Working Together in Teaching and Learning Mathematics
Recent events have turned a spotlight on the heightened divisiveness in mathematics education. This comes to the detriment of learning for students, and it negatively affects teachers, schools, families, and communities. Attempts to limit the free and open
exchange of ideas in the classroom do not benefit students. Policies intended to keep social and emotional learning out of mathematics education and teaching or anything that diminishes culturally responsive teaching is a hindrance to student learning.
NCTM advocates for asset/strengths-based pedagogies that include students’ cultural identities and the lived experiences that they bring to the learning. Culturally responsive teaching and culturally relevant teaching are effective approaches for teaching mathematics to all students, especially to those students who are
often marginalized in the learning, such as Black and Brown, LGBTQ+, and socioeconomically disadvantaged students.
Do culturally relevant pedagogies really support mathematical learning? Recently Georgina Rivera (2022) led a webinar on “
Humanizing Elementary Mathematics through Culturally Relevant Literature” that was focused on how using children’s literature connects to students’ lives; it provides a cultural context for learning in which students see themselves as thinkers and doers of mathematics. In viewing the recording, you will find how
she clearly illustrates the positive impact of culturally relevant pedagogies on student learning of mathematics. NCTM has additional resources related to
culturally responsive pedagogy and
social justice to support teachers and others in this work that you may find helpful.
We as mathematics educators have a responsibility to engage in anti-racist and trauma-informed education to support each and every student and teacher of mathematics. As NCTM has
stated, “Anti-racist and trauma-informed education not only raises our awareness of racism and trauma experienced by Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, and all marginalized peoples, but it also recognizes that we must be purposeful in addressing racism and trauma” (Wilkerson and Berry 2020). And to be
specific, this trauma has continued and extends to our LGBTQ+ community, students with disabilities, and those who are economically disadvantaged.
NCTM recently joined the National Council for the Social Studies, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), and the National Science Teaching Association along with the National Coalition against Censorship in crafting a
Freedom to Teach (NCTE 2022) public statement. In it we assert, “Teachers need our support; they need our trust; they need to have the freedom to exercise their professional judgment . . . and freedom to prepare students to become future members of a democratic society who can
engage in making responsible and informed contributions and decisions about our world.”
NCTM is collaborating with state, national, and cross-curriculum organizations to be purposeful in addressing racism, bias, and trauma as we continue to—
Together we are committed to social justice and in supporting our teachers to ensure that all students have access to high-quality mathematics teaching and learning. Teachers are the experts and the professionals. They know our students, their families, effective teaching
practices, and the mathematics content and curriculum. They must have the freedom to teach.
Catalyzing Change series states that we need to engage in critical conversations that urge and support educators to create structures where each and every student can be fully engaged in our democratic society. We owe this not only to our students but also to the society we wish
to inhabit both now and in the future. To create a space for more conversation focused on equitable structures, policies, and practice, NCTM has launched a series of webinars to engage the community in equity efforts.
The six-session NCTM Equity Series: Leveraging the
Mathematical Brilliance of Students began on April 19 with Julia Aguirre’s session on “Grades and Test Scores Do Not Define Us as Math Learners: Cultivating Transformative Spaces for Anti-Racist Mathematics Education.” I encourage you to view the
recording because she challenges us to interrogate and innovate to transform the spaces where we teach and learn mathematics. Be sure to register for the next session in the series on
May 3 with Paulo Tan, Alexis Padilla, Erica Mason, and James Sheldon on “Expanding Equity: Approaches to Humanizing Mathematics.” These sessions are open to all, so invite others to the conversation!
NCTM continues to actively lead conversations, provide resources, and support others as we collectively take action on issues that are critical in addressing inequities, but we will and must continue to do more. As a community, we all need to work together to
support teachers, students and one another to address and remove hindrances to student learning of mathematics.
Trena WilkersonNCTM President@TrenaWilkerson
Aguirre, Julia. 2022. “Grades and Test Scores Do Not Define Us as Math Learners: Cultivating Transformative Spaces for Anti-Racist Mathematics Education.” NCTM Equity
Series: Leveraging the Mathematical Brilliance of Students (webinar). April 19, 2022.
National Council of Teachers of English, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, National Council for the Social Studies, National Science Teaching Association, and the National Coalition against Censorship. n.d. “Freedom to Teach: Statement against Banning Books.” Joint statement.
Rivera, Georgina. 2022. “Humanizing Elementary Mathematics through Culturally Relevant Literature.” NCTM
Professional Development (webinars). April 21, 2022.
Tan, Paulo, Alexis Padilla, Erica Mason, and James Sheldon. 2022. “Expanding Equity: Approaches to Humanizing Mathematics.” NCTM Equity Series:
Leveraging the Mathematical Brilliance of Students (webinars). May 3, 2022.
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators, Association of State Supervisors of Mathematics, Benjamin Banneker Association, NCSM: Leadership in Mathematics Education, School Science and Mathematics Association, TODOS: Mathematics for ALL. 2021. “Statement on Anti-Asian Racism.” March 19, 2021.
Wilkerson, Trena, and Robert Q. Berry III. 2020. “A Statement on George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.” June 1, 2020.