In the summer of 2016, thirty-two early-career mathematics educators from across the United States met in Park City, Utah to participate in AMTE’s Service, Teaching, and Research (STaR) Program. STaR is an induction program for early career mathematics educators working at institutions of higher education. The program is designed to encourage junior faculty to think deeply about their research and teaching trajectories, while balancing service responsibilities. A major component of the STaR program is a week-long institute that takes place in Park City with the support of AMTE and other professional and individual sponsors. The institute allows STaR fellows to share research ideas and teaching practices, discuss service opportunities, connect with senior faculty in mathematics education, and find potential collaborators for research and writing projects. In this article, we highlight how our connection made through STaR has impacted our teaching and research trajectories and supports our collaboration around equity in middle and secondary mathematics teacher education.
One warm night, at an elevation more than 7000 feet above sea level, four mathematics educators from different parts of the country, who were assigned to be roommates, connected over one topic: equity! As a group that originates from multiple backgrounds with a variety of perspectives, we were elated to discover that we all shared a deep interest in teaching mathematics for equity. Our conversations evolved over many hours as we quickly discovered that while we all had the same goals, we approached the work very differently in our culturally rich, yet dissimilar spaces. Our work as mathematics educators situates us in distinct parts of the country:
Patrice Waller is an Assistant Professor of Secondary Mathematics Education at the California State University, Fullerton, a public urban school in Southern California. Her focus has been teaching equity through a globally culturally responsive lens.
Lateefah Id-Deen is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education at the University of Louisville, a public urban school, where she has an equity focus on incorporating students’ identities and lived experiences through culturally responsive mathematics pedagogical and dispositional strategies.
Kathy Liu Sun is an Assistant Professor at Santa Clara University, a private Jesuit university located in Santa Clara, California. Kathy’s equity focus is on creating classroom cultures that support all students to believe in their ability to succeed in mathematics.
Erin E. Baldinger is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education at the University of Minnesota, a public urban school and the state’s flagship university. Her equity focus is on incorporating mixed ability groups and using complex instruction to help meet the needs of diverse learners and developing in new teachers dispositions toward equitable mathematics teaching.
Preparing pre-service teachers to support all students was inherently important to all of us. During the STaR summer institute we exchanged ideas about resources, books, and assignments with our cohort members and mentors. When we returned to our cabin one evening after a long day during the summer institute, we continued to discuss the ways we would implement equitable instructional practices at our respective institutions. Through our conversations, we recognized that there have been various calls to address “access and equity” in mathematics teacher education. We also recognized that addressing these issues in methods courses has gained momentum at the elementary level (e.g., the Teach Math project (Turner et al., 2012)). However, such work has been done to a much lesser extent at the middle and secondary mathematics methods level. One of the major barriers at the middle and secondary level is addressing issues of equity and access while maintaining the rigor of the middle and secondary mathematics content.
The term “equity” in relation to mathematics education can mean different things to different people (D’Ambrosio et al., 2013). There are various lenses through which we can examine access and equity in mathematics education (e.g., culturally relevant pedagogy, status, power, identity, social justice mathematics). In the context of middle and secondary mathematics methods courses, these lenses help determine course readings, shape dialogue, and frame the types of learning activities used with pre-service teachers. Because of these different views, pre-service teachers’ experiences in middle and secondary mathematics methods may vary in terms of how they come to conceive what it means to “teach for equity” in our respective contexts.
Given these different views on equity, we want to continue to facilitate conversations and cross-pollination of ideas across institutions so that attention to issues of access and equity can become a more consistent and central focus in middle and secondary mathematics methods courses. Our STaR colleagues are committed to being on the front lines of the equity movement and continue to carry the torch for advocating for equitable teaching. As a result of the connection made through the STaR program we have continued our discussions on access and equity in middle and secondary mathematics methods courses and have even cultivated the conversation for other middle and secondary mathematics educators to join. At the 2017 National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Research Conference we facilitated an open discussion on access and equity in middle and secondary mathematics education. The goal of this session was to share and gain concrete strategies for addressing issues of access and equity in middle and secondary mathematics methods course. This session furthered our ideas around equitable mathematics teaching and helped to focus our attention on the tasks we might collectively share with our pre-service candidates around equity. To this end, we are now launching a new study that investigates the mathematical tasks provided in secondary mathematics methods course and the lenses that these tasks provide on equity, access, social justice and culturally responsive teaching. We also hope to establish a cohort of other middle and secondary mathematics educators actively attending to issues of equity and social justice in their own mathematics methods teaching and ready to work together to promote this cause in the field. We will host another session entitled, Addressing Access and Equity in Secondary Methods Courses, that showcases our current work at AMTE 2018 Annual Conference.
This work is vast and ongoing. Some of the dilemmas we plan to address through our current study and in our future work include: (1) the overwhelming belief that mathematics is politically neutral (e.g., Gutiérrez, 2013), (2) the belief that there is no room for integration with social justice or controversial issues in the mathematics classroom (e.g., Simic-Muller et al., 2015), and (3) the superficial implementation of culturally responsive teaching in designing mathematics tasks (e.g., Gutstein, 2007). We have encountered these issues while working with pre-service middle and secondary mathematics teachers in all of our contexts. This collaboration provides new ways to productively attend to these pervasive issues and design related learning experiences for our pre-service middle and secondary mathematics teachers.
STaR provided an excellent opportunity to make professional and personal connections with one another. We are excited to continue our journey to improve the equitable practices that take place in our middle and secondary mathematics methods classrooms across the country, and to share these ideas through conferences and publications for the broader mathematics education community.
D’Ambrosio, B., Frankenstein, M., Gutiérrez, R., Kastberg, S., Martin, D. B., Moschkovich, J., Taylor, E., & Barnes, D. (2013). Introduction to the JRME equity special issue. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 44(1), 5–10.
Gutiérrez, R. (2013). The sociopolitical turn in mathematics education. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 44(1), 37–68.
Gutstein, E. (2007). “And that’s just how it starts”: Teaching mathematics and developing student agency. Teachers College Record, 109(2), 420–448.
Simic-Muller, K., Fernandes, A., & Felton-Koestler, M. D. (2015). “I just wouldn’t want to get as deep into it”: Preservice teachers’ beliefs about the role of controversial topics in mathematics education. Journal of Urban Mathematics Education, 8(2), 53–86.
Turner, E. E., Drake, C., Roth McDuffie, A., Aguirre, J. M., Bartell, T. G., & Foote, M. Q. (2012). Promoting equity in mathematics teacher preparation: A framework for advancing teacher learning of children’s multiple mathematics knowledge bases. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 15(1), 67–82.