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January 22, 2005

Multi-Cultural Math - Teaching the Teachers

Perhaps there are still some skeptics on the topic of Anti-Racist Math, so for them I offer a glimpse into the holiest of holies, the sanctum of teacher preparation, the College of Education at the University of Florida and their course guide for, are you ready, Multicultural Mathematics Supplement & Study Guide. It looks to me like this is an advanced graduate class (EDE 6932) but there is no definite designator. So let's take a look at the cutting edge material that is taught in this class.

II. MAPS OF THE WORLD (6 @ 20 points each: 120 points)

You will be assigned to a map of some portion of the world. You should be prepared each Tuesday to present an exploration to the whole class or a small group based on the mathematics contribution of a person or people from some city, state, country, province, etc. in the region designated by your map.

III. JOURNAL ARTICLE READINGS (7 @ 10 points each: 70 points)

You are responsible for (1) searching for, (2) reading, (3) writing a review of, (4) writing a reflection of and (5) being prepared to present a journal article to the whole class or a small group. If you are not called upon on Tuesday to present, you may be called upon on Thursday. However, I emphasize my expectation that all students are prepared to present on Tuesday.

These articles must relate specifically and explicitly to teaching and learning mathematics from a multicultural perspective and the implications thereof. Your review should be limited to one single-space page,


The class will be divided into assigned groups. Each group will be responsible for the full and complete development and facilitation of a multicultural mathematics display for the public.


You are to develop a multicultural mathematics handbook for the beginning teacher. This handbook has five components. You should take great care to consider the design/style as well as the content for this handbook for the beginning teacher.

1. Defining Your Cultural Self

Each person is cultural and a reflection of your “cultural self” will assist you in your interactions with other persons, particularly the children you (will, may) teach. In this component of the handbook, you are to describe how a person can define his/her cultural self. You are to incorporate at least three references to support your suggestions.

2. Multicultural Mathematics Teaching Resources

3. Tips for Teaching Multicultural Mathematics

4. Multicultural Mathematics from A to Z

For this component of the handbook, you are to include 26 explorations (one exploration for each alphabet: alphabetized by the first letter of the exploration title.

5. Component of Your Choice


Each student is expected to exhibit courteous, mature, and professional behavior. Violation of the following and other inappropriate and irresponsible behaviors will lead to a deduction in your final grade.

Cultural Context

The julekurv is a Norwegian Christmas basket. The Norwegians fill these baskets with treats and put the filled baskets on their Christmas trees for family and friends. You may want to make a basket for any holiday, such Valentine’s Day, or for no special day at all. In any case, you will beautiful, hand-made object.

Cultural Context

Dating from the 12th century, Kente cloth represents the history, ethics, moral values, oral traditions, religious beliefs, and philosophies of African culture. Kings, queens, and other important figures in Ghana, Africa, wear Kente cloth. The cloth is often worn during special occasions and ceremonial events. The word “kente” is derived from the word “kenten” which means “a basket.” The cloth does appear to have the woven design of a basket. In fact, Kente cloth is woven by hand on a loom using strips that are approximately four inches wide and sewn into larger pieces of cloth. The more precious the cloth (e.g., silk), the more wealth, power, and status the wearer of the cloth is thought to have.

During the celebration of Kwanzaa, an African American celebration developed in 1965 by, participants are encouraged to make gifts and other items to be used during the celebration. A Kente cloth placemat is one such item.

Cultural Context

All around the world, people use multiplication procedures to solve problems at work and play. Multiplication as a concept is a progression of addition and therefore serves to make long and tedious addition processes assessable in a more efficient manner. Over the centuries, various cultures have developed and fine-tuned their own multiplication procedures. In this exploration, you will explore the procedures dominant in our common culture and the procedures used in other cultures.

Multicultural Food Day Guidelines

* May 31 is “Multicultural Food Day”. This planned event will give us an opportunity to get to know each other better and provide exposure for each of us to different cultures.
* Your preparation and sharing of an ethnic dish is your exploration for that day.
* As a matter of fact, to keep things simple, you can omit the written review of your article for that day, but be prepared to share your article with the class. Just submit a clean copy of the article with a complete reference and your name written in the top margin of the article.
* For your ethnic dish, please prepare a card that you will place in front of your dish. On the card, provide the following information:
* Name of dish
* Name of cook or preparer
* Complete list of ingredients as some class members might be allergic to particular things or may not eat some foods (e.g., pork, peanuts)
* 2-3 sentences that explain the ethnic perspective of the dish
* I will provide paper plates, napkins, eating utensils, cups, salt, pepper, and ice.
* If no one prepares an ethnic drink (non-alcoholic of course J), we will drink H2O.
* Class will begin 30 minutes later to allow time for set up.
* You do not have to prepare an ethnic food from your region of the world.
* You do not have to prepare for full-size servings; just prepare enough so that each person can get an ample taste of your dish.
* Please make the best financial decision for purchasing items for your dish. This experience is not meant to put financial hardship on anyone.
* Most importantly, if you taste something that you do not like, please refrain from saying “Yuk” J
* This is your exploration for the day. Submit the recipe card (don’t forget to include your name) so I can record your dish as your exploration.

Game Day Guidelines

Game Day is June 20. Bring in a game for the class to experience (and enjoy).

Class will begin 30 minutes later to allow time for set up.

* No commercial games are allowed unless they are truly ethnic in nature. For example, a commercial game of Sorry is not allowed since it does not propose any ethnic characteristics. A commercial game of Mancala would be allowed since it represents a particular culture’s way of recreation. However, we have seen or heard about this game on several occasions, so it is not allowed J I won’t make these kind of suggestions about other games; I will leave it up to you to be responsible regarding this restriction.
* We will also have read Chapter 11 for June 30. The chapter is about multicultural mathematics games. You are not allowed to present any game found in Chapter 11.
* So that we do not have duplications of games, let me know (no later than Monday, June 18) what game you want to present. I will only respond if you’re planning for a game that someone has already planned to present.
* Make sure you have all of the necessary materials for playing the game.
* Write a “About this Game” description (including any pertinent references) on a 4x6 index card – this card is to be displayed with the game.
* Write a “How to Play this Game” description on the other side of the “About this Game” index card. (If you have a commercial game, you may omit duplicating instructions IF the original instructions are clear and straightforward.)
* If you share a game that requires construction (by the teacher or students), be sure to provide all of the necessary directions for making any pertinent items (e.g., game board, etc.).
* You do not have to share a game that is from or related your region of the world.
* You may share a game that was the topic of an article exploration as long as you did not review the article for the class already.
* When playing games on game day, please do not remain with a game longer than 15-20 minutes. Stop playing even if you and your partner(s) are not finished the game so that you will have an opportunity to experience as many games a possible.
* This is your exploration for the day. Submit the index card (don’t forget to include your name) so I can record your game as your exploration.

Well, I can see that the grueling pace of Food Day, Games Day, making maps and understanding a diversity of cultures can dramatically add to the competence of Math Education (not Mathematics) majors if their competence is measured by validating the feelings of their students, but how in all that's holy this gets the concepts of fractions and algebra across to students is beyond me. The time that is wasted in studying 1 + 1 = feelings is lost to the study of more concepts and time on practicing and mastering math. These are the teachers in training that will be charged with preparing our students to enter a complex, math intensive and technologically complex world. If ever we needed a slogan, like John Kerry's "Help Is On The Way" it is now.

Addendum: Joanne Jacobs has taken this story and confirmed that this course is indeed a graduate level course. She ran to ground the actual degree requirements for a Master's in Math Education. Take a look. Graduate level? I was hoping beyond hope that this was one of those basket-weaving electives for freshman interested in an introduction to teaching - afterall the content of picnics and map making sure looked like a survey (if not a high school) class.

See this related post.

Posted by TangoMan at 09:00 PM