17 January 2005

Multiculturalism

I was reading an article recently about a school (I can't remember where) where math scores had dropped significantly in the last five years because of an emphasis on multiculturalism. I couldn't believe that anyone could think that a goal of math should be multiculturalism. However, I was very wrong. I simply searched for "math" and "multiculturalism" and discovered that this idea seems to be mainstream.

I was going to link to the sites, but I don't even think they're worth linking to. I cannot see how this is a valuable method of teaching math. Personally, I support multiculturalism in history, geography, and to some extent in English. We need more students learning foreign languages. We need to learn more non-Western history. We could benefit from reading more literature from a wider variety of countries.

However, math is not the place for multiculturalism. There are plenty of other places in public schools where it can be taught. I thought this excerpt from a paper written by an education student was telling:
First, I could display posters and biographical information about various
individuals from a variety of backgrounds who were influential in math. I could even have students prepare reports and share them to the entire class. Second, I could explain how and where the math topics and ideas we were talking about came from. I think this is the best idea because it could make the students much more interested in the topic. Third, we could compare the math systems of different cultures. We could also compare how people used to do math before the concept we are learning was discovered. Finally, we could use math to study current issues. An example would be discussing statistics of poverty in the world today. Other examples were also given but I think these were the best and most useful. (http://www.calvin.edu/~ddekke14/SA3.htm)
How in the world does this teach children how to add and subtract, how to figure area and circumference, how to do anything in algebra at all? I agree that these things are interesting and that children could learn about them, but not in math class. This is "social studies" material.

I suppose that I could handle a few minutes from a math class used to discuss some of these other applications, but the school I mentioned at the beginning had multiculturalism as the primary goal of its math education. And people wonder why I homeschool.

1 comment:

Cess said...

I also support multiculturalism but have no clue what it has to do with math. I can see how it affects History classes, but why math?