Recently I was reading A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction

And I ended up getting in doubt after reading things like this:

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According to the historical product of mathematics which, as I understand it, focuses on objectivity, comes from white supremacy? From where and how does this really prove to be legitimate? Does mathematics with constructive content and dependent on the above come from white supremacy? I would like more information on the subject.

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    $\begingroup$ The article seems more like a general educational and ethics-based booklet with little to do with mathematics specifically. Writing an article about racism against minorities when it comes to mathematics education in particular seems absurd to me. Mathematics is surely one of the, if not the least racist subjects. But maybe I am misunderstanding what the article is saying? And I don’t really understand your question. $\endgroup$ Feb 23 at 1:17
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    $\begingroup$ I don't understand the objection to treating matrices as a precalculus topic. Yes, you could each 3rd graders to multiply matrices right after they learn addition and multiplication, but they are not likely to find this knowledge useful. On the other hand, a student who has studied systems of linear equations, especially systems with more than two variables, will understand that matrices are a powerful tool. Algebra II or Precalculus seems to me to be the right place to talk about this. And if a student has missed out on linear systems during Covid, better to re-teach that than matrices. $\endgroup$ Feb 23 at 2:39
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    $\begingroup$ Approaching topics that way may or may not be a good idea, but of course it isn't white supremacist in the way that the term is commonly understood. You have to go to the links in the cited links of this paper, such as: thc.texas.gov/public/upload/preserve/museums/files/… to understand what they mean by this term. $\endgroup$
    – Adam
    Feb 23 at 3:00
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    $\begingroup$ Why do you care about this booklet? Unless it is a marching order from your principal, but even then there is so much meaningless language in it that it can be safely ignored. CRT is a hot topic, and edu-consultants try to build a career off it. $\endgroup$
    – Rusty Core
    Feb 23 at 6:24
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    $\begingroup$ @WillOrrick The point is that we often needlessly gate keep. Linear algebra is an extremely powerful tool, but most institutions lock it away behind a wall of calculus. If a student could access linear algebra, but systemic inequalities are needlessly holding them back (lack of access to excellent pre-calc instruction in high school), this is an equity issue. $\endgroup$ Feb 23 at 11:43

1 Answer 1


I will answer. I might not be answering the question asked (it is too unclear for me to be sure), but my answer is to what I think is being addressed in the linked book. (And if this question gets muddied in confusion, I may pose a related question soon.)

How is the teaching of mathematics sullied by racism or white supremacism?

  1. The naming of theorems and mathematical objects is eurocentric: * We speak (in the U.S. and I'm guessing many other countries) of Pascal's Triangle, yet it was invented many times (long before Pascal lived) in India, China, Persia,and others. (See wikipedia.) * The Pythagorean Theorem was also invented long before Pythagoras, in other cultures. (I know the argument that Pythagoras was the first to prove it. I doubt that that's accurate. We don't know all of what happened in those other cultures. Archeology is not great at getting all of the written records.)

  2. Math classes have been used as a filter for decades or centuries, to weed people out of certain professions. Think about doctors, for example. Are they required to do more math than they need? And lawyers, perhaps? So there used to be this mindset that it made sense for lots of students to fail. Who failed? Why? Look at the funding of our K12 systems in the U.S. and you see that economics (and race) are deeply involved. Why is race involved? The best book I know of on this is The Color of Law, by Richard Rothstein. Here's an article about his work. Basically, our education system is funded by property tax, and our country was segregated by laws put in place by the government. Our history is a mess.

  3. If we are trying to be anti-racist in our teaching, what can we do? There's a lot, and that book is trying to lay it out. Mathematical facts may be objective in a way we do not find problematic, but the choices of topics to cover in each course is not as objective as that. And stopping students from taking college level courses because of holes in their education has racist effect. If we can do things differently, we must. One solution that's happening in California is for students who are not interested in STEM to take statistics, and if their background is weak, to have co-requisite support. For students interested in STEM, it's a little harder, but I tell my students that it's my job to help them get from where they are to where they want to be. (And their job is to do the work it takes, while I guide them.) I explain misconceptions about fractions to my calculus students.

I will stop here for now. Yes, there are books about this. It will take books and good will, and effort from us all, to change the racist world we are living in.

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    $\begingroup$ Downvoted, because this is not something that will make any difference. Say, some theorems will be renamed, then what? Does celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. day magically did away with racial prejudice and institutionalized racism? Nope. His image and message was appropriated and re-painted. They often quote his words from "I Have a Dream", but not from "Beyond Vietnam". $\endgroup$
    – Rusty Core
    Feb 23 at 7:03
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    $\begingroup$ @RustyCore Sue's answer is an accurate and well-expressed overview of the arguments in favor of anti-racist math education. You're free to be opposed to anti-racist math education, but downvoting her answer because of that seems a bit like shooting the messenger. $\endgroup$ Feb 23 at 13:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Matthew Daly: I was thinking the same thing (and was going to say so, then I saw your comment), namely that the downvotes (2 as I write this) are likely based on not recognizing the difference between presenting arguments others have raised for something and agreement with those arguments. Basically, the OP asked what are the arguments, and Sue gave some. Possibly the last sentence gets slightly into agreement/advocacy, but to me the wording there seems a general observation and not advocacy of the arguments previously presented. $\endgroup$ Feb 23 at 14:31
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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – Chris Cunningham
    Feb 23 at 19:56
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    $\begingroup$ (+1) for this statement: "Mathematical facts may be objective in a way we do not find problematic, but the choices of topics to cover in each course is not as objective as that." $\endgroup$ Feb 23 at 20:04

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