Education Intelligent Design Mathematics

My “War on Math’ article at Salvo

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It may not be free for long:

A dear friend is a math teacher who has a hard time understanding the new intersectional war on math, based on critical theory. Trying to explain it is frustrating. Like most opponents, she attempts logical refutations. But logic is the prime target in the war. A bit of recent history might help…

It has become clear that a much more ambitious project is now in hand: to replace math with social justice math, including, perhaps, a name change. Educator Rochelle Gutierrez, whose specialty is “equity issues in mathematics education,” was to give a keynote presentation, “Mathematx: Towards a Way of Being,” at a Mathematics Education and Society Conference in India in early 2019. “Drawing upon Indigenous worldviews to reconceptualize what mathematics is and how it is practiced,” she stated in the abstract of her talk, “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.”

Denyse O’Leary, “Why Can’t Winston Count?” at Salvo

13 Replies to “My “War on Math’ article at Salvo

  1. 1
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Insightful and challenging – thank you.

    Rochelle Gutierrez, who teaches “Sociopolitical Perspectives on Mathematics and Science Education” at the University of Illinois, responded to a tweet from a former educator claiming that the U.S. “colonizes” math.

    They make it seem like they don’t talk to anyone else outside of their own fantasy world.
    They create various theories about these things, but never actually communicate with any real mathematicians or data experts. Then they come up with all of this hostility and oppression – and crazy talk that nobody comprehends and also nobody bothers to even try to engage with or offer rebuttal. So, they claim the field unchallenged.
    You mention it’s “Year Zero”. It means, we’re just beginning with this stuff (after years of germination).

  2. 2
    Bob O'H says:

    They make it seem like they don’t talk to anyone else outside of their own fantasy world.

    Ha! The paper is here, and the responses to it are even worse.

  3. 3
    Seversky says:

    My “War On Math’ Article At Salvo

    My understanding is that this ‘war’ is being fought against implicit racial and cultural biases in the way math is taught in schools and universities. Whether or not that is an issue, there is nothing to prevent Gutierrez and others raising it. What will limit any traction the movement might gain is, like post-modernism, the jargon in which it is written. How many people outside their own little academic circle will be able to make any sense of it at all?

  4. 4
    Viola Lee says:

    I agree, Sev. I also think the same is true of those, like James Lindsay for instance, that are railing against the “war on math”. I think in the long-run, and maybe the short run, there is not much that will have much of an impact on the world.

  5. 5
    groovamos says:

    Just look at how the leftists on here deal with the issue. What the hell are “implicit racial and cultural biases in the way math is taught in schools and universities”? Where are such biases actually defined, revealed, proven to exist, and proven to be malignant if they do exist? How about this: The culture of rigorous study and lucid scholarship and teaching does exist. And it is biased. It is biased in favor of rigorous study and lucid scholarship and teaching. How does being biased for something productive qualify for a malignancy? Have the leftists commenting here actually read the complaints of struggling students and their explananations of their problem with learning math? I have. For years. It is instructive to encounter a recurring explanation. Which is they don’t like the color of the skin of their instructor because it intimidates them, and so they avoid seeking help in the classroom or in the office of the instructor. Unless the student is white or Asian. That’s it. If only the instructor looked more like them, they would excel. Kind of like at Emory University where black students demanded mental health services to be delivered by black counselors, white skin being the big disqualifier in all areas of life. Funny how that works, you know, whites are the cause of all the world’s problems and so are disqualified from helping to right what is wrong with the world no matter how much the dedication to help.

  6. 6
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Thanks to Bob O’H for posting the link to the papers.

    Rochelle Gutierrez of University of Illinois offered about 40 pages of post-modern analysis, some large part of which I tried to understand.

    Aside from her belief that mathematics is patriarchial and colonizing, she is concerned that “Western Mathematics” is interested in Precision. That’s a bad thing for her.

    In contrast, one of the eight mathematical practices in the US Common Core State Standards is Attending to Precision (Governors Association, 2009). They state:

    “Mathematically proficient students try to communicate precisely to others. They use clear definitions…in their reasoning…They state the meaning of the symbols they choose…are careful about specifying units of measure, and labeling axes to clarify the correspondence with the quantities in a problem. They calculate accurately and efficiently, express numerical answers with a degree of precision.”

    However, for many Indigenous nations, being “precise” in this way is not necessarily a sought-after goal. Being required to attend to precision could come at the cost of ignoring complexity.

    She believes that “binary” ways of doing Math are damaging to students. She argues against the Law of Non Contradiction (in other words, basic logic).

    The “law of non-contradiction” states that every proposition cannot be both true and false at the same time11. This law leads to the “law of the excluded middle”suggesting that every proposition has to be either true or false; there is no middle ground. For example, a number is either rational or irrational, even or odd, but not both. This kind of singular logic supports the idea that individuals are either man or woman, either rational or irrational, which easily leads to either deserving of respect or not, thereby reflecting the idea that hierarchies are normal. Yet, Indigenous knowings are non-hierarchical; they have acknowledged and often honored 2-spirit individuals who simultaneously walk in two worlds, many of whom maintain a special connection with the spiritual realm(Simpson, 2017).This acknowledgement of people who are 2-spirit is similar to the use of Latinx, where “x” is a variable that reflectsindividuals as having identities that reflect gender fluidity, rather than following patriarchallines. With its emphasis on 2-value Boolean logic, Eurocentric school mathematics dispossesses Indigenous people of the complexity of their knowings and dispossesses in particular 2-spirit and queer bodies, which I refer to as 2SQ12, of their full identities.

    You guys wondered how LGBT activism fit all of this and here we have it. Math “dispossesses” people of their “knowings” of “queer bodies”. Thus, it is a danger to their “full identities”.
    But forget that, she’s saying that true or false, rational or irrational – those categories are a problem.
    But a proper logical argument does resolve to true or false – certainly, mathematical formulas resolve that way. It’s either right or wrong in the end.
    She doesn’t like that and claims

    Fuzzy sets and fuzzy logic are exceptions to the notion of the excluded middle.

    She doesn’t understand the excluded middle or fuzzy logic. There are no exceptions to the excluded middle because it’s a function of a certain kind of syllogism. A proposal that uses proportions and probabilities is not that kind of syllogism, and even the excluded middle is necessary in that logic.
    She cannot communicate rationally if she violates the rules of logic.
    Yes, there are things in the world that do not conform to logic, but that’s a different question than what math attempts to show.

  7. 7
    Silver Asiatic says:

    groovamos

    Which is they don’t like the color of the skin of their instructor because it intimidates them, and so they avoid seeking help in the classroom or in the office of the instructor.

    I have encountered the same thing in teaching. For me, the answer for those students is to learn how to address the adults who are teaching them, no matter what color, race or style they may have. The students have to practice this and be held accountable. They need to learn how to live in a civilized society as Americans – with all the respect that is due to them, but not with additional privileges that will only inhibit their growth.
    I will admit and agree at the same time, white teachers in a black school have to be very aware, sensitive and probably have additional training to deal successfully in that environment.

  8. 8
    groovamos says:

    white teachers in a black school have to be very aware, sensitive and probably have additional training to deal successfully in that environment

    What’s interesting is they have to have the right kinds of sensitivities not the “wrong” ones. For example in secondary public schools, a white teacher better not be senstive to being called racist several times a week, sometimes by other teachers in addition to the students. I live in Houston and this is sorta like ground zero for this environment. A female white teacher can’t be too sensitive to getting called FWB on a regular basis. She had better not be too sensitive to students bringing fast food into class and rattling the wrappers and paper bags during her class, and if she asks them to not do it, and is ignored, she better not be too sensitive about that undermining of classroom authority. She better not be too sensitive to threats when she tries to exercise authority. The teacher better not be too sensitive to students failing to turn in an assignment and too prone to giving a zero for it; then if they are too sensitive to being tongue-lashed by parents and the principal for not giving points for nothing, well they need to be less sensitive. I met a young Marxist teacher about 25 years ago teaching at Barbara Jordan High School For Careers. Pretty positive, presumptive naming there. When I asked this young guy what it was like teaching there, he responded insensitively: “those kids don’t want to learn, all they want to do is party” He probably learned how to be sensitive to that need to party.

  9. 9
    Silver Asiatic says:

    groovamos

    I’m sorry you have encountered those kinds of experiences. Yes, you have a point.

  10. 10
    News says:

    For the children’s sake, we need to start talking about this stuff. It can’t be good for kids to spend a whole lot of time in school and end up being illiterate and innumerate. Never mind that we are paying teachers to put up with garbage talk from students, such as described.

    When yer news writer was young, one of the things we learned was NEVER to talk that way.

    People can think whatever they please but, in civilized society, there is a limit to what one can just feel free to say.

    Admission: There have been people in my life where – if I were writing a memo and could be completely frank – I would refer to as Jack Ass. Needless to say, that did not appear in the memo. I had learned the art of expressing the matter in such a way that the recipient might form that impression about the person without being in any position to accuse me of actually saying it.

    Such skills paid off handily and I am sorry if they are no longer taught.

  11. 11
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Smoking gun, Marxist critical theory clip:

    >>In this paper, I begin by describing particular ways in which mathematics (education)
    often operates as dispossession and, therefore, violence, for people who are Indigenous.
    Instead of centering whitestream/Western/Eurocentric mathematics, I argue for a
    form that respects and supports Indigenous worldviews among others . This form
    of mathematics seeks , acknowledges, and creates patterns and relationships that solve
    problems and offer joy — something I refer to as mathematx.
    In doing so, I illustrate some connections between mathematx and enactivism in mathematics education.
    Finally, I highlight how mathematx might be fostered in out-of-school or community spaces as
    a form of “presencing ” that reattaches people to lands and waters .
    Throughout the paper, I use whitestream, Western, and Eurocentric interchangeably to
    highlight the fact that a focus on Europe or the West hides connections to power and
    imperialism in the US. Moreover, while the term Western can convey what has been
    sanctioned within the discipline of mathematics, it is not solely Western in that many
    concepts and “advances” were stolen from other peoples and lands throughout history.>>

    The Howard Zinn pattern is patent.

    KF

    PS: HT BO’H for key link.

    PPS: p. 68 of 940, PDF does not show pagination.

  12. 12
    OldArmy94 says:

    This lunacy is to be expected whenever we reject universal reality in favor of localized fantasies.

  13. 13
    kairosfocus says:

    OA94, I find it interesting that just as high bandwidth multimedia would allow for a whole new level of Mathematics education, bang this comes along. KF

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