Putting Culturally Responsive Teaching Front and Center

August 11, 2020

Putting Culturally Responsive Teaching Front and Center


Contact: Christine Noddin, 703.620.9840, cnoddin@nctm.org


RESTON —August 15, 2020— The September issue of Mathematics Teacher: Learning and Teaching PK–12 (MTLT), the new practitioner journal from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), features useful articles for every grade level, with topics that can be put into practice immediately in your classroom.


The Front-and-Center article this month is “The Condo Problem: Is This Culturally Responsive Teaching?” written by Keith Nabb, Jaclyn Murawska, Jessie Doty, Annie Fredlund, Stewart Hofer, Casie McAllister, Sami Miller, Zoe Nassif, Savannah Pearson, Abby Pike-Nobile, and Emma Welch. The authors provide guidelines to help teachers rewrite culturally uncomfortable situations and problems, while empowering them with equitable, fair, and inclusive tools. 


Nabb says, “Equitable teaching means having honest conversations about the assumptions that are built into existing mathematics curricula. This article argues that competency in teaching extends beyond knowing the content in your domain of expertise. More than ever, it is important to connect with students and their social identities and help them see themselves as part of the mathematics we teach.”


“This article is about the importance of creating a culturally aware and responsive atmosphere in math,” Doty states. “The article will help educators understand how something as simple as a math problem can lead to important cultural discussions and will sometimes need to be reworked to remain culturally responsive.” 


Mary Alice Carlson, an assistant professor at Montana State University; Elizabeth G. Arnold, an assistant professor at James Madison University; and Barbara Bolte, a former middle school teacher and current high school teacher in Bozeman, Montana, wrote “Stepping into Statistical Thinking” to share how they used the Footprint problem to engage middle school students to seek a solution through a statistical lens.


“I’m excited to share “Stepping into Statistical Thinking” with others so we can continue the discussion about the commonalities and differences between statistical and mathematical reasoning and how they impact our instruction,” says Arnold. “I hope readers take away instructional strategies they can implement in their classrooms to support their students’ statistical thinking.”


Carlson notes that the article “draws on my co-authors’ and my experiences as we worked to develop statistical thinking habits in a group of algebra 1 students. I hope readers come away with a new understanding of statistical thinking, as well as ideas for eliciting and working with students’ statistical ideas in their own classrooms.”


 In “A Menu of Risk-Taking Scaffolds,” Jennifer L. Ruef, an assistant professor at the university of Oregon, and Ana M. Torres, a classroom teacher in Oakland, California, show how they created an extended lesson that helped students overcome the fear of being wrong and embrace the challenge and wonder of proposing, refining, and coming to a consensus on mathematical arguments.


Ruef and Torres comment, “We are excited to share what [students] learned from our research-practitioner partnership. Our article highlights how Ana’s students expanded their understanding of what it means to be good at math—to be brave, to take risks, to share ideas.” 

Ruef describes her relationship with Torres: “I knew Ana and her students were doing important work, and she enjoyed learning from them. Ana appreciated having a thought partner to talk about the exciting things she and her students were learning.” 


“Discovering Radical Simplification through Geometry Connections,” by Christopher R. Rakes, a professor at the University of Maryland; Rebecca J. Kirvan, a classroom teacher in Severn, Maryland; and Ashley Witkowski, a classroom teacher in Millersville, Maryland, shares how the authors help students explore equivalent radical expressions using the relationship between 

the area and side lengths of a square.


“Although simplifying radical expressions is often presented as a procedural endeavor, a conceptual approach provides several benefits such as helping students develop better adaptability to new tasks, requiring less to memorize, and improving intrinsic motivation,” says Rakes. “The area and side length of squares offer an entry point into understanding the structure of radical expressions and making connections to equivalence and simplification.” 


In “Vasily Kandinsky’s Versatile Art,” by Robin A. Ward, director of curriculum integration at Rice University, and Jennifer Albritton, a classroom teacher in Fort Worth, Texas, the authors use the painter’s Composition VIII to create a multifaceted lesson focusing on data creation, while also integrating geometric concepts, reading, and writing.


Albritton and Ward share that “integrating math and art has energized and amplified our students’ learning. Students can’t wait to learn about the ‘artist of the month’ and then create art. Connecting the visual arts to our lessons entices our students to tap into their imagination, and they take more ownership in their work, as they know their math-terpieces will be used to explore mathematics.”

NCTM encourages those interested in contributing to the publication to review the writing guidelines.




The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics is the public voice of mathematics education, supporting teachers to ensure equitable mathematics learning of the highest quality for each and every student through vision, leadership, professional development and research. With 40,000 members and more than 200 Affiliates, it is the world’s largest organization dedicated to improving mathematics education in prekindergarten through grade 12. NCTM is dedicated to ongoing dialogue and constructive discussion with all stakeholders about what is best for students and envisions a world where everyone is enthused about mathematics, sees the value and beauty of mathematics, and is empowered by the opportunities mathematics affords.