WASHINGTON (TND) — An education-focused leadership organization in U.S. and Canada is calling for a new math curriculum in schools with an enhanced focus on social justice issues.
The National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (NCSM) has recently stated its position in which it hopes to see a new math curriculum in American classrooms, one that "challenges the roles power, privilege, and oppression play in the current unjust system of mathematics education—and in society as a whole."
NCSM is the premiere mathematics education leadership organization. Our bold leadership in the mathematics education community develops vision, ensures support, and guarantees that all students engage in equitable, high-quality mathematical experiences that lead to powerful, flexible uses of mathematical understanding to affect their lives and to improve the world," NCSM says in its vision statement on its website.
NSCM says it is an organization that focuses on training math teachers across the U.S. and Canada. It allows teachers to become members, and engage with its "professional learning opportunities," according to the organization.
In a statement from NCSM titled "Mathematics Education Through the Lens of Social Justice: Acknowledgment, Actions, and Accountability," the organization says it sees "social justice" as a "key priority" in access, engagement, and advancement for America's youth when it comes to mathematics education.
A social justice stance requires a systemic approach that includes fair and equitable teaching practices, high expectations for all students, access to rich, rigorous, and relevant mathematics, and strong family/community relationships to promote positive mathematics learning and achievement," NCSM says in its statement. "Equally important, a social justice stance interrogates and challenges the roles power, privilege, and oppression play in the current unjust system of mathematics education—and in society as a whole.
In current mathematics education, the NSCM says, there exists a "deficit thinking" that must be eliminated. The organization claims this type of thinking happens in two ways.
First, when it comes to labeling students' readiness and ability to learn math, standardized testing often leads to the labeling of minority and poor students as "maladaptive" or "immature" in mathematics ability. This manifests in the labeling of those students as "slow kids" and similar labels. Such labels lead to marginalized education plans for those children, the NSCM says.
Secondly, the organization says "deficit thinking" has educators believing students lack knowledge or experience when students don't share background or experiences of a dominant group. In essence, just because a student engages in different cultural experiences, this does not necessarily mean they are behind or ill-equipped for some educational opportunities, NSCM claims.
The practice of mathematics achievement being used as a "gatekeeping" tool must be eliminated as well, the NSCM says.
Historically, mathematics and the perceived ability to learn mathematics have been used to educate children into different societal roles such as leadership/ruling class and labor/working class leading to segregation and separation," the NSCM claims.
There are three steps the organization wishes to see new math curriculum take: Acknowledgment, action, and accountability.
Teachers must acknowledge that the current mathematics education curriculum is "unjust," NSCM says, "grounded in a legacy of institutional discrimination based on race, ethnicity, class, and gender."
Teachers must then take action by altering some of their mathematics education belief systems and structures, which includes changing up their curriculum so that it includes a "quantitative analysis of fairness and civic engagement issues," according to NSCM.
Finally, teachers must take accountability when they fail to meet these standards because, as the organization says, "actions are hollow unless there is accountability."
Boards will conduct annual audits on implementation progress of social justice actions items and make informed adjustments to professional offerings and resources for its current and future membership and affiliated partners," NSCM says. "We must hold the profession and our organizations accountable to making a just and equitable mathematics education a sustainable reality.
NCSM believes these changes are needed immediately, saying "immediate and transformative change is necessary."