My mission in life

My mission in life is to help adults, students, and teachers to develop their mathematical voices and power. In my research, I am currently focusing on developing a theory of the way shame disrupts mathematics learning and impacts mathematical identity, and on methods of developing powerful responses to shame triggers. In the classroom, I am focused on examining the role of relationships and narratives in my teaching and student learning.

It has been about a year and a half since issues in my own classes started me thinking about the role of shame in mathematics difficulties. Because shame is a relational emotion, considering the role of shame in mathematics places mathematical difficulties in a larger context which includes not only the learner, but also parents, teachers, administrators, and the entire society surrounding the learner. My current work includes finishing some qualitative analysis of mathematical memories of adults, examining common story narratives including evidence of the experiences of shame. This academic year I am also working on two relevant research projects, the first a collaborative project that takes a grounded-theory approach to the effect of subject-based autobiography assignments on classroom environment and student development, and the second an analysis of a method of mid-term course evaluation that I have developed over the past several semesters, particularly looking at how the evaluation impacts relationships in the classroom, students’ perceptions of power in the classroom, and my perceptions of the class as the instructor.

I am in the process of developing a class for Spring 2013 designed to help adult students who have been unsuccessful at school mathematics to understand and make meaning their mathematical experiences and identities, while at the same time providing them with mathematical experiences in which they can stay connected and powerful. The semester-long course I am developing combines critical pedagogy (Friere, 2000; Frankenstein, 1987) and a method of feminist action research called memory-work (Crawford et. al., 1992; Onyx & Small, 2001). I combine these powerful methods for collective self-examination with lessons from relational-cultural theory (Hartling et. al, 2000), story-editing approaches (Wilson, 2007; Wilson, 2011) which allow people to authentically develop growth mindsets (Dweck, 2007), and with mathematical problem solving so that people can unpack their mathematical identities and place them in a cultural context while developing mathematical skills and having real-time access to emotions surrounding mathematics.

I am very interested in connecting with others around this research and classroom work. I’d love to have conversations about this connects to the work of others, to find collaborators, and to present my work as widely as I can! Next year I will have a sabbatical in which I plan to write substantial portions of a book tentatively titled Liberation Mathematics: Narrative and Number, and I believe that engaging with lots of other people inside and outside of mathematics will really help me to craft this work carefully and make it as useful as possible. I am also looking for funding that would allow me to take a full year of sabbatical for the work, so if you have any ideas (even if they are crazy ones), let me know.

Crawford, J., Kippax, S., Onyx, J., Gault, U., & Benton, P. (1992). Emotion and gender: Constructing meaning from memory. Sage Publications, Inc.

Dweck, C. (2007). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Random House Digital, Inc.

Frankenstein, M. (1987). Critical Mathematics Education: An Application of Paulo Freire’s Epistemology. In I. Shor (Ed.), Freire for the classroom: a sourcebook for liberatory teaching (pp. 180–210). Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook.

Onyx, J., & Small, J. (2001). Memory-Work: The Method. Qualitative Inquiry, 7(6), 773 –786. doi:10.1177/107780040100700608

Wilson, S. (2007). My struggle with maths may not have been a lonely one: Bibliotherapy in a teacher education number theory unit. Mathematics: Essential research, essential practice, 815–823.

Wilson, T. D. (2011). Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change. Hachette Digital, Inc.

Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. (M. B. Ramos, Trans.) (30th Anniversary ed.). Continuum International Publishing Group.


3 thoughts on “My mission in life

  1. dr2chase says:

    My funding idea, which is probably crazy: try some of the online courseware places (Kahn Academy, or MIT). The reasons: (1) high leverage — any good you can do there is multiplied many times over (this should motivate them to be interested in you, and vice versa); (2) online interaction dilutes some of the less-good in-person interactions; it might make your goal easier to attain.

    • faroop says:

      I have actually been thinking about doing some kind of video, so I like the idea. And I know someone at Kahn academy. I just have to get gutsy enough to make that video!

  2. meligrosa says:

    just thought i’d drop in to say hello. you had left a message on my blog 2+years ago and it was cool to re-find it recently, was so nice of you.
    what you are doing is awesome, many people are so afraid of math and science and it shouldn’t be that way — it surrounds us! will be checking in here often and best of luck with your sabatical 🙂


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