We have been discussing the workbook for teachers, available online, entitled A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction: Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction. You may be wondering, what is the difference between racist math and anti-racist math?
Here, according to the book, are some of the signs of white supremacy in the teaching of math, along with my comments in brackets:
–There is a greater focus on getting the “right” answer than understanding concepts and reasoning. [But understanding concepts and reasoning will get you the right answer!]
–Independent practice is valued over teamwork or collaboration. [Good students of whatever race always hate group work because they end up doing all the work while the rest of the group gets the credit for it.]
–Math is taught in a linear fashion and skills are taught sequentially without true understanding of prerequisite knowledge. [But the need for “prerequisite knowledge” implies the need to teach “sequentially”!]
–Students are required to “show their work” in standardized, prescribed ways. [Math is one of the few disciplines that can arrive at a universally accepted “right answer,” but it’s also important for students to learn the process to get there. “Showing your work” is how teachers assess the student’s understanding of how to solve problems. Otherwise, a right answer is just guessing. And if you don’t have to show your work or arrive at the right answer, what is left?]
And here, according to the book, are some of the things teachers must do to teach math in an anti-racist way:
–Identify and challenge the ways that math is used to uphold capitalist, imperialist, and racist views. [So mathematics cannot give evidence for capitalism and other “views”; rather, the “views” invalidate the mathematics. Note the intrusion of the old Marxist enemies of “capitalism” and “imperialism.” I thought we were talking about racism.]
–Expose students to examples of people who have used math as resistance. Provide learning opportunities that use math as resistance. [Math as resistance? The book doesn’t bother to explain what that means.]
–Recognize mistakes as miscommunicated knowledge. [Mistakes are “miscommunications,” so they are the teacher’s fault? But mistakes are also a kind of knowledge, so they can’t be all that bad.]
–Expose students to mathematicians of color, particularly women of color and queer mathematicians of color, both through historical examples and by inviting community guest speakers. [Notice how “critical race theory” bleeds over to other “critical theories” regarding feminism and homosexuality. As well as the good old Marxist targets of “capitalism” and “imperialism,” above.]
–Give rightful credit to the discovery of math concepts by mathematicians of color. Reclaim concepts attributed to white mathematicians that should be attributed to mathematicians of color. [OK, we’re back to the mostly discredited scholarship of Afrocentrism, which credits all that is good to Africa. It is true that the Egyptians, for example, were really good mathematicians. But the reasons the pyramids have stood for so many thousand years is that in their calculations, they got the right answers!]
Do you think black children or the white children who will be in the same classrooms will learn mathematics this way?
Isn’t it racist to think that black pupils can’t get the right answers, show their work, be responsible for their mistakes, or achieve on their own?
Wouldn’t this condescending, patronizing approach to math education prevent black Americans from succeeding at the STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] professions?
It is true that many black Americans have been successful at these professions and that many black people throughout history have been excellent mathematicians. But were any of them taught this way?