Engaging Teachers in the Powerful Combination of Mathematical Modeling and Social Justice: The Flint Water Task

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Julia M. Aguirre University of Washington Tacoma

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Cynthia O. Anhalt University of Arizona

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Ricardo Cortez Tulane University

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Erin E. Turner University of Arizona

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Ksenija Simic-Muller Pacific Lutheran University

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Two major challenges in mathematics teacher education are developing teacher understanding of (a) culturally responsive, social justice–oriented mathematics pedagogies and (b) mathematical modeling as a content and practice standard of mathematics. Although these challenges may seem disparate, the innovation described in this article is designed to address both challenges in synergistic ways. The innovation focuses on a mathematical modeling task related to the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Through qualitative analysis of instructor field notes, teachergenerated mathematical models, and teacher survey responses, we found that teachers who participated in the Flint Water Task (FWT) engaged in mathematical modeling and critical discussions about social and environmental justice. The evidence suggests that integrating these 2 foci–by using mathematical modeling to investigate and analyze important social justice issues–can be a high-leverage practice for mathematics teacher educators committed to equity-based mathematics education. Implications for integrating social justice and mathematical modeling in preservice and in-service mathematics teacher education are discussed.

Contributor Notes

Julia M. Aguirre, School of Education, University of Washington–Tacoma, 1900 Commerce Street, Box 358435, Tacoma, WA 98402; jaguirre@uw.edu

Cynthia Oropesa Anhalt, Department of Mathematics, University of Arizona, 617 N. Santa Rita Ave., Tucson, AZ 85721; canhalt@math.arizona.edu

Ricardo Cortez, Mathematics Department, Tulane University, 6823 St. Charles Ave., New Orleans, LA 70118; rcortez@tulane.edu

Erin Turner, University of Arizona, College of Education, 1430 E. Second St., Room 719; eturner@email.arizona.edu

Ksenija Simic-Muller, Pacific Lutheran University, Mathematics Department, 1010 122nd St. S., Tacoma, WA 98447; simicmka@plu.edu

(Corresponding author is Aguirre jaguirre@uw.edu)
(Corresponding author is Anhalt canhalt@math.arizona.edu)
(Corresponding author is Cortez rcortez@tulane.edu)
(Corresponding author is Turner eturner@email.arizona.edu)
(Corresponding author is Simic-Muller simicmka@plu.edu)
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