Featured Article: Whose Community Is This? Mathematics of Neighborhood Displacement By Eric Gutstein
In this article, the author becomes “Rico” and he begins a lesson by showing the effects of interest rates on a mortgage over the years. There are a few points to this exercise, one of which is to simply educate the students about how “real world” math works, to show that there is a need for a background in the basics of math. Another point, though, is to show how the capitalist economy we have in the United States can sometimes take advantage of unsuspecting people, especially if they were not educated like this in a school setting. The last point of this article is to show how this kind of thing affected their very own community, with statistics on the foreclosure rates in their town.
Now I have two points to make about this article. One is that I never learned this kind of thing in my own school setting, except in the context of some abstract theory that we never applied to real life situations, and the same goes for a lot of other math classes all over the country. This simple fix to the way we teach math is yet another example of how the overall education system is lacking. The second point I would like to make is that even though this teacher was able to bring this into a classroom where approximately 97% were under the poverty line, most schools in low-SES areas are not so lucky. I think this teacher was truly able to provide applicable math for these kids to understand how capitalism works and how it affects some people more harshly than others, which is a great service for kids who hardly catch a break.
Back to my first point: when we have standards such as common core, which outline every detail that a child must learn to be “successful,” why can’t those outlines include practical math application? Why can’t our Biology classes have an applicable first aid section where students learn CPR and other basic skills? Educating children should be inclusive towards practical application. That doesn’t mean the other aspects should be removed altogether, but simply modified to give teachers the freedom to teach information that would be applicable for that specific community.
This brings me back to my second point about how the teacher was able to teach these concepts but do so in a way that applied it to “real world” situations while also providing the students with an accurate depiction of how banks work. It introduces the concept of banks “taking” our money, while also opening up a discussion about banks needing to make a profit, but then asking the question of how much profit is too much? It gives students something to be interested in while learning math, and also helps them learn about what to be wary of when they become adults in the very near future. One of the girls in the classroom asked why it was legal, or why people let this happen to them, which are good questions about our society in general. Lessons like this in the school system are so important for making students better citizens when they graduate, and to also hopefully teach them to not make the mistakes of those in previous generations.
I don’t think that classrooms need to go under extreme change, but just giving teachers a little bit more freedom to tailor their lesson plans to fit the culture of their community would be beneficial for the students learning as well interest in the subject matter.