Featured Article: Beyond Marbles: Percent Change and Social Justice By Flannery Denny
In my last blog post, I talked about using the culture of the community as a way of educating students in a math classroom in order to increase interest and help the students to understand how math concepts can be applied to real world situations. I chose not to speak in the last one about how it connected to social justice and how the author was teaching students how capitalism isn’t always fair because I wanted to save that part of the article for this week’s journal. In this article, the teacher has to teach “percent change” to his students. Normally he uses marbles to do this, but after years of doing the same exercise, he decided to change it up and teach it using percentages of different races in the senate and House of Representatives over a period of several decades.
The reasoning for doing this was simple: he wanted to teach percent change while also showing his students how lacking Congress is in diversity. He was able to open up a dialogue in his classroom about the ever-present institutional racism that is still in place even in the 21st century. He knew he needed to teach his students about mathematical principles, but chose to do so in a way that educated his students on how powerful statistics can be.
Using the parameters he was given and stretching them into teaching about social justice in a math classroom is what our education system should be about. It should be utilizing principles that need to be taught all across America, but doing so in a way that applies to our society at large. Education is and should be about creating better citizens and people, and in order to do that our students must learn what problems our society still faces. Rather than covering up the problems that America still has and making the U.S. seem like a shining star, we should be showing our students the good and the bad and the works in progress in order to continue working these problems out of our system.
One of the best reasons for doing this is to get fresh minds to look at our problems. Professors always say that they love when a pair of fresh eyes sees a problem and tries to fix it because there is such a difference in experience between someone who has been looking at the problem for years, even decades, and someone who is just now being introduced to it.
In the interest of the United States’ continued growth and prosperity, students need to be educated on the worst parts of America, not because we want them all to leave and give up on this country, but because hiding problems is never the answer. We should be allowing these students the opportunity to grow up and help fix these problems. Teachers should be given free rein to educate their students in social justice issues through the pre-determined curriculum.