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The Equity Principle through the Voices of African American Males


Using a Journal Article as a Professional
Development Experience

The Equity Principle through the Voices of African American Males
Robert Q. Berry III
Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School
September 2004, volume 10, issue 2, pp. 100-103

Rationale for Use


The author is attempting, through a vignette, to bring awareness of accessibility to high level mathematics classes for all, including minority groups that may be underrepresented due to preconceived ideas, intentional sorting (tracking), behavior problems, and/or cultural biases. Moreover, the author raises the importance of making mathematics instruction relevant and interesting to students (by interviewing students or having lunch with students to determine their interests). A sample activity using basketball and the Internet is included in the article.


Procedures/Discussion Questions

  1. Use individual think time to ask teachers to reflect on and predict the issues surrounding equity in their school and/or classrooom. Share with a partner.
  2. Ask participants to read the article, individually, with the following in mind:
    • What are the equity issues surrounding Calvin's vignette? (p. 100-101)
    • What are some characteristics of teachers embedded in the student's responses to the question: "How does a mathematics teacher show that he or she cares about you?" (p. 101-103)
  3. Sample Discussion Questions for Equity Issues:
    • Which of your beliefs about equity have been challenged, revised or confirmed? How or Why?
    • How can you establish a classroom environment that is equitable and challenges the often pervasive societal belief that only some students are capable of learning mathematics?
    • How do you create classroom experiences that value and integrate students' lived experiences, prior knowledge, intellectual strengths, and personal interest similar to the example given on family background (p. 102)
    • In your current role, identify an issue involving equity issues. How would you proactively address the issue and advocate that all students receive a high quality mathematics education?
  4. To press further on the meaning of equity and the issues involved, divide participants into three small groups to read, discuss, anc hart the equity ideas from the following articles:
  5. After charting ideas from their respective article, groups read the NCTM Equity Principle. What themes from the NCTM Equity Principle are highlighted in your article?
  6. Two possible ways to summarize the discourse follow:
    • Gallery Walk: Form new groups consisting of one participant from each of the three groups above. Groups physically move from chart to chart with the person whose article is on the chart taking 3 minutes to summarize the discussion around the article and its relationship to the Equity Principle and then 2 minutes for the other members to respond and ask questions. Groups proceed through all three charts. Facilitator takes notes on important ideas that arise during discussion and close with some whole group discussion.
    • Report Out: Each group takes 3 minutes to summarize the equity issues on their chart to the whole class highlighting the themes from the Equity Principle. Allow 2 minutes for the rest of the gropu to ask clarifying questions. Continue in the same manner with the other two articles.
  7. Which of your beliefs about equity have emerged, been challenged, or confirmed?

Extensions/Next Steps

  • Think about ways to uncover equity issues in your school. One possible approach is:
    1. Collect data on the percentage of African American students (or a prevalent minority group) from you own school/district.
    2. Collect data from your own school/district on the percentage of students in the prevalent minority group that are in algebra (or the the highest track) class.
    3. Compare the statistics from #1 and #2.
  • Think about ways to uncover equity issues in your classroom. Two possible approaches are:
    1. Videotape classroom episodes and analyze the videotape focusing on a particular equity issues that you have identified. See verbal interaction categories (adapted from Shepardson and Pizzini, 1991) in Preservice Teachers Examine Gender Equity in Teaching Mathematics by Maureen Neumann in Teaching Children Mathematics, March 2007.
    2. Invite a colleague to scribe student discourse during an activity for a particular group of students in which an equity issues has been identified.

Connections to Other NCTM Publications:


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