The post below was from the Quarter 2 Mississippi Mathematics blast email sent to all mathematics teachers. A new blast is just around the corner, but I wanted to repost the student spotlight from Ms. Cantu’s class below, as it represents a example of building critical consciousness with a mathematical task.
The blast spotlight from Quarter 2 goes to Corina Cantu’s 8th grade math classroom, where she has been constantly pushing her students to see critically – both in terms of the diverse ways that we can conceptual understand math concepts as well as the multiple ways that we can understand a situation through mathematics. She really is working towards our math priorities around Critical Consciousness:
Her student responses below really seem to demonstrate how students are hungry to explore topics like the shooting death of Michael Brown, while also still accepting certain assumptions because of statistical data (like that more black arrests inherently means that black people are committing more crimes). I’m so excited about the continuing conversations she is having with her class and the perceptions that she can help change for her students this year. She would love to conduct a book study on Teaching Math for Social Justice with a Greenwood-area PLC this quarter, so make sure to sign up if you’re interested!
Ms. Cantu’s Vision
The vision for my 8th grade classroom this year is to have students understand the power of math in that math has the power to help us understand and potentially change the world. An understanding of math can allow students to understand and challenge the systems and symptoms of inequality.
Ferguson, MO Racial Profiling Performance Task
In the time after Michael Brown was killed, I saw many numbers relating to racial profiling of people of color. I wanted to create a space for my students to talk about the shooting in a safe and productive environment and saw a powerful opportunity for students to understand the power that understanding math and how numbers and statistics are interpreted to respond and challenge systems that shape society.
The performance task was done over two days and began with a discussion about what students knew about Michael Brown and whether they thought it was an isolated incident or part of a larger problem. Students shared experiences of themselves, friends and family members had had in which they felt they had been treated unfairly by police. We then discussed racial profiling to give a “name” to some of those experiences and what they had talked about as a larger problem. The students were then given real numbers on population, vehicle stops, citations and arrests for Ferguson, MO broken down by race (Black, White, Latino and Asian). The students had to convert the numbers into fractions and percents then create and place those statistics on a number line, again broken down by race to create a visual for what was happening in Ferguson, MO. We ended with a discussion on what story the numbers told and what solutions could they, as students in Greenwood, MS, come up to with to address the problem of racial profiling.
What do you think of math? Have you always thought that?
“At first, I didn’t like math, but when I got to middle school I got a better understanding”
“I think math is a marvelous subject. It has gotten a little harder than elementary school. Math used to be my favorite subject but since it isn’t really easy anymore, I really don’t like it.”
What do you think of math in Ms. Cantu’s class?
“Math in Ms. Cantu’s class is very fun to me. She teaches us different ways to solve a problem and you get a better understanding of it.”