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Struggling with math. Photo supplied

Professor proposes Marxist math for social justice

Not everyone is good at mathematics, but now a professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago has a plan to change that: Enter "critical mathematics" as in Marxist "critical theory".

Published: June 23, 2018, 8:50 am

    Campus Reform reported that Professor Eric Gutstein is encouraging the teaching of “math for social justice” to help fight the “oppressive status quo” in the United States.

    “The Struggle is Pedagogical: Learning To Teach Critical Mathematics” was penned by Gutstein, introducing a new textbook by stating that it was that high time for social justice math because of the “racist and sexist billionaire in the White House”.

    The link may not be very clear, but Gutstein forcefully argues that teaching “critical mathematics” is not an option for math teachers, but rather, a “responsibility to our future”.

    Gutstein taught a “math for social justice” class at the Social Justice High School in Chicago, before he joined UIC. “We are in an historical period that challenges us to action in ways that we probably cannot fully understand,” Gutstein says.

    “Teaching in critical ways is not optional in the present juncture. We have a responsibility to our future and our planet, to life and all species. What we do in the classroom matters, for today and tomorrow, and the myriad possibilities for resistance and transformation are inextricably and dialectically related to the intensity of the crises we face.”

    The “crisis” that Gutstein alludes to is the terrible performance of black students in math.

    Gutstein says that math teachers are not interested in “social justice pedagogies” to promote “revolutionary” and “radical” teachings.

    Traditional mathematics education, he complains, “is not sufficient and does not address many issues” necessary to “critical mathematics”.

    As co-author of the 2015 book Rethinking Mathematics: Teaching Social Justice by The Numbers, he asserts that math classes can help students to “deepen their understanding of important social issues, such as racism and sexism, as well as ecology and social class”.

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