Teaching Mathematics for Social Justice

By North, Marc | Mathematics Teaching, September 2017 | Go to article overview

Teaching Mathematics for Social Justice


North, Marc, Mathematics Teaching


Teaching mathematics for social justice by Pete Wright. ATM Publications, 2016 Price £18.00 non-members, £13.50 members.

The disaffection and alienation of many students from mathematics, together with the persisting differences in attainment between different groups in society, suggests that conventional mathematics teaching falls far short of providing a 'socially just' mathematics education. This justifies the need to develop teaching ideas and approaches that go further in terms of meeting the affective needs of learners and providing every child with an equal chance to succeed in mathematics. (p. 14)

With this as a motivation for the book, Pete Wright offers secondary school learners and teachers an exciting opportunity to explore, investigate, debate and critique a carefully chosen selection of trialled and researchinformed practical projects and activities that highlight issues of social (in)justice and (in)equity in relation to relevant real-world scenarios. All seven openended, rich projects, draw on intriguing and engaging scenarios designed to motivate and enthuse learners and to give opportunities to develop a critical view on topics relevant to the learners' daily lives. Opportunities are given to investigate, debate and critique scenarios involving global inequality and ways to measure this; the subjective nature of 'fairness' in, for example, voting systems and Fairtrade agreements; and how the living wage measure is calculated and whether changes in this living wage calculation over time have improved living standards. Learners are also asked to reflect on their own feelings, anxieties and beliefs about mathematics and to question and challenge these through exposure to alternative perspectives.

Five key elements of practice inform the structure and content of the projects. These are:

1. collaborative problem-solving approaches to learning, accompanied by meaningful discussion and debate.

2. exposure to meaningful mathematical experiences through activities that recognise and build on learners' real-life experiences.

3. engagement with activities and scenarios that enable learners to develop greater awareness and understanding of their social, cultural, political and economic situations.

4. greater agency for learners about the direction of their learning and opportunities to participate in social action.

5. developing a critical understanding of the nature of mathematics and its position and status in education and society.

The projects and associated activities are characterised by rich experiences that have been constructed to promote in-depth student thinking, discussion, reasoning and to provide challenge. …

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