Math Equity: When A White Male Hits It Out Of The Park

Today was the last day of the 59th Annual CMC-South Math Conference in beautiful Palm Springs, California. This was the first time I attended this conference. It easily surpassed my expectations. The general vibe/energy of the conference is one that seems heavily aligned to progressive disruption.

Which explains why it had 3500 people drive out to the desert to hear some of the most vibrant and challenging ideas in math education today.

And, yes I should be relaxing and enjoying the desert beauty of Palm Springs. However, I need to share my most memorable experience of this Conference.

Now.

When it comes to challenging presentations and challenging the status quo, there was perhaps no other more challenging presentation than by Chris Shore, one of the organizers of the event. A few weeks before the conference, Chris connected with me and told me he was using one of my ideas/quotes in his presentation.

I did not realize that my words would be seen as a challenge.

The essence of the above slide is that there is this general stereotyping of knowledge/interest — white people talk about content and non-white talk about equity. Naturally there are exceptions, but I would love to see more non-white math teachers become leaders in content and more white teachers take on the difficult, but critical, conversations in equity — and, go really deep.

Chris Shore took the challenge. And, as the title of this blog suggests, he knocked it out of the park, addressing difficult and sometimes uncomfortable ideas about the state of math education. That there are deep biases that are systemically entrenched. His 90 minute presentation was a emotional excavation of data to prove the discrimination that is made everyday based on race, class, and gender.

Below are just a few of the slides that resonated with the audience…

Too Many Bricks In The Wall
Equity or Bust
Using Privilege As A Catalyst For Change
Those That Have Fallen Need To Be Elevated As High As Possible
Gaps, Gaps, Gaps…
Check Your Bias At The Classroom Door
It Is Time To Write This Story For The Future Of Math Education

The entire presentation was a human amalgam of sharing difficult truths and uncovering embarrassing data with unflinching and unified purpose — that it is time to walk the walk that “mathematics is for all.”

Maybe better, that all mathematics is for all.

Chris Shore could have used his speaker status and taken the mathematical road most traveled. He didn’t. The road he took had high risks, but the rewards are even higher. But really, there is a moral imperative in addressing equity issues. If not, people and institutions will have their ideas about mathematics dampened, operating at a frequency that is wholly out of range with 21st century math education.

The Age of Disruption is specifically about the disruption of…Trust. Trust is being redistributed and moving horizontally through everyday people, cutting through the traditional pillars that stand upright.

It is time for Equity to become a tsunami
The Thermodynamics of Trust

Math educators are creating tribes of trust. In those tribes, the most powerful idea of math education is being unpacked and distributed — equity.

While the walls of inequity that have been built will not be coming down anytime soon — unfortunately — the vector of change is pointed in the right direction. In the end, what will accelerate this change is that all teaching, at bottom, is about relationships. Relationships that are colored with kindness, empathy, and vulnerability. These relationships are forged with stories.

Everything that is human is a story.

The three stories tell the larger story that mathematics has been a human endeavor that has crossed every cultural, class, race, and gender line in history.

The baton has been passed to education. The first 100 years or so has not been something to write home about. But, the democratisation of ideas and dreams with re-calibration of where and how trust flows is going to punch some serious holes in the walls of math education.

And, it will require more home runs from people of privilege like Chris Shore, who courageously shared his own bias with the CMC-South crowd.

Thank you, Chris. Thank you for taking all of us to a point — or at least the see the point — where there is no turning back. There is only one more thing to add to that, and I will let Kafka bring it home…

Math educators, let’s reach that point.

Author of Pi of Life: The Hidden Happiness of Mathematics and Co-Author of Math Recess: Playful Learning in the Age of Disruption. Speaker. Amplify and Mathigon

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