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Book Review

Teaching Mathematics for Social Justice: Conversation with Educators

Edited by Anita A. Wagner and David W. Stinson

At first I thought this book was going to be a repeat of TE 407 and TE 408. It repeated all of things that we were told “This is how you teach math.” When in reality, teaching math like that take A LOT of time and planning. What I really liked about this book is how it stated the reality of teaching like this. There were example lessons, student feedback, student push back, lesson ideas, and teacher reflection. What this book gave me that TE 407/408 didn’t was ideas. Even when we did community walk projects in 407/408 and in 802/804, students don’t always give the most insightful project ideas. They are expressing their interests, but to come up with a social justice lesson from their ideas is difficult, especially when trying to fit it into the current unit. A question I have still is how do I tailor my survey to get student answers that are socially conscious? Not only that, but when teaching lessons like this, how do I push students to think more socially conscious and also be mature about certain topics? My fear is students being immature and joking around about issues. I don’t believe this will happen all the time, but I’m not sure how to handle situations like that.

I think this book is important for practice because it gives students and teachers a new way to learn, explore, and reflect on math. There isn’t one cookie cutter way to learn and to teach math. Teaching math for social justice gives another way for students to learn. It takes social issues to today and uses math to explain it and/or gives a way for students to bring change in their communities. I think teaching math for social justice is important because it gives students another way to learn. This way is more relatable to them and it helps them more because they explore the math in a way that makes sense to them. They are exploring topics that are important to them and understanding how math relates to it.

What I liked most about this book is it didn’t just talk about how great teaching math for social justice is. It talked about push back from teachers, students, and parents. Parents are concerned their child isn’t learning math because it isn’t being taught in the traditional way. Administration is concerned because your class is behind compared to the rest of the classes. Teachers give push back for many reasons. One is if they have to be the same schedule with you and they don’t want to implement these lessons. You also are worried about if your students will learn what you want them to get and about how much time it will take to create and teach the lesson. Students push because they aren’t used to learning like this and they don’t like what’s not the norm for them. All of these things have to be considered when teaching math for social justice. It’s not just back and white about what research shows is the best for student learning.

The one thing that stood out to me was the time component. It takes a lot of time to plan and teach lessons like this. Planning can take days depending on what the unit is and can take weeks to teach it. The author of that chapter even says, teaching like this isn’t something you do for every unit or do it all the time. There’s still curriculum to get through. If there’s push back from administration, students, and parents, doing these lessons over and over isn’t going to make them like it. This really resonated with me because it’s so different from what we were taught in TE 407/408. Reading this made me feel more confident in my teaching. There is no one best way to teach. Sometimes you’re on a short time frame and don’t have time to rush through a social justice lesson.

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