Anti-racism in mathematics teaching
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The issue of anti-racism in mathematics teaching has been the topic of some research, and there are supporters of education reform who promote an anti-bias curriculum to counter a perceived bias in mathematical education. These works claim that there is a sociocultural context to mathematical education and suggest that the study of mathematics in Western societies has traditionally exhibited racial or cultural bias.
The problem created by this bias from teachers in education in the western societies effects students of the non dominant race. These students may not be getting the quality education that they deserve when teachers have a preconceived notion about what these students already know or do not know.
While Western mathematicians often claim Western mathematics is universal, anti-racist mathematics and ethnomathematics scholars share the assumption that any given mathematical understanding or practice is a product of a particular culture.
Anti-racist mathematics education is primarily concerned with the way in which mathematics is taught, although it also examines the contents of the curriculum in as much as this might reasonably differ from universally acceptable mathematical education. An anti-racist approach to mathematics education could include any or all of the following:
- Discussion of the mathematical knowledge of ancient civilizations outside of Europe, and non-European contributions to mathematical knowledge and discovery.
- The avoidance of racial stereotypes or cultural bias in classroom materials, textbooks, coursework topics and examination questions. For example, common non-European names, such as Chaim (Jewish), Jamal (Arabic), or Muhammed (Arabic), could be used in story problems, rather than common European names, like Mary or Emily.
The article "The Politics of Antiracist Mathematics" by George Gheverghese Joseph goes through many different assumptions made by teachers of mathematics that can have a negative effect on students of a minority race.
Former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher made reference to anti-racist mathematics in expressing opposition to "multicultural" and "anti-racist" educational approaches. In her address to the Conservative Party Conference in October 1987, she said inner city children's opportunities for decent education were being "snatched away from them by hard-left education authorities" and that "children who need to be able to count and multiply are learning anti-racist mathematics, whatever that is." In 2005, Liza Porteus of Fox News reported that an "anti-racist education" program in the Newton Public Schools district of the wealthy Newton, Massachusetts community angered some parents, who perceived the program to focus more on political correctness than mathematics itself.
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- George Gheverghese Joseph (Spring 1994). "The Politics of Anti-Racist Mathematics". European Education (The Department of Econometrics and Social Statistics, The University of Manchester, U.K.) 26 (1): 67–74. doi:10.2753/EUE1056-4934260167. "At the Annual Conservative Party Conference in 1987, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher declared: "Children who need to count and multiply are being taught antiracist mathematics, whatever that may be""
- Quoted from King, Anna S.; Reiss, Michael J. (1993). The Multicultural Dimension of the National Curriculum. Abingdon, Oxfordshire, England. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-7507-0069-6.
- Porteus, Liza (2005-02-08). "'Anti-Racist' Message in Mass. Math Class". Fox News. Retrieved 2008-07-26.
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- The Politics of Anti-Racist Mathematics in Proceedings of the First International Conference on Political Dimensions of Mathematics Education, (Ed. R. Noss), Institute of Education Publications, University of London, 1990.
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