Culturally Responsive Teaching in Math
(From Grace Chen, Managing Director of Design: Secondary Math and Science)
Why is culturally responsive teaching important in math? Well, aside from the importance of this perspective on its own, consider the following:
Why is culturally responsive teaching important in math? Well, aside from the importance of this perspective on its own, consider the following:
 Math is a gatekeeper for many students when it comes to practical college and career opportunities; a large percentage of college students require remedial math courses—which are both timeconsuming and expensive—and vocational fields are increasingly requiring mathematics entry exams as well.
 Math can be a psychological or emotional gatekeeper as well; students who have a strong selfconcept in math are much more likely to be successful in math, but many students have internalized deep anxiety or fear when it comes to math, due to either or both societal messages and their prior experiences.
 Math has traditionally been seen as the domain of old, White men, and when students cannot identify with mathematics—with role models who have been successful in math or with reasons that math matters to them and their lives—it becomes harder to stay motivated, particularly in secondary mathematics when the content leaves the easy applicability of grocery stores and bank accounts and becomes significantly more abstract.
Making Math More ResponsiveDeveloping and Affirming Students' Academic Identities in Math
(Password: math) Using Student Discourse to Construct Meaning, Rather than Transmitting Lessons through Teacher Talk (Password: math)
Building on Student Prior Knowledge, Rather than Treating Students as Empty Vessels (Password: math)

Critically Conscious Mathematics"Critically conscious mathematics can be understood as the intersection of what is being taught  the curriculum  and how it’s being taught— the pedagogy. Our children need an education that activates their voices and ensures that they are able to advocate for themselves and their communities to be treated equitably, even or especially if that means reorganizing societal institutions—not just an education that helps them pass state tests."
Grace Chen, Managing Director of Math Design Visit Radical Math to learn more about creating math curriculum that is critically conscious. The Challenge of ResponsivenessIn addition to what makes culturally responsive teaching challenging, period, there’s a myth that math is neutral—that it’s objective, abstract, rational, logical, and there’s always a clear right answer. After all, 2 + 2 always equals 4, right? Marilyn Frankenstein, in Teaching Mathematics for Social Justice: Conversations with Educators, tells a story she attributes to Marcia and Robert Ascher, in which a European explorer (presumably Francis Galton, the man who invented eugenics) agrees to trade an African shepherd two sticks of tobacco in exchange for one sheep. When he offers four sticks of tobacco in exchange for two sheep, however, the shepherd declines; the explorer later tells this story as evidence of the shepherd's inability to comprehend simple mathematical reasoning and as “proof” of intellectual inferiority on the African subcontinent. But, if sheep are not standardized units, as there is no reason to believe them to be, then doesn't it make sense that the second sheep might be worth far more than the first? And then doesn't our premise of 2 + 2 = 4 look awfully naive?
Beyond this notion of neutrality, there’s also the fact that most of us didn’t learn math this way. Traditionally, math in the United States has been taught in a very rote, procedural fashion: lecture, notes, and repeated drills of simple exercises that require little more than pluggingandchugging. When we become teachers, then, many of us have to build a vision that transcends our personal experiences of what is possible in secondary math education, and then develop the accompanying skill. Given the highstakes environment in which many math teachers work, it can feel really difficult to navigate the tension between accountability to standardized tests (and consequently, coverage of all the standards) and the deeper, more meaningful dialogue that we know in our hearts to be right. 