Author Archives: Aileen Rizo

I am a Mathematician

On October 7, The Global Math Project kicked off its annual week of promoting mathematics with a symposium on the campus of Santa Clara University. This dynamic work consists of a global community of mathematics teachers and supporters who want all learners across the globe to experience joy and wonder in school-relevant mathematics. Sponsors of this effort include – Mo Math National Math Museum, The American Institute of Mathematics, the Julia Robinson Math Festival, and The AIMS Center for Math and Science Education. It was an especially great honor to be among the presenters this year. As I considered what to share with the audience, I was compelled to share both my journey as a mathematics educator and issue a call for more equality, diversity, arts, and a broader perspective in the potential of mathematics.

Equality and Diversity

If you Google the word “mathematician” you will find, like I did, that there is a substantial gender bias. This mirrors the work done with young children when asked what a scientist might look like. Most children said a scientist was a man with crazy white hair, glasses, and a white lab coat (Mehmet Buldu, 2006). A description like this may seem comical at first, but it can be actually quite damaging to young girls. If girls do not see themselves in these potential careers, they will construct an attitude and belief that builds barriers for future endeavors. Women are underrepresented in mathematical fields as well as in STEM fields where math is critical. Mathematics needs to embrace equality so that ½ the human race is not excluded.

In conjunction with equality, I also presented a call for mathematics to embrace diversity.

Growing up, I never learned about Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. These amazing women were responsible for doing calculations that no one else in the space program could do. I often wonder about the missed potential of learning about these women who used mathematics to get men into space and did so under discriminatory policies and procedures. Have we made progress? Have we created ”…positive learning opportunities for all students in the classroom [this] means that we address issues of culture, ethnicity, race, class, gender, and patriarchy, and we do so in authentic ways”?(Borrero et al., 2016,p. 28). Mathematics must embrace the diversity of every race, language, culture, and religion. The reality is that “…by 2020, more than 50% of the U.S. public school population will be classified as students of color…” (Ball, 2009,p. 46). Updating the education system to the 21st century must include promoting diversity. The field of mathematics needs to be inclusive and recognize that each of us has a unique and valuable perspective.

Conclusion

The Global Math Project and The AIMS Center share a desire to change the narrative of math education. I am committed to doing whatever I can, and I hope many of you will join me in this commitment. Mathematics isn’t a competition, it’s a collaboration, and the future of humanity depends on our ability to work together. You are what mathematics needs, the field needs your perspective, your frame of reference, your ideas, your imagination, the joy you bring to the math world. If I asked you “What does a mathematician look like?” would you picture yourself? I hope from now on you will. Together the picture of mathematics is more beautiful, more colorful, and together we can ensure that no one is left out.

Here is the recording of my full talk at the Global Math Symposium.

Reference

Ball, Arnetha F. (2009). Toward a Theory of Generative Change in Culturally and Linguistically Complex Classrooms. American Educational Research Journal, 46(1), 45-72.

Borrero, Noah E., Flores, Esther, & De La Cruz, Gabriel. (2016). Developing and Enacting Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Voices of New Teachers of Color. Equity & Excellence in Education, 49(1), 27-40.

Mehmet Buldu (2006) Young children’s perceptions of scientists: a preliminary study, Educational Research, 48:1, 121-132.

 

Share

The Math in Art

My father is an artist, not by profession but by passion. Growing up, he was always using his artistic ability in some way to serve others whether that was designing backgrounds for the school Christmas play or drawing cartoons for my siblings and me. Art held high esteem in my home and was a way… Continue Reading

Learning from Others – Deena Weisberg

Learning through play is an idea that is gaining much popularity in the field of education. Especially for young children, the use of play can harness a power of engagement that comes naturally to children. The characteristics of play that are productive for learning can prove to be an essential element in ensuring deep and… Continue Reading

Learning from Others – Nora Newcombe (Part 2)

In my last blog I introduced an expert researcher in the field of spatial reasoning, Dr. Nora Newcombe, and discussed the opportunity I had to interview her. Below are summaries of four of Dr. Newcombe’s articles that directly connect to our work and learning at the preschool level. Building Blocks for Developing Spatial Skills This… Continue Reading

Learning from Others – Dr. Nora Newcombe

Spatial reasoning can be described as a skill that helps us move through our physical environment. While this skill seems like one that intuitively develops over time, research indicates that one can improve their spatial skills with practice. Spatial reasoning has also been linked to not only mathematical ability but to success in any of… Continue Reading

In Their Voices (Part 5)

Lisa Marquez is a morning teacher for a 3 to 4 year old class in Reedley, California. She has been a teacher for 10 years; however, this is her first year with Head Start. Lisa began working in education by being involved in a K-5 after school program. When she completed her Bachelor of Arts… Continue Reading

In Their Own Words

As the Early Math team moves forward in our work with preschool teachers, we are in the process of collecting data not only on the children’s mathematics development, but also the teacher’s growth in pedagogy and content. In an effort to document these changes we are in the process of completing midyear teacher interviews. While… Continue Reading

A Community Effort

Newly released test scores in California revealed that only 32 percent of students in Fresno County met or exceeded math standards. This is only a 2 percent increase compared to last year. While this might sound discouraging, it should prompt all of us as stakeholders in education to take notice. It’s easy to step on… Continue Reading

The Metamorphosis of Teachers

Perhaps you have heard it said that the greatest influence in a classroom is not the equipment, or the curriculum, but the teacher. My work in preschool makes me believe this even more. In a single observation session I’ve seen a teacher be the mentor, the comforter, the organizer, the encourager, the innovator, and the… Continue Reading