Welcome to the first week of Liberation Math. Over the next 13 weeks, we are going to explore mathematical identities, the way that those identities are constructed, and how mathematics and math education interact with our culture. During this course, we will be collectively unpacking our ideas about the doing and learning of mathematics, and talking back to those ideas and imagine other possibilities. My goal is to create a community of people that develops a critical consciousness about mathematical identity and the place of mathematics both in our lives and in the world, which will allow us to move from reacting to structures outside of ourselves to being empowered actors who create our own identities. Participants will also work on mathematical problems that grow out of contexts that we identify as interesting, as well as mathematical problems that are abstracted (as is much of school mathematics), and that work will inform our developing and shifting perspectives on mathematical identity and the place of mathematics in our world. Anyone is welcome to participate, so feel free to read, comment, question, or argue!
You can start by reading some short pieces critical of math education. These are interesting to read together since the solutions proposed are so divergent:
- How Much Math Do We Really Need? (opinion piece from Washington Post, 10/2010)
- Is Algebra Necessary? (opinion piece from New York Times, 07/2012)
- Algebra and Activism: Removing the Shackles of Low Expectations (article in Educational Leadership, 10/2001 about Bob Moses and the Algebra Project)
This class is really a research collective — we’re researching ourselves and our memories in order to understand mathematical identity and culture, using a research method known as memory-work. Everyone is invited to write a mathematical memory and post it via this form or through a post on a blog or other venue (just provide a link in the comments, or post link to twitter with hashtag #liberationmath). The important thing is to write the memory under a pseudonym (to create some distance), to be as detailed as possible (don’t leave out anything, even what seems unimportant, and to write one memory, not a string of events or biography. We’re looking for the raw memory, rather than how you interpreting it (for more information about this, see the Haug reference below). We’ll be collectively identifying similarities and differences, themes, what seems to be missing, and what our writing says about who we are. That conversation will begin next Monday. To read more about the memory work method, check out the following three articles. The first talks about mathematics specifically, the second is by Frigga Haug, the woman who developed the method, and the third is a paper by a research collective of adult learners that used the method in a class.
- Ingleton, C., & O’Regan, K. (2002). Recounting Mathematical Experiences: Emotions in Mathematics Learning. Literacy & Numeracy Studies, 11(2), 95–107. This piece is specifically about looking at
- Haug, F. (1999). Memory-work as a Method of Social Science Research: A Detailed Rendering of Memory-Work Method.
- Lapadat, J. C., Black, N. E., Clark, P. G., Gremm, R. M., Karanja, L. W., Mieke, M., & Quinlan, L. (2010). Life Challenge Memory Work: Using Collaborative Autobiography to Understand Ourselves. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 9(1), 77–104.
What do you think about math and it’s place in our culture? What kinds of memories (good or bad) do you have of mathematics? Leave a comment below! Anyone who is going to be posting about Liberation Math, please leave a link to your blog and/or twitter account below — I’ll be compiling the links on the sidebar.
(Lesley Students who are enrolled in the course, make sure you cover all of the assignments in the course outline under Week 1 — it’s a big week, so I recommend starting early!)
- From Math Shame to Math Liberation (liberationmath.org)
- Mathematics Liberation and MOOCs (liberationmath.org)
- Shame and Mathematics Presentation at Joint Math Meetings (liberationmath.org)