We Teach More Than Mathematics

  • We Teach More Than Mathematics

    By Matt Larson, NCTM President
    December 1, 2016

    Recent events in our country have presented educators with challenges that are new to many of us. As mathematics educators we are not immune to the current political climate and emotionally charged environments. In recent weeks I have had some mathematics educators tell me that the political events in our country have no impact on their work as mathematics teachers because “they teach mathematics.” 

    While the subject we teach is mathematics, we need to always remember that we teach mathematics to students. And our students’ success in the classroom is dependent on our ability as teachers to create an emotionally safe and welcoming classroom environment for each and every one of our students, regardless of their background.

    Several organizations have recently called for a reaffirming of the “ inclusive values that are the foundation of healthy learning cultures.” Some organizations, including TODOS: Mathematics for All and the American Educational Research Association (AERA) have released specific statements in support of each and every student and against acts that intimidate, harass, or restrict student opportunity. NCTM joins TODOS and AERA in these reaffirmations and calls to action.

    As educators we need to simultaneously maintain our commitment to democratic principles and our role in the democratic process, including the constructive and inclusive exchange of differing points of view, while simultaneously always standing against any act by anyone that threatens the well being of students. I encourage you to refer, reflect, and discuss with one another the statements of professional organizations referenced in this post. As Diane Kinch, the president of TODOS recently wrote, as mathematics educators we must “continue to stand by our students and their families, advocate for them, and work in any way possible to ensure and affirm their futures.” 

    We owe this not only to our students, but also to the society we wish to inhabit in the future.

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    Lauren Siegel - 1/14/2021 1:04:50 PM

    I'd like to suggest that rather than trying to bring the community into the classroom that it might be great to have community outreach as part of the mission of every public school math program - found, foster and support opportunities to llearn math at a library or community center so that our students have more support and ways to get help, the people who are trying to support students at home can get help and so people who have lost opportunities to learn can have access to educators.

    Catherine Abbott - 6/1/2020 6:19:00 PM

    Mr. Wanliss and the NCTM editors of this discussion forum, the post from Mr. Wanliss posted on 3/30/2020 feels like an advertisement. Is it really appropriate here?

    Alexander Wanliss - 3/30/2020 11:03:58 AM

    All the mathematics specialists who teach the kids all about the math will be doing a great job in theor own way. But sometimes they buy speech topics which they are using during the exam and help to provide the best facility.

    George Reese - 8/16/2017 2:24:06 PM

    Thank you, Matt Larson.

    Your leadership has been strong, clear, and inspirational. 

    -George Reese 


    Natalie Johnson - 3/22/2017 2:16:43 PM

    Hello Matt,

    I wholeheartedly agree with the message of teaching students, including teaching math and its relevance in all of our lives. This means that as educators, we must also own continuous learning inclusive of safe environments for all learners and supporting each other as educators. Sometimes this means that we must admit to and own up to what we do not know or feel comfortable with implementing. Perhaps some seasoned veteran or newbie can shed some light so that we all can implement tools that are relevant and rigorous that will benefit both teachers and students as we continue to inch closer towards 21st Century learning!

    Martin Gartzman - 12/8/2016 8:31:13 AM

    Thanks, Matt, for this message.  Important and right on. As Rich Kaplan, a tremendous math teacher in the Chicago area, often says, "We need to capture the spirit of kids" and help them grow personally while we teach them mathematics. The best math teachers do both well.  That includes fostering the message of respect for others that you highlight in your message.