Carnegie Math Pathways at WestEd has received a grant from Strong Start to Finish (SSTF) to develop an instructional guide to be shared publicly to help educators effectively facilitate social-justice themed math lessons.

The grant will fund an expert consultant to help design the guide, which will include strategies and frameworks to support educators with equitably engaging students to explore mathematics concepts contextualized in social justice themes and topics. The grant will also support a workshop—open to all educators—later this summer to explore the ideas and recommendations in this guide.

“We’re grateful to have SSTF’s support to help us advance more equitable instruction,” Karon Klipple, Executive Director of Carnegie Math Pathways, said.

“Math is a powerful means of helping students understand the world around them, including issues of social justice, and these resources will help teachers make mathematics more empowering and relevant for their students.”

The grant builds on work that began in 2017 with the formation of Carnegie Math Pathways’ Social Justice Curriculum Committee. Comprised of educators within the Pathways’ national network of math practitioners, researchers, and administrators, the group developed a set of quantitative and statistical reasoning lessons situated in social justice contexts, such as gerrymandering and race and incarceration.

Since that time, lessons have been continuously improved and made available to educators in the Pathways network. With support from Strong Start to Finish, Carnegie Math Pathways will not only be able to support the implementation of Pathways-specific social justice lessons, but social justice-themed lessons more broadly.

The value of such lessons and guidance on how to facilitate them is clear—students learn how they can use math concepts to understand contemporary issues relevant to their lives, interests, and identities. And instructors receive the support they need to create welcoming learning environments that promote productive discourse around such complex topics. By understanding and applying equitable and culturally sustaining instructional practices, we can help more students feel empowered to participate in these types of lessons and feel like their perspectives and experiences are valued.

For students of color, adult learners, and other marginalized students who may not see themselves or their communities represented in math curriculum or how math applies to problems they face, this is an important way to elevate visibility and help students feel that what they are learning in class can make a difference in their lives. And we know that when students feel supported and can engage in learning that they see as relevant, they are more likely to participate, persist, and succeed in their math course.