In a Masters course I took recently, one of the required books focused on the issue of social justice and how it could be incorporated into different subject areas. At the time, I found the chapter on math by Elizabeth de Freitas to be of particular interest, not realizing that I would ever be considering math as a teachable. But, something stuck out to me about the fact that numbers reveal information about society - through statistics and prognostications - which tell us how effective we are in different areas. Whether the issue is environmental or social, the numbers are a concrete way to show differences and progressions, both presently and longitudinally, which can sometimes paint a bleak picture of reality.
However this way of engaging students can work as a way to light a fire under our youth. As de Freitas (2008) writes, "[p]edagogy that dwells on the social injustices of a given context can trigger student 'moral outrage'" (in Wallowitz, 2008, p. 47). Rather than seeing math as merely learning a concept, practicing, and then demonstrating it, I now see it as a vehicle for change - a way of bringing to light important social issues.
The renowned social theorist Paolo Friere believed that bringing students' lives into the classroom was a way of reflecting on our world. As this link shows, it can be a way for students to understand some harsh realities.
A goal I now have for any course I teach is to integrate social justice education in some way. The following link provides an example of how teachers in New Zealand were achieving this goal.
In my opinion the above examples are great ways of integrating this concept within the math class, though this video shows how the idea can be misunderstood and oversimplified:
I would like to hear if you have incorporated social justice within your own classroom, and if so, how?
Thanks for reading,
Wallowitz, L. (ed.) (2008). Critical Literacy as Resistance: Teaching for social justice across the secondary curriculum. New York: Peter Lang.