations and careers in proportion to their representation in the population. Paths to continuing education and employment opportunities are often hindered by powerful social and institutional influences that discourage these students from studying mathematics. In our challenging and complex society, it is paramount that all students be considered valuable resources and be afforded the opportunity and support needed to reach their full potential. A larger, more diverse pool of students with strong mathematical foundations will enhance the presence of underrepresented groups in a variety of careers, including mathematics teaching.

Recommendations

  • Teachers should motivate and encourage every student to continue the study of mathematics.  
  • Schools and districts should examine and correct policies, programs, and practices that may lead to mathematics avoidance.

  • Mathematics educators should make an individual and collective commitment to eliminate any psychological and institutional barriers to the study of mathematics.
  • Educators should explore and implement effective ways to convince students and families from these groups of the importance of mathematics as a viable field of study.

(February 1998; reformatted December 2002)


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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