Recently, a friend of mine who plans to work as a "social-impact consultant" (she is currently a College senior with a background in intro statistics) requested that I offer some kind of curriculum that targets "math for social justice." I took this to mean a math class that offers enough background to understand

  1. the mathematics already used in the literature (probably things like basic numerical literacy, statistics, growth rates etc. are included in this.)

  2. Given some bulk data etc., have enough mathematical background to interpret it for herself.

  3. In light of Chris' comment: maybe it would be worthwhile to know enough math to tell when mathematics is being used poorly in politics/law/social issues (for example, police algorithms, sentencing algorithms etc. mentioned in the book.

I think the question (at least abstractly) is roughly equivalent to the math required for any kind of anthropological/sociological considerations.

Yet, I'm interested if it is known whether or not there is already a curriculum available that uses data and statistics relevant to those interested in advocating for minority groups (particularly in the United States.)

I've found some kind of meta "how-to-teach math for social justice" (such as this) but was hoping for something more direct.

Additionally, are there known college courses with this goal in mind? What would be additional features one would hope to capture in this field? I've seen a possible list here, but this looks more like a high school curriculum.

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    $\begingroup$ Not an answer, but see also Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O'Neil as possible required reading. $\endgroup$ – Chris Cunningham Jul 17 '17 at 0:27
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisCunningham I recently read an article summarizing some of the findings in the book. That would be a sensible place to start, I think. Thank you. $\endgroup$ – Andres Mejia Jul 17 '17 at 0:38
  • $\begingroup$ Regarding this topic, you may find this essay (and others about 'critical mathematics pedagogy') helpful: jstor.org/stable/42772808?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents $\endgroup$ – Lorenzo Jan 2 '18 at 7:22

So while I don't know I am aware of what is a comprehensive social justice curriculum, there are many pieces that can be used from some existing sources. I think there are a few different ways of understanding social justice however, and a few directions in the literature depending.

Quantitative Literacy

At it's most basic, there is the quantitative literacy discourse, pretty much a traditional take on content dressed in some kind of supposed everyday context. These courses tend to emphasize social justice as making the student more critical of information presented with numbers. Some examples here are

Social Justice through Mathematics

This is what I think of with the Radical Math work. Here, students usually are using mathematics to speak to some kind of social justice issue. The most comprehensive work I'm aware of here is

This book was the result of Rico's class in a Chicago school and references many activities from the class and while getting old can still give good ideas for what to do in a social justice setting. There was also a series of activities that were later produced along the lines of the book that is a collection of articles on teaching mathematics with social justice here:


Another strand associated with social justice discourse in mathematics education is that of ethnomathematics. Again, I don't think a comprehensive curriculum exists, but you can certainly glean a number of activities from:

Eglash also has a TED talk here.

All of these areas have professional journals and conferences associated with them, however as your question was more about a full curriculum the above mentioned resources are the most comprehensive depending on need/interest.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for this answer. $\endgroup$ – Andres Mejia Dec 7 '17 at 2:37

Statistics. If there is a "statistics for sociology" course than that is already right on target. [Concepts are not that much different than general statistics for ag or bio, but examples will be chosen from population surveys or crime or education or business.] Also, emphasis should be on getting tools and using tools, NOT on theoretical background. IOW, minimum math prereqs, non calculus, etc.




It turns out that the "service-learning" side of this question (which is NOT the entirety of your question, just one piece of what might fall under your question) is poorly documented when it comes to math.


In this book two colleagues and I give examples of lessons where we connect math to social and political issues in our courses for future teachers. Much of the content could be adapted to the classroom as well.

Reflecting the World: A Guide to Incorporating Equity in Mathematics Teacher Education


Two pointers, both perhaps at earlier educational levels than is your main focus:

(1) Perhaps RadicalMath, aimed at high-school education, could help suggest analogous resources at the college level:


(2) Here is an opinion article in the GradHacker blog, emphasizing pre-service mathematics teachers: "Equity and Social Justice… in Mathematics Methods Courses?" Juan Gerardo. Inside Higher Ed, Apr 2017.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for this. Sorry for the late response! $\endgroup$ – Andres Mejia Sep 23 '18 at 21:36

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