The United States has been witnessing significant racial inequality and social injustice, and now, after the Black Lives Matter movement, Americans have finally realized the importance of these concepts.
Teaching maths through a social justice lens has thus become a tool for teachers to eradicate this persistent inequality, as this teaching practice can bring wonders to society.
Rethinking mathematics teachings has become extremely important in American society as the curriculum of this subject can be the agent of change within society.
For instance, instead of giving random examples during mathematics lessons, teachers are now focusing on giving real-life examples of social injustice that can change the way students perceive this subject.
As teachers can use data of white people getting preferential treatment by the police, and as their chances of getting arrested are far less than Blacks for the same crime, instructors can use this data to demonstrate the concept of probability in statistics and mathematics.
Social justice math examples also include the demonstration of predictive modeling tactics to tell students how the economically vulnerable section of the society is likely to receive unfavorable treatment from state institutions.
Call it “woke math” or “radical math,” but the teaching of equity through the lens of mathematics could have enormous consequences on people’s lives.
Rethinking Mathematics Teaching: Bringing Change Using Math
Social justice math is a subject that requires a systematic approach, including fair and equitable teaching practices along with access to relevant mathematics concepts.
The social justice stance has to question and challenge the roles of power and privilege in society, but when these concepts are being taught in isolation, they may not have long-lasting impacts.
Many students might even ignore them when they are not made part of the curriculum. Thus, in order to inculcate this narrative in the minds of the masses, taking advantage of the mathematics lessons is crucial.
By the time students reach high school, they have already witnessed or even gone through many forms of segregation.
Maths is an applied science and can be used to explore issues of social justice when introduced as a tool to understand the world and create informed citizens who contribute to the uplifting of a democratic society.
The inquiry-based approach used in mathematics lessons could be used for teaching equities, providing students with a vehicle to construct their knowledge of math as well as issues of the social and political spectrum.
This way, math classrooms could be turned into spaces where students could have a voice and participate in authentic ways, which could help them build equitable community within and outside the classroom.
Woke Mathematics: Changing the Way the World Works
Teachers across the United States are already working on curriculum and teaching materials that could blend real-world issues like racial justice with teaching in mathematics.
Students need to use math as a window to see themselves and their experiences; however, it is more important for students of color who often do not see themselves in the mathematics curriculum.
In Garfield High School in Seattle, a teacher designed a new course, “Ethnic Studies Math,” which explores the notions of oppression, identity, and other such ideas where students are using linear and exponential functions along with algebra to analyze how skin color impacts a person’s place in society.
The woke mathematics curriculum can vary in scope. Whether a racial injustice or religious injustice, when the real-life examples are included in the public narrative, they create awareness among students.
Because students have to study the relevant mathematics concept anyway, it could be intermingled with social examples that can drive change.
And when the whole curriculum is designed this way, it will serve the latent function of bringing change in the society apart from the manifest function of teaching students important mathematics concepts.
Bringing social justice to school mathematics is not a new idea, as it originated back in 1970 with Paulo Freire’s book “Pedagogy of the Oppressed Imagined Education as a Tool of Empowerment.”
Yet witnessing this idea being implemented is surely a new thing.
Continuing these teachings is a way to go, as it will pave the way for social justice in the long run.