What to Read? My Summer Reading List

  • June 2019

    People often ask me what books have had an impact on me as a mathematics educator. There are two books that when I first read them, affirmed that I could do the kind of work that I hope to do in mathematics education. Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom (1995) by Lisa Delpit affirmed voices, feelings, and situations I was grappling with as a classroom teacher. While not a mathematics education book, this book introduced to me Delpit’s five aspects of the culture of power, which represents a set of values, beliefs, and ways of acting and being that unfairly and unevenly elevate groups of people. Before reading this book, I had no way of articulating the power dynamics that I was experiencing as a novice teacher. Other People’s Children is a dated book, but the five aspects of the culture of power are still relevant:

    1. Issues of power are enacted in classrooms.
    2. There are codes or rules for participating in power; that is, there is a “culture of power.”
    3. The rules of the culture of power are a reflection of the rules of the culture of those who have power.
    4. For those who are not already a participant in the culture of power, being told the rules of that culture explicitly makes acquiring power easier.
    5. Those with power are frequently least aware of, or least willing to acknowledge, its existence, and those with less power are often most aware of its existence.

    Danny Martin’s Mathematics Success and Failure among African-American Youth: The Roles of Sociohistorical Context, Community Forces, School Influence, and Individual Agency (2000) was the first mathematics education book that reflected the communities I taught and the people I worked with. Martin’s framework for analyzing mathematics socialization and identity provided me with a lens for unpacking the intersections between mathematics, identity, and agency. His work gave me permission to study and unpack the experiences of Black learners in mathematics, and it also allowed me to negotiate ways of framing success in mathematics teaching and learning.

    Delpit’s and Martin’s books are part of the foundational work I engaged in when developing a deep understanding of equity issues in education broadly and in mathematics education more specifically. Certainly, other seminal works supported my development in the equity space, but these books opened the door for me to access other works. With this in mind, there are five books on my professional summer reading list. This list includes books that will move me forward as a teacher, researcher, and leader, meaning the titles are grounded in my professional interests.

    Robert Berry’s Professional Summer Reading List

    1. Access and Equity: Promoting High-Quality Mathematics Grades 9–12 (2018) edited by Dorothy Y. White, Anthony Fernandes, and Marta Civil. I read the 3–5 and 6–8 books in the Access and Equity series, and it seems like a natural progression to continue to 9–12. (I will circle back to read preK–2; I do not have it on my bookshelf). The titles of the chapters are intriguing, focusing on topics like problem-based math circles, equitable pedagogy, disability, accessibility, social justice, families, and communities. My goal is to learn from the authors how access and equity play out in schools and other settings.
    2. The 5 Practices in Practice: Successfully Orchestrating Mathematical Discussion in your Middle School Classroom (2019) by Margaret (Peg) Smith and Miriam Gamoran Sherin. I attended a conference at which Peg and Miriam made connections between the five practices with identity, agency, and positionality. They described examples from the book using videos and student work samples. I want to dig deeper into the five practices to understand connections to equitable teaching.
    3. Critical Race Theory in Mathematics Education (2019) edited by Julius Davis and Christopher Jett. Critical race theory is a theoretical lens I used in much of my research to examine issues of race, racism, social justice, and the experiential knowledge of people. I have read several chapters in this edited book and will finish the book this summer. The authors of the chapters use critical race theory as a framework to examine the Black mathematics teacher pipeline, to problematize pathways from curriculum to standardized assessment, and to give voice to the experiential knowledge of Black teachers and learners. While this is a heavy academic book, I believe policymakers, school leaders, and teachers will learn about critical race theory as a framework to examine issues impacting mathematics teaching and learning.
    4. We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom (2019) by Bettina L. Love. Several people on Twitter recommended this book to me. While I have not finished the book, I am intrigued by Dr. Love’s critiques on programs and strategies aimed at supporting public schools. “Abolitionist teaching” in the title captured my attention because it suggests a critical lens for unpacking current practices while suggesting a framework for analyzing strategies, programs, and ideas used to support the most vulnerable public schools. Although this is not a mathematics education–focused book, I want to learn and extrapolate from Dr. Love’s perspectives on teaching practices and other aspects of schooling that can support mathematics teaching and learning.
    5. Educated: A Memoir (2018) by Tara Westover. Each year my school does a “common read” for students, faculty, staff, and administrators. Educated was recommended for the common read because it touches on many themes, including education, rural communities, religion, income, mental health, family violence, and more. I have seen interviews of the author Tara Westover and want to stretch my thinking about the intersections between her resilience and her identities.

    For many of you, summer is a time for renewal, relaxing, refocusing, and reading. Please share your summer reading list on MyNCTM, and enjoy your summer.

    Robert Q. Berry III
    NCTM President