- An Invitation and a Demand for Equity in Mathematics - February 1, 2017
- All Mathematics is Political: Post Session with Rochelle Gutierrez - May 1, 2014
- Top five reasons to go to the 2015 NCTM Annual Conference - April 29, 2014
- Mathematics with a Social Justice Agenda? - April 23, 2014
- Math Principles to Actions: An Invitation and a Demand - April 11, 2014
Following an emotionally stimulating conference session presented by Dr. Rochelle Gutierrez, I was intent on waiting in a line behind dozens of people for the opportunity to sit and talk with her. She began her talk with an engaging moment where she asked audience participants to “Stand Up” for the reasons they entered the teaching profession. One group after the other, we began standing; standing as student advocates, as lovers of the mathematics, as people who had been motivated by teachers in the past, as change agents! Dr. Gutierrez continued through an illuminating hour where mathematics was interrogated concerning the “unearned privilege” it possesses in today’s society.
As I sat down with Dr. Gutierrez on the carpeted floor of the convention center with another NCMT conference attendant, I began asking her to elaborate on some of the ideas brought out in the session. The following is a summary of that moment:
KM: Could you talk a little bit more about politicizing mathematics, or why you say that all mathematics is political?
RG: Well … I don’t feel like I’m politicizing it … I feel like it is that way. I think it’s just a matter of … we don’t tend to interrogate mathematics … as an entity, as a practice, really. I think that we’re taught as if it’s this objective thing out there that exists. It’s not in mainstream society for people to understand how mathematics has developed over time, or to understand the multiple practices that people do in other parts of the world. For instance, in Papua New Guinea they have a base 16 system and … it’s the body … the body is the calculator…so, when somebody’s counting it’s the body that’s being enacted. So, what does that mean when we receive a singular version of mathematics both from the point of view of European mathematics, but also from the point of view of what counts as school mathematics. So it’s like you’re already kind of reducing what people understand about mathematics and its social context.
We get conditioned into thinking … if this is all you know, you think that’s all there is, right?! So…I think that we are not taught, and I would argue that we are not really given permission, to interrogate mathematics because so much of mathematics supports economics and warfare right now. So there’s a real incentive for that to be protected by different institutions … Even what counts as mathematics to mathematicians is partly determined by the department of defense, it’s partly determined by National Science Foundations, and so there are entities that have a say in what’s available to people to understand about what mathematics is first and foremost. So, just like, there’s not a lot of incentive for Whites to interrogate Whiteness as the norm and as the right way to have society set up, there’s not a lot of incentive for mathematicians and math teachers to interrogate this unearned status that mathematics has in society.
So I’m not making it political it is political already … I’m just trying to make it more transparent … in the same way that critical race theorist