Thursday, August 3, 2017

Morning Session: MPs and Equity

For my morning session at Twitter Math Camp (TMC), I participated in What is the Relationship Between Standards for Mathematical Practice and Equity? (all materials here), which was led by Grace Chen, Brette Garner, and Sammie Marshall. I really appreciated there being a designated space to talk about equity at TMC. This also became a space for me where I felt comfortable in taking risks and getting personal—the trust that we built was essential for having real conversation.

Talking Points

One of the ways that I felt like our facilitators built trust was by starting with talking points on the following prompts. If you are unfamiliar with this structure, check out Elizabeth Statmore’s post on talking points here.

The talking points structure and the statements themselves were a great way for us to get to know each other and build some of that trust. These are common statements in the education world, but with talking points, we were able to each give our own response to them and then revise/extend our thinking. By the end of each round, my group had a majority of disagrees and sometimes a couple unsures. I particularly want to call out the statement “math is math is math, regardless of race or culture or context.” I think that this philosophy is so harmful in classrooms because it is used to erase the identities of the students within the classroom.

Equity Eyes

Dylan Kane wrote about this in more detail here, but another part of our work each day was to develop and practice a way of viewing other TMC sessions, teaching decisions, or classroom structures through “equity eyes.” We started by looking at the following sets of group roles:

I found examining these group roles fascinating, particularly since I have used a version of the ones on the left. When I first looked at them, the main difference that jumped out at me was what type of actions they emphasized students doing. I saw the roles on the left as focusing on process and having the groupwork run smoothly. I saw the roles on the right as focusing on the type of thinking we are expecting of students—representing math multiple ways, asking questions in order to extend thinking, everyone understanding, and making connections. Someone else, I believe it was Brette, pointed out that based on different goals, each of these sets of group roles might be more valuable. If you have a group that’s really good at going deep, they might need more reminders about actually recording their thinking. If you have a group that works really well together, but often stays at a surface level, the roles on the right might be a better fit.

From this, my first set of “equity eyes” questions emerged:
  • What are we expecting all kids to do? What type of thinking/actions?
  • How do we support each kid in reaching those goals?
  • Does this promote a hierarchy or collaboration (or some other interpersonal dynamic)?
Over the next two days, based on what other people shared, I added to this list:
  • Do I have the trust of each learner in the classroom? Do I trust each learner in the classroom?
  • Who is valued? How are they valued?
  • What assumptions are we making about students?
  • Whose voices are we hearing?
  • Where is race/culture in this thing?
  • Who am I thinking about when I am planning?


Equitable Mathematics Teaching Practices

In January’s issue of NCTM’s Journal for Reasearch in Mathaematics, many authors put out an article called Toward a Framework for Research Linking Equitable Teaching With the Standards for Mathematical Practice. Here are the practices:
  1. Draw on students’ funds of knowledge
  2. Establish classroom norms for participation
  3. Position students as capable
  4. Monitor how students position each other
  5. Attend explicitly to race and culture
  6. Recognize multiple forms of discourse and language as a resource
  7. Press for academic success
  8. Attend to students mathematical thinking
  9. Support development of a sociopolitical disposition
We spent some time trying to understand what these practices meant and give some examples of how to do them. I have chosen the 5th practice to be my #1tmcthing. I will be thinking more about what this will look like for me and my students in our classrooms before the beginning of the year.

I got a chance to start thinking about this more when we responded to the following prompt “…our pedagogical responsibility as math teachers, not just to our students but to society at large…”,  and then silently sent our paper around the circle for people to read and respond.

Other Take-Aways

Here are some things that I want to remember from the rich discussions that we had in this session:
  • Listen to learn, not to respond (I'm sorry, I don't remember who offered up this norm)
  • Questioning and problematizing can lead to lack of action, so we need to be okay with making mistakes and slowly trying to get better and more automatic in making decisions from an equity lens. (--Grace)
  • When someone says something problematic—“I want you to think about what other people are hearing when you say this” (--Glenn)
  • Racism as a codified set of double standards (source: Racecraft)
  • Specifically in the context of “accents,” the burden of understanding is put on the speaker instead of the listener. How can we make sure that the listener shares some of this responsibility as well? (--Grace)
  • Depending on our own personal identify, there are some equity issues that are more personal or hit closer to home for us than others. These are the ones that we may be playing “defense” on. But there may be some issues that we can play “offense” on and we can share and distribute that responsibility within a community (--Grace)
  • Go beyond “we want diversity because it’s important/we value it” to examine why diversity is important to us (is it optics, missing perspectives, not wanting to contribute to a problem, building a microcosm, etc.) (--Marian)
  • When inviting new people into a community, we want to and must embrace the things they can’t offer us, as well as the things they can (--Grace)


  1. Thank you so much for sharing about your morning session. I had no idea what it would be about and now I find that I got a chance to really understand the work you did. I love the two columns of Student roles and I love the question Who do we value and how do we value them. Excellent.

  2. I'm glad to be able to share some of what we talked about with people who weren't in the room. There were so many good choices for sessions that it was impossible to be everywhere at once!

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  4. Thanks for sharing this. It helps me to understand the lunch discussion at TMC NYC a little better. I hope to use the roles in class this year as well.