OUR CONTEXT AND OUR MISSION
Mathematics is a structure through which we can not only understand the world, but one through which we can change it. This domain allows us to quantify and analyze our lived experiences; it provides us with models of solutions to personal, professional, and systemic challenges; and it illuminates the vast, complex patterns that permeate all things. Mathematics is a distinctly human form of communication and problem-solving, and has unlocked boundless potential for our global society.
Yet, despite these incredible possibilities of our content, mathematical opportunity has been systematically denied to many – including many of our Mississippi students. Our society equates mathematical ability with computational speed and arithmetic skill, and in turn equates such “ability” with some sort of innate intelligence. This mischaracterization threads itself into our school system, where students are often subjected to teacher-dominated “drill and kill” or procedural instruction. Compelling scientific evidence refutes the learning potential of such instruction, but perhaps the greater danger is that such regimes also aggravate the idea that mathematical thinking is an innate ability that you either do or do not have, and if you cannot compute mathematical facts quickly, you are not a mathematical thinker. This narrow and damaging perspective on mathematics has been compounded by the culture of testing in our schools, and as a result many students, parents, and even teachers have grown adverse identities around and anxiety towards mathematics.
When this reality is compounded by the systemic educational inequity that already exists along racial, socioeconomic, and other lines, the result is painfully predictable. Mathematics is not only failing to live up to its potential as a gateway to opportunity, it is actually serving as a gatekeeping denier of opportunity. Our content is operating as an emotional and psychological barrier for many of our students who are internalizing messages that they cannot be successful in our world, when the real culprit is a lack of access, curricula, and pedagogy which empowers them and builds on their strengths.
The status quo will only change with the sustained, impassioned effort of those who believe in the diverse power of our content and the brilliance of our students. Our charge as the Teach For America • Mississippi Mathematics team is to stand on the vanguard of redefining mathematics education in our schools and in this state. We must recognize the abounding potential of all of our students through dispositions that infuse equity and responsiveness. We must spark the untapped curiosity of our content through instruction that promotes relevance and flexibility. We must empower the next generation of innovators and change-agents with opportunities that spur collaboration and leadership. We must do all of this with the full knowledge that we will be working against the grain, and that there will be those who do not understand or do not believe in this work. However, we will also find that there are incredible partnerships that we can build with students, parents, fellow educators, administrators, and community members. By working collectively with other advocates and stakeholders we will achieve One Day in Mississippi and Mathematics will hold its full potential as a pathway to opportunity for all students.
Teach For America • Mississippi
OUR 2017-18 VISION OF CONTENT