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*To*: lchcmike@gmail.com, "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>*Subject*: Re: [xmca] Culturally responsive math ed.*From*: Jay Lemke <jaylemke@umich.edu>*Date*: Fri, 27 Nov 2009 20:20:22 -0800*Cc*:*Delivered-to*: xmca@weber.ucsd.edu*In-reply-to*: <30364f990911201659u707eded7i3134ce7d26d54e2b@mail.gmail.com>*List-archive*: <http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/private/xmca>*List-help*: <mailto:xmca-request@weber.ucsd.edu?subject=help>*List-id*: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca.weber.ucsd.edu>*List-post*: <mailto:xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>*List-subscribe*: <http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca>, <mailto:xmca-request@weber.ucsd.edu?subject=subscribe>*List-unsubscribe*: <http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca>, <mailto:xmca-request@weber.ucsd.edu?subject=unsubscribe>*References*: <30364f990911201659u707eded7i3134ce7d26d54e2b@mail.gmail.com>*Reply-to*: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>*Sender*: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu

An important topic, and one that will keep coming back at us.

JAY. Jay Lemke Professor (Adjunct, 2009-2010) Educational Studies University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI 48109 www.umich.edu/~jaylemke Visiting Scholar Laboratory for Comparative Human Communication University of California -- San Diego La Jolla, CA USA 92093 On Nov 20, 2009, at 4:59 PM, mike cole wrote:

There are several interesting articles in Teachers College Recordthis week..Here is a book review of one of our own xmca o philes, although wehear fromthem too rarely!! mike ------------- Culturally Responsive Mathematics Education reviewed by Kathleen Nolan<http://www.tcrecord.org/AuthorDisplay.asp?aid=21249>� November 02, 2009[image: cover]<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0805862641/teacherscolleger>*Title:* Culturally Responsive Mathematics Education*Author(s):* Brian Greer, Swapna Mukhopadhyay, Arthur B. Powell, andSharonNelson-Barber (eds.) *Publisher: * Routledge, New York *ISBN: *0805862641, *Pages:* 400, *Year:* 2009 Search for book atAmazon.com<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0805862641/teacherscolleger>As I pondered the title of this admirable collection of essays, Icould nothelp but ask the pertinent question at hand: What, exactly, is meantby (a)culturally responsive mathematics education? Decidedly, this ispreciselythe question addressed by each of the chapter authors, albeit inways thatare embedded in stories of identity, cultural artifacts, curriculumdevelopment, social justice, computer design, semiotics, theenvironment,and the historical, anthropological, and highly politicizedperspectives onmathematics as socially and culturally constructed. I quicklydiscerned thatsuch a diverse collection of perspectives focused on the topic ofdiversitydoes not readily lend itself to a cursory review process— strivingtoencapsulate the flavor of a rich text such as this in 1500 words orless isakin, I suppose, to striving to encapsulate what it means to beculturallyresponsive in mathematics education in 370 pages or less!As I read the book, I reasoned that a fitting approach to reviewmight be toglean insight from the book and its authors into my initialponderings:What, exactly, is meant by (a) culturally responsive mathematicseducation?To do this, however, required that I first moved past the doubleirony Iencountered. Firstly, there can be no answer to a question thatjuxtaposesthe word “a” with the term “culturally responsive”, sincesuch ajuxtapositioning would impose an essential nature on what it means torespond to diversity. As suggested by d’Ambrosia, it is imperativeto avoid“the trap of the same” (p. 6), and the authors of this bookattempt to dojust this. Secondly, I was challenged to get past the irony of thenarrowfocus of the book, consisting of authors writing only from/within the context of the United States and lacking explicit gender and classdiscussions. A few chapters have the U.S. context so deeply embeddedin thestory being told (for example, Gutstein and Miller-Jones and Greer)that itcan be challenging for the reader to think beyond U.S. soil and thetaste ofU.S. politics. However, the editors do forewarn readers of thissecond ironyin the book’s introduction, partially excusing this lack of scope byreferring to the book as “a pointer to changes” (p. 6). I concur;this bookis a daring and commendable attempt to point to possibilities forchange. Ican appreciate the editors’ intention to draw attention to the factthat aculturally responsive mathematics education is still far from beingrealizedin classrooms and institutions across the globe.Perhaps, at the end of it all, this double irony worked well as asubtextfor my responsibility, as a reviewer, to respond to the distinctways inwhich each of the book’s authors interprets and embraces culturalresponsiveness in the context of mathematics education. In thislight then,I will return to my question: What, exactly, is meant by (a)culturallyresponsive mathematics education?A key starting point for understanding culturally responsiveeducation isprovided by Moses, West, and Davis, who emphasize the need to attend“to theexperiences and notions of students and teachers where they begin,which isalways cultural” (p. 255). Davis, Hauk, and Latiolais astutelypoint outwhat should be obvious: that in order to be responsive to (diverse)cultures, one must first understand what is meant by culture and howweidentify cultures in our classrooms. These authors describe cultureas “acollection of learned ways of seeing and interacting with the worldand aslowly evolving intergenerational template for the shaping of theselearnedbehaviors” (p. 354).In this book, even reference to the term “culturally responsive”heedsd’Ambrosia’s warning of avoiding the trap of the same as thechapters movebetween the language of *culturally responsive*, *equitable*,*liberatoryeducation*, *cultural affirmation*, and other related expressions. For example, Moschkovich and Nelson-Barber describe a cultural affirmationapproach wherein “practices and approaches to learning that aredifferentfrom those of the dominant culture (reflected in school practices) areaffirmed rather than denied” (p. 114). These two authors identifyculturalcontent, social organization, and cognitive resources as the “threeareascentral to ensuring that curricula and instructional practice areculturallyrelevant for students” (p. 114). Martin and McGee frame their description in the language of liberatorymathematics education, emphasizing “equitable learning andparticipationexperiences inside the classroom, which can help foster equityoutside theclassroom” (p. 233). The language of equity is a further focus forAguirrewho defines equity to mean “that all students in light of theirhumanity—personal experiences, backgrounds, histories, languages,physicaland emotional well-being—must have the opportunity and support tolearn richmathematics that fosters meaning making, empowers decision making, andcritiques, challenges, and transforms inequities/injustices” (p.296).Authors Civil and Quintos, in focusing their attention on parental involvement in U.S. schools, argue “that a fundamental component forestablishing a culturally responsive education is a dialogue thatbreaksdown the hierarchical and hegemonic practices” (p. 321) that sooftencharacterize schools, and mathematics classrooms in particular. In the context of mathematics teacher education, Geneva Gay demands acritical analysis of the language, culture, and mystic ofmathematics beforeprospective teachers can begin to understand and embrace the beliefsandtenets of culturally responsive teaching. It is Gay’s elaborationon thesetenets of culturally responsive teaching that provided a highlightfor me inreading the book. She discusses five such tenets that shape theideology ofculturally responsive teaching: “… the importance of culture; thesocialconstruction of knowledge; the inclusiveness of culturalresponsiveness;academic achievement involves more than intellect; and balancing andblending unity and diversity” (p. 197). While her originalgroundbreakingwork with culturally responsive teaching was of a general (notspecificallymathematical) nature (Gay, 2000), her application of the tenets to mathematics education highlights the multiple levels on which‘responsiveness’ (should) reside(s). Gay’s chapter reflects thecomplexityinvolved in deconstructing the “socially constructed identity of mathematics” (p. 193). It is along this line of deconstructing constructed identities that Iexperienced a degree of personal and professional tension whilereading thisbook (which, I remind the reader, is not a bad thing!). As I read theindividual essays, I found myself continually shifting between theauthors’diverse, at times dichotomous, range of approaches to living out (a)culturally responsive mathematics education. I began to ponder thefollowingquestion: Are we, as mathematics educators and researchers,advocating for apedagogy that asks students to recognize mathematics as its ownculturalsystem or a pedagogy that acknowledges, and interconnects with, theculturalsystems of the students we teach? Of course, the most politicallycorrectresponse to this question is to say ‘both’, but at times Iseriously wonderhow we can accomplish a blend of both. One could say I experienced ponderings of the chicken/egg question. What comes first: the chicken(focusing on the culture of students) or the egg (focusing on theculture ofmathematics), and whether focusing on both simultaneously (which iswhat Ibelieve is an overall message in this book) is akin to aiming at amovingtarget? In other words, if we focus our energies on a pedagogy that isresponsive to, and interconnects with, students’ cultures will wemiss theopportunities for a pedagogy that highlights mathematics itself as asocialconstruction which is reflective of particular cultural values and identities? That is, a pedagogy that focuses foremost on revealing and deconstructing the cultural properties and myths of western views ofmathematics. In owning a responsibility toward the cultures thatstudentsbring to our classrooms, do we risk providing a culturally restrictiveeducation? What if our attempts to respond in multiple ways tomultiplecultures actually preclude students from traveling within, andlearningfrom, cultures not their own—politically and socially chargedcultures likemathematics that are, in and of themselves, worthy of a response?It is worth qualifying that my foray into these critical questionsis meantto demonstrate how I, like the authors in this book, grapple with thetensions inherent in *not* seeking a set of best practices, orresolutions,in the simple, straightforward, and sameness that has frequentlybeen thetrademark of mathematics education initiatives touted under, forexample, a‘math for all’ umbrella. A case is definitely made in this bookforchallenging traditional images of mathematics with more humanisticimages(Ernest), by incorporating the theoretical framework ofethnomathematics(Mukhopadhyay, Powell, and Frankenstein; Barta and Brenner), and byusingmathematics education as a weapon in the struggle for social justice (Gutstein). In most chapters of this book, mathematics itself *is*undoubtedly acknowledged as a culture but in only a few chapters (forexample, Ernest and Gay) do I sense a focus placed on‘studying’ (exposing,deconstructing, teaching) about/through that mathematical culture asa wayto actually *be* culturally responsive in mathematics education. In closing, I would like to draw attention to how, in my view, manymathematics education research endeavors continue to talk the goodtalk ofculturally responsive pedagogy in mathematics education, but walkingthewalk in practice remains much more elusive. That is, researchcontinues toprofess mathematics as its own cultural system without having thisculturalnotion infuse its teaching and learning. I applaud the sincereefforts ofthe authors in this book to ground the ‘good talk’ (thetheoreticaldiscussions) in specific classroom and curricular experiences that do, indeed, serve as pointers to possibilities for real change. *Reference* Gay, G. (2000). *Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research, and pra*ctice. New York: Teachers College Press. _______________________________________________ xmca mailing list xmca@weber.ucsd.edu http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca

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