Seattle Public Schools Considering Social Justice Math Curriculum

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Seattle's largest public school district is considering a proposal that would infuse math courses with elements of social justice, including studying how math has been "appropriated by Western culture" and is used to "oppress and marginalize people and communities of color."

The proposed framework presents four themes for teachers to include in their K-12 math courses. The themes include how mathematical theories are "rooted in the ancient histories of people and empires of color," how contributions of communities of color to the field are ignored, and how learning math can be "an act of liberation."

Students will ask introspective questions like "What is my mathematical identity?" "How does it feel to be a Mathematician?" and "What fears do we have about math?"

They will also consider issues of how important it is to be correct in studying mathematics.

"How important is it to be Right? What is Right? Says Who?" one of the framework's proposed questions reads.

Tracy Castro-Gill, the school district's ethnic studies director, said the proposal's priority is getting minority students more involved in studying mathematics. She also addressed criticism of the section concerning whether a math answer can be correct.

"Of course there are right answers in math. We're not saying there aren’t," she told Education Week.

"What we're saying is that there are many ways of reaching conclusions, and that process should include dialogue. If a student got the right answer, we should celebrate that ingenuity and intelligence instead of telling them there is only one way to get to that right answer," she said.

The proposal is part of a wider effort to infuse social justice into all aspects of school curricula, Education Week reported. If the proposal is approved, teachers are expected to incorporate the recommended themes into their classes beginning next school year.