Bad at Math: Dismantling Harmful Beliefs That Hinder Equitable Mathematics Education by Lidia Gonzalez

9. Is the School System Broken?

  • While teaching is often considered a profession, teachers lack the autonomy of other professionals. They don’t usually get to be part of the decision making process that drives curriculum and methods. They are also likely to be blamed for any short comings even though they can’t control the inputs. In addition to giving teachers decision making responsibility, they should be given opportunities, money, and time to attend and present at conferences. They also need to have time for collaborative planning and visiting other schools. They should design their own multifaceted assessments and not be faced with high-stakes tests that narrow the curriculum.

10. Teaching Mathematics as a Political Act

  • Lidia suggests that math lessons include some history. Since the math we teach came to Europe largely from parts of Asia and the Arab world, students will start to see that math isn’t all about white men. We can also find examples of math work done by women and minorities. Historically, math problems have often dealt with profits and other topics that wealthier people (capitalists) can relate to. This should no longer be the case.
  • We can easily change this by using contexts from current events that deal with topics like, incarceration, union activity, crime, immigration, and many others that touch on inequalities common to our culture. While math may seen neutral or apolitical, it does appear political when one looks at the contexts from which the problems are drawn.

11. Where Do We Go From Here?

  • This brief chapter contains more encouragement to do what you can to chip away at the opportunity gap that most poor and minority kids face when it comes to math. All you need do is start conversations with teachers, parents, administrators, and policy makers. View the book study guide and try some of the activates you will find there. Also, be sure to share this book with others.

Lidia Gonzalez

  • Lidia is a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at York College of the City University of New York. She is a former high school math teacher and the author of numerous articles and book chapters. She has given talks at many regional and national conferences and has received several research grants. You can reach out to her at if you would like to schedule her for a talk or extended personalized workshop.
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