Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Anti-racist mathematics refers to recent education reform theory in countries such as the US and the UK, which emphasizes the social context of teaching mathematics, suggesting the study of mathematics as it's traditionally known in western societies may exhibit racial or cultural bias. It is part of a larger social constructivist movement in which traditional western or scientific universals, sometimes even Newton's formulations of the laws of gravity, are, according to some such as feminist theorist Sandra Harding, products of the Judeo–Christian and masculine assumptions of Western cultures, and are dominant only because of superior political power.
Proponents believe that, evidenced in the findings of 20th century anthropology, philosophy and various social science disciplines, the world-view and mental paradigm of individuals and grounds have a great determinative effect on the way they interpret the origin and meaning of events and objects in the world around them, not excluding natural and physical phenomena.
Critics claim anti-racist mathematics takes relativism and postmodernism to extremes, emphasizing that science, and especially hard science fields such as physics, biology, and mathematics, accurately reflect scientific universals, as opposed to being cultural interpretations or social constructions, i.e. Newton's formulations of the laws of gravity apply the same, independent of which cultural region or background people descend from.
While proponents believe such anti-racist education programs have the potential to correct imbalances and to have beneficial results on test scores in some minority groups, some controversy regarding anti-racist mathematics has arisen in Jan 2005 around plummeting mathematics scores at a school with prominent anti-racist education principles, the Newton Public Schools in Newton, Massachusetts.
Critics blame the falling test scores on the school's 2001 math curriculum redesign, which emphasized “Newton’s commitment to active anti-racist education” for the elementary and middle schools. The mathematics curriculum's new design officially brought “Respect for Human Differences" to the same level of emphasis  as the teaching of mathematics:
- "Students will live out the system wide core of ‘Respect for Human Differences’ by demonstrating anti-racist/anti-bias behaviors [...] Students will: Consistently analyze their experiences and the curriculum for bias and discrimination; Take effective anti-bias action when bias or discrimination is identified; Work with people of different backgrounds and tell how the experience affected them; Demonstrate how their membership in different groups has advantages and disadvantages that affect how they see the world and the way they are perceived by others...”
Critics emphasize their view that in math curriculums these values should have a lower priority than the teaching of basic math skills.
- culture wars
- social constructivism
- Woodrow, D. (1989). Multicultural and anti-racist mathematics teaching. In P. Ernest (Ed.), Mathematics teaching: The state of the art (pp. 229-235). London: Falmer.
- Cotton, A. (1990). Anti-racist mathematics teaching and the national curriculum. Mathematics Teaching, 132, 22-26.
- Levidow, L. (1987). Racism in scientific innovation. In D. Gill and L. Levidow (Eds.), Anti-racist science teaching (pp. 43-58). London: Free Association.
- Vance, M. (1987). Biology teaching in a racist society. In D. Gill and L. Levidow (Eds.), Anti-racist science teaching. (pp. 107-123). London: Free Association.
- Young, R. M. (1987). Racist society, racist science. In D. Gill and L. Levidow (Eds.), Anti-racist science teaching. (pp. 16-42). London: Free Association.
- Mears, T. (1986). Multicultural and anti-racist approaches to the teaching of science in schools. In J. Guadara, C. Jones and K. Kimberley (Eds.), Racism, diversity and education (pp. 154-166). London: Hodder and Stoughton.
- The Politics of Anti-Racist Mathematics in Proceedings of the First International Conference on Political Dimensions of Mathematics Education, (Ed. R. Noss), Institute of Education Publications, University of London, 1990.
- The Politics of Anti-Racist Mathematics, European Education Journal, July 1994, pp.67-74
- Harding, Sandra. The Science Question in Feminism. 1986.
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