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Re: [xmca] Culturally responsive math ed.

Amen,  Jay. The[image: cover]<
*Title:* Culturally Responsive Mathematics Education
*Author(s):* Brian Greer, Swapna Mukhopadhyay, Arthur B. Powell, and Sharon
Nelson-Barber (eds.)
*Publisher: * Routledge, New York
*ISBN: *0805862641, *Pages:* 400, *Year:* 2009
Search for book at
book itself should probably be reviewed at XMCA. Anyone want to do it?

here is where it is:

On Fri, Nov 27, 2009 at 8:20 PM, Jay Lemke <jaylemke@umich.edu> wrote:

> An important topic, and one that will keep coming back at us.
> Reading the thoughtful review that Mike attached, I could not help thinking
> that if we want teachers or students to understand "the culture of
> mathematics", we ought not to isolate it and reify it as if it were a
> full-blown "culture" in the anthropological meaning of the term. We need to
> understand how the subculture of mathematicians is part and parcel of larger
> historical cultures and communities/societies. And what its relationships
> are to other subcultures, such as middle-class (really upper-middle
> class/professional) subculture.
> It is perfectly possible to become a competent member of a
> culture/subculture without having much of any understanding of it (why it is
> as it is, how it could be otherwise, how it got to be as it is, etc.). Many
> professional mathematicians lack such understandings, but I really don't
> want students to be brought so blindly into that culture.
> If we wish the teaching of mathematics (or any other disciplinary
> subculture) to be "culturally responsive", it must be so by exploring the
> relationships of that subculture to the cultural habits and practices of
> students, and that can really only done by placing both within some larger
> framework in which they have intelligible relationships to one another.
> For an interesting dissection of some of the ideologies of the culture of
> mathematics, in relation to school-age learning, I'd recommend the work of
> Valerie Walkerdine, a one-time student of Basil Bernstein and a brilliant
> feminist critical theorist.
> JAY.
> Jay Lemke
> Professor (Adjunct, 2009-2010)
> Educational Studies
> University of Michigan
> Ann Arbor, MI 48109
> www.umich.edu/~jaylemke <http://www.umich.edu/%7Ejaylemke>
> 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 Record this
>> week..
>> Here is a book review of one of our own xmca o philes, although we hear
>> from
>> them 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, and
>> Sharon
>> Nelson-Barber (eds.)
>> *Publisher: * Routledge, New York
>> *ISBN: *0805862641, *Pages:* 400, *Year:* 2009
>> Search for book at
>> Amazon.com<
>> http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0805862641/teacherscolleger>
>> As I pondered the title of this admirable collection of essays, I could
>> not
>> help but ask the pertinent question at hand: What, exactly, is meant by
>> (a)
>> culturally responsive mathematics education? Decidedly, this is precisely
>> the question addressed by each of the chapter authors, albeit in ways that
>> are embedded in stories of identity, cultural artifacts, curriculum
>> development, social justice, computer design, semiotics, the environment,
>> and the historical, anthropological, and highly politicized perspectives
>> on
>> mathematics as socially and culturally constructed. I quickly discerned
>> that
>> such a diverse collection of perspectives focused on the topic of
>> diversity
>> does not readily lend itself to a cursory review process— striving to
>> encapsulate the flavor of a rich text such as this in 1500 words or less
>> is
>> akin, I suppose, to striving to encapsulate what it means to be culturally
>> responsive in mathematics education in 370 pages or less!
>> As I read the book, I reasoned that a fitting approach to review might be
>> to
>> glean insight from the book and its authors into my initial ponderings:
>> What, exactly, is meant by (a) culturally responsive mathematics
>> education?
>> To do this, however, required that I first moved past the double irony I
>> encountered. Firstly, there can be no answer to a question that juxtaposes
>> the word “a” with the term “culturally responsive”, since such a
>> juxtapositioning would impose an essential nature on what it means to
>> respond to diversity. As suggested by d’Ambrosia, it is imperative to
>> avoid
>> “the trap of the same” (p. 6), and the authors of this book attempt to do
>> just this. Secondly, I was challenged to get past the irony of the narrow
>> focus of the book, consisting of authors writing only from/within the
>> context of the United States and lacking explicit gender and class
>> discussions. A few chapters have the U.S. context so deeply embedded in
>> the
>> story being told (for example, Gutstein and Miller-Jones and Greer) that
>> it
>> can be challenging for the reader to think beyond U.S. soil and the taste
>> of
>> U.S. politics. However, the editors do forewarn readers of this second
>> irony
>> in the book’s introduction, partially excusing this lack of scope by
>> referring to the book as “a pointer to changes” (p. 6). I concur; this
>> book
>> is a daring and commendable attempt to point to possibilities for change.
>> I
>> can appreciate the editors’ intention to draw attention to the fact that a
>> culturally responsive mathematics education is still far from being
>> realized
>> in classrooms and institutions across the globe.
>> Perhaps, at the end of it all, this double irony worked well as a subtext
>> for my responsibility, as a reviewer, to respond to the distinct ways in
>> which each of the book’s authors interprets and embraces cultural
>> responsiveness in the context of mathematics education. In this light
>> then,
>> I will return to my question: What, exactly, is meant by (a) culturally
>> responsive mathematics education?
>> A key starting point for understanding culturally responsive education is
>> provided by Moses, West, and Davis, who emphasize the need to attend “to
>> the
>> experiences and notions of students and teachers where they begin, which
>> is
>> always cultural” (p. 255). Davis, Hauk, and Latiolais astutely point out
>> what should be obvious: that in order to be responsive to (diverse)
>> cultures, one must first understand what is meant by culture and how we
>> identify cultures in our classrooms. These authors describe culture as “a
>> collection of learned ways of seeing and interacting with the world and a
>> slowly evolving intergenerational template for the shaping of these
>> learned
>> behaviors” (p. 354).
>> In this book, even reference to the term “culturally responsive” heeds
>> d’Ambrosia’s warning of avoiding the trap of the same as the chapters move
>> between the language of *culturally responsive*, *equitable*, *liberatory
>> education*, *cultural affirmation*, and other related expressions. For
>> example, Moschkovich and Nelson-Barber describe a cultural affirmation
>> approach wherein “practices and approaches to learning that are different
>> from those of the dominant culture (reflected in school practices) are
>> affirmed rather than denied” (p. 114). These two authors identify cultural
>> content, social organization, and cognitive resources as the “three areas
>> central to ensuring that curricula and instructional practice are
>> culturally
>> relevant for students” (p. 114).
>> Martin and McGee frame their description in the language of liberatory
>> mathematics education, emphasizing “equitable learning and participation
>> experiences inside the classroom, which can help foster equity outside the
>> classroom” (p. 233). The language of equity is a further focus for Aguirre
>> who defines equity to mean “that all students in light of their
>> humanity—personal experiences, backgrounds, histories, languages, physical
>> and emotional well-being—must have the opportunity and support to learn
>> rich
>> mathematics that fosters meaning making, empowers decision making, and
>> critiques, 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 for
>> establishing a culturally responsive education is a dialogue that breaks
>> down the hierarchical and hegemonic practices” (p. 321) that so often
>> characterize schools, and mathematics classrooms in particular.
>> In the context of mathematics teacher education, Geneva Gay demands a
>> critical analysis of the language, culture, and mystic of mathematics
>> before
>> prospective teachers can begin to understand and embrace the beliefs and
>> tenets of culturally responsive teaching. It is Gay’s elaboration on these
>> tenets of culturally responsive teaching that provided a highlight for me
>> in
>> reading the book. She discusses five such tenets that shape the ideology
>> of
>> culturally responsive teaching: “… the importance of culture; the social
>> construction of knowledge; the inclusiveness of cultural responsiveness;
>> academic achievement involves more than intellect; and balancing and
>> blending unity and diversity” (p. 197). While her original groundbreaking
>> work with culturally responsive teaching was of a general (not
>> specifically
>> mathematical) 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 the complexity
>> involved in deconstructing the “socially constructed identity of
>> mathematics” (p. 193).
>> It is along this line of deconstructing constructed identities that I
>> experienced a degree of personal and professional tension while reading
>> this
>> book (which, I remind the reader, is not a bad thing!). As I read the
>> individual essays, I found myself continually shifting between the
>> authors’
>> diverse, at times dichotomous, range of approaches to living out (a)
>> culturally responsive mathematics education. I began to ponder the
>> following
>> question: Are we, as mathematics educators and researchers, advocating for
>> a
>> pedagogy that asks students to recognize mathematics as its own cultural
>> system or a pedagogy that acknowledges, and interconnects with, the
>> cultural
>> systems of the students we teach? Of course, the most politically correct
>> response to this question is to say ‘both’, but at times I seriously
>> wonder
>> how 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 the culture
>> of
>> mathematics), and whether focusing on both simultaneously (which is what I
>> believe is an overall message in this book) is akin to aiming at a moving
>> target? In other words, if we focus our energies on a pedagogy that is
>> responsive to, and interconnects with, students’ cultures will we miss the
>> opportunities for a pedagogy that highlights mathematics itself as a
>> social
>> construction 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 of
>> mathematics. In owning a responsibility toward the cultures that students
>> bring to our classrooms, do we risk providing a culturally restrictive
>> education? What if our attempts to respond in multiple ways to multiple
>> cultures actually preclude students from traveling within, and learning
>> from, cultures not their own—politically and socially charged cultures
>> like
>> mathematics that are, in and of themselves, worthy of a response?
>> It is worth qualifying that my foray into these critical questions is
>> meant
>> to demonstrate how I, like the authors in this book, grapple with the
>> tensions inherent in *not* seeking a set of best practices, or
>> resolutions,
>> in the simple, straightforward, and sameness that has frequently been the
>> trademark of mathematics education initiatives touted under, for example,
>> a
>> ‘math for all’ umbrella. A case is definitely made in this book for
>> challenging traditional images of mathematics with more humanistic images
>> (Ernest), by incorporating the theoretical framework of ethnomathematics
>> (Mukhopadhyay, Powell, and Frankenstein; Barta and Brenner), and by using
>> mathematics 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
>> (for
>> example, Ernest and Gay) do I sense a focus placed on ‘studying’
>> (exposing,
>> deconstructing, teaching) about/through that mathematical culture as a way
>> to actually *be* culturally responsive in mathematics education.
>> In closing, I would like to draw attention to how, in my view, many
>> mathematics education research endeavors continue to talk the good talk of
>> culturally responsive pedagogy in mathematics education, but walking the
>> walk in practice remains much more elusive. That is, research continues to
>> profess mathematics as its own cultural system without having this
>> cultural
>> notion infuse its teaching and learning. I applaud the sincere efforts of
>> the authors in this book to ground the ‘good talk’ (the theoretical
>> discussions) 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.
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