Math Education Org Prints Articles Using 'Math for a Certain Social Agenda'

Prints articles that 'align some aspect of math to a social issue'

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August 31, 2017

The world's largest mathematics education organization has printed articles in its multiple journals that "use math for a certain social agenda," the director of publications confirmed to the Washington Free Beacon.

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) has accepted articles to print in its practitioner journals and research publications that "align some aspect of math to a social issue," said publications director Eleanore Tapscott on Tuesday.

In the September 2017 issue of Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, an article titled "#OscarsSoWhite and Not So Right Problem" instructed readers to consider the demographic breakdown of Academy Awards nominees, and "explore this social issue with math."

"Think about what the nominations would look like if they reflected the diversity in the United States and in the film industry," wrote Crystal Kalinec-Craig, a math educator at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

The article, meant to serve as an example of a real-world application of mathematic principles, was classified as covering proportional relationships, ratio and percentages, decimals and whole numbers, and rounding.

Kalinec-Craig included a table depicting a U.S. census of demographics in the article, contrasted with numbers ostensibly representing "actual diversity of actresses and actors in the film industry." Kalinec-Craig did not provide citations for the sources of this data.

The only reference she named was a 2016 Time article that claimed to show "the entire history of the Oscars diversity problem in one chart," which broke down nominees into "white" and "non-white."

One question Kalinec-Craig posed was, "What information does this table not tell you about the diversity of the film industry and Oscar nominees?"

Asked how that question was relevant to a math lesson, Kalinec-Craig told the Free Beacon, "Mathematics is more than numbers and symbols," explaining that she does "espouse sociocultural/sociopolitical theories of learning and teaching [the subject]."

She said the math exercise would allow students to consider "what happens if an actress or actor identifies as transgendered? Identify as multi-racial? Speak multiple languages? Are immigrants? How (if at all) are they acknowledged and represented in awards shows like the Oscars?"

"Explicitly naming our identities (and the intersections of these identities) is important as we work to shift more attention towards our students and their identities, knowledge and experiences that we are fortunate to witness as educators," Kalinec-Craig wrote in an email.

"Because teachers and students do not interact within isolated bubbles both within the walls of a classroom and in their homes and communities, it's important for teachers to acknowledge students' multiple social identities that include (but are not limited to) students' race, gender, and economic standing. These identities inform teaching and learning of mathematics," Kalinec-Craig added.

Other recent NCTM-published articles include "Being a Girl Mathematician: Diversity of Positive Mathematical Identities in a Secondary Classroom," "Unpacking the Male Superiority Myth and Masculinization of Mathematics at the Intersections: A Review of Research on Gender in Mathematics Education," and "Creating Zines: Supporting Powerful Math Identities."

Tapscott said each article submitted goes through an extensive peer review process, including evaluation by an editorial panel.

NCTM will be among 10 mathematics organizations hosting a webinar next month titled, "A Call for Collective Action to Develop Awareness: Equity & Social Justice in Mathematics Education."

As Campus Reform reported, two other major mathematics organizations announced last year their intention to "ratify social justice as a key priority in the access to, engagement with, and advancement in mathematics education for our country's youth."

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