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Professor proposes ‘mathematx’ to fix pro-human bias in math

Student of color ’embarrassed’ by her: She’s ‘confused about math’

Only a professor whose self-appointed mission is ensuring “equity” could come up with this.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Rochelle Gutiérrez will give a keynote presentation titled “Mathematx: Towards a way of Being” at the Mathematics Education and Society Conference in India next year.

We’ll let you just read the description:

The relationship between humans, mathematics, and the planet has been one steeped too long in domination and destruction. What are appropriate responses to reverse such a relationship? How do we do work now (inside and outside of schools) that will reverberate and touch the lives of future generations? Drawing upon Indigenous worldviews to reconceptualize what mathematics is and how it is practiced, I argue for a movement against objects, truths, and knowledge towards a way of being in the world that is guided by first principles–mathematx. This shift from thinking of mathematics as a noun to mathematx as a verb holds potential for honouring our connections with each other as human and other-than-human persons, for balancing problem solving with joy, and for maintaining critical bifocality at the local and global level.

That’s right – this professor whose specialty is “equity issues in mathematics education,” and insists that students need “political knowledge” in math, is not a fan of the “objects, truths, and knowledge” in math. And apparently the field is biased against “other-than-human persons.”

Like Gutiérrez, my wife also teaches curriculum and instruction, albeit literacy rather than math. Like Gutiérrez, she pays “particular attention to how race, class, and language affect teaching and learning.” She even knows some math educators, and recognized Gutiérrez’s name.

I showed her this scheduled presentation by Gutiérrez, and she replied rather charitably that Gutiérrez is on “the far reaches of theory” and incorporates an “indigenous perspective” that is foreign to western conceptions of math: “It’s a little confusing” and “not super useful” to the students whom these math educators will eventually teach.

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The Daily Caller News Foundation reports that Gutiérrez (left) has received National Science Foundation and Bureau of Educational Research grants to “incorporate diversity into math education” (not bad in and of itself) and encourages teachers to use “creative insubordination” (?).

She has helped teachers “develop their political knowledge,” and encourages them to help their students develop “empathy” for those who answer questions incorrectly because of “different mathematical assumptions.” Math should be a “moral issue” rather than “rational” one, she says.

Gutiérrez has a low rating on RateMyProfessors.com largely because her students either love or hate her instruction. Among the critical reviews, which make clear Gutiérrez has been preaching her math-is-a-verb concept for a while:

She focuses about spreading her ideologies more so than teaching the subjects. Her ideas are not sane; she talks about privilege all the time. These classes are filled too much with her personal ideologies.  …

Listened to her at the [National Council of Teachers of Mathematics] Regional. I will disclose that I am of color. Mathematics is a Noun not a Verb. Gutierrez proclaims herself as a scholar who argues mathematics operate as whiteness and I was quite embarrassed that I shared the same intellectual space with someone who is confused about math. Students benefit from truth not fiction. …

Dr. G professes social justice as a constant practice, and stemming from the understanding of other’s circumstances. She repeatedly holds us after class ends, making rude comments to the students who leave, including insulting a student who had to leave class to go to her job.

Positive reviews praise Gutiérrez for revealing that “education and teaching were part of system designed to stop children from questioning” and for “not allowing for bigotry” in class.

Read her keynote presentation summary and RateMyProfessors page, and DCNF report.

MORE: New tool checks syllabi for gender, racial equity

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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