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.[1] 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.[2]

The problem created by this bias from teachers in education in the western societies affects 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.[3]

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.[4]

Given "the under-achievement and under-representation of certain ethnic minority groups", among the recommendations submitted by the African-Caribbean Network for Science & Technology to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom Select Committee on Science and Technology, was that "associations such as the Association for Science Education (ASE), Association for Teachers of Mathematics (ATM) and the Joint Mathematical Council (JMC), etc. work with partners in the Science, Mathematics and Technology community to provide teaching materials and resources to aid multi-cultural and anti-racist teaching in Science, Mathematics and Technology, in the National Curriculum".[5]


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.[citation needed] 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.[3]


Former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher made reference to anti-racist mathematics in expressing opposition to "multicultural" and "anti-racist" educational approaches.[6] 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."[7] 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.[8]


  1. ^ "Ending Academic Imperialism: a Beginning", C. K. Raju
  2. ^ "Is Science Western in Origin?", C. K. Raju
  3. ^ a b Gheverghese, George (2010). The Politics of Anti-Racism Mathematics. pp. 67–73. 
  4. ^ Contact, Carl Sagan
  5. ^ Select Committee on Science and Technology. Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence. Appendix 27: "Extract from memorandum submitted by the African-Caribbean Network for Science & Technology" (4. Teaching materials), January 2002. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  6. ^ 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"" 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ Porteus, Liza (2005-02-08). "'Anti-Racist' Message in Mass. Math Class". Fox News. Retrieved 2008-07-26. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Woodrow, D. (1989). Multicultural and anti-racist mathematics teaching. In P. Ernest (Ed.), Mathematics teaching: The state of the art (pp. 229–235). London: Falmer.
  • Cotton, A. (1990). Anti-racist mathematics teaching and the national curriculum. Mathematics Teaching, 132, 22-26.
  • Levidow, L. (1987). Racism in scientific innovation. In D. Gill and L. Levidow (Eds.), Anti-racist science teaching (pp. 43–58). London: Free Association.
  • Vance, M. (1987). Biology teaching in a racist society. In D. Gill and L. Levidow (Eds.), Anti-racist science teaching. (pp. 107–123). London: Free Association.
  • Young, R. M. (1987). Racist society, racist science. In D. Gill and L. Levidow (Eds.), Anti-racist science teaching. (pp. 16–42). London: Free Association.
  • Mears, T. (1986). Multicultural and anti-racist approaches to the teaching of science in schools. In J. Guadara, C. Jones and K. Kimberley (Eds.), Racism, diversity and education (pp. 154–166). London: Hodder and Stoughton.
  • 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.
  • Harding, Sandra. The Science Question in Feminism. 1986.

External links[edit]