Research on Teaching and Learning Mathematics for Social Justice
The Greater Lawndale/Little Village School for Social Justice (GLLVSSJ) is a new small high school located in Chicago in the Little Village community. GLLVSSJ is one of four small high schools in the Lawndale/Little Village Campus. This new school building was completed in September 2005, and its existence is largely due to a multi-year struggle for a neighborhood high school to serve the community. When the Chicago Board of Education allegedly ran out of money to build the school, 14 neighborhood residents (mainly women) staged a 19-day hunger strike in 2001 after which the Board came through with the promised funds. GLLVSSJ not only has a strong social justice focus in its mission, pedagogy, and curricula, but it is also a college-preparatory school that takes all children in the attendance boundaries and has no tracking.
We will study a number of questions related to teaching and learning mathematics for social justice.
- Although teachers are using the Interactive Mathematics Program (what we call "classical knowledge"), they will also develop mathematics curriculum based on the generative themes (key social contradictions experienced in people's lives) expressed by students and community members alike ("community knowledge"). (We include in community knowledge students' language and culture as well.) At the same time, the school's (mathematics) curricula will provide students opportunities to read and write the world (develop sociopolitical consciousness and a sense of social agency). We refer to the latter as "critical knowledge." A key question is: how does one connect and synthesize all three knowledge bases-building on community knowledge so that students develop both critical and classical knowledge-while fully honoring and respecting each, to develop liberatory mathematics education in an urban Latino/a school given the current high-stakes accountability regimes and larger political climate?
- There will be two forms of connected professional development for the mathematics teachers, first, in how to develop students' classical knowledge (i.e., professional development in the IMP curriculum provided by Patty Buenrostro), and second, in how to develop students' critical knowledge (provided by Rico Gutstein). Thus a second question is: How do teachers learn to teach mathematics for social justice, and what is the nature of successful professional development toward that goal? As the mathematics teachers have not themselves practiced social justice pedagogy and curriculum, we are interested in understanding the process by which they develop into social justice mathematics teachers, facilitated by the professional development and collaborative inquiry and practice.
- GLLVSSJ accepted 95 incoming ninth graders in 2005 and will accept about that many in subsequent years. Given that it will focus on social justice, we seek to understand how students develop in a variety of ways, including their sociopolitical consciousness, sense of social agency, mathematical competencies, and sense of self (i.e., their identity development).