As I apply for several other colleges who are hiring part time math teachers, I find myself wondering about this question as it is asked on ALL college instruction applications. Some of the questions that have came about in the adjunct faculty math applications are:

  1. Describe your experience working with diverse socio-economic students
  2. Ability and willingness to work with students from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds.
  3. Ability to motivate and teach students with diverse cultural, socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds, preparation, learning styles, and disabilities, using instructional methods that reflect cultural sensitivity and interdisciplinary approaches to subject matter. Incorporating materials and activities that reflect the role of mathematics in students’ lives.

My question is, how do you all attack such a question? Here's my response for this question:

As Jaime Escalante puts it, “Mathematics is the great equalizer.” I have had the privilege in working with students from a culturally diverse community: African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, mixed-race students, students with disabilities, students with limited English proficiency, AB 540 students, students from low income communities, students of particular religious groups, and students with different sexual orientations. Math never cares what your social background is, it does not care what language you speak, nor will it ever discriminate. Mathematics is accessible for all students. This will be their language and by helping them build this academic language content, they will be better prepared for the challenges they will encounter in college and therefore be more successful. So no matter what background they come from, Math will provide an equal opportunity for all my college students to reach their goals. Even though Math is the equalizer people will engage in Math from different cultural perspectives therefore it is imperative that a Mathematics professor uses cultural distinctions to access the universality of Mathematics. Math origins are spread throughout the world and I would bring in these distinct and unique cultural vignettes to make representatives from different areas produce and acknowledge the contribution of others so that they respect and acknowledge the contribution to the field.

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    $\begingroup$ Though I see that you have related this to mathematics education, it might be worthwhile to check (or even post to?) academia.stackexchange.com $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 1:27
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    $\begingroup$ or maybe workpace.stackexchange.com $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 3:29

1 Answer 1


My take for what it is worth. I see at least two very strong statements you make. I don't see strong statements as necessarily problematic; sometimes it is very important to take a stand. But stands often have to be defended.

The first very strong statement essentially summarized in your sentence:

Math never cares what your social background is, it does not care what language you speak, nor will it ever discriminate.

Which (unless I am mistaken) relies on the assertion that mathematics is something discovered rather than constructed. Since not everyone shares this view, you may encounter opposition to this in your job search. I won't give a counter-argument, but if you get into a discussion of mathematics as objective, someone might ask you how the choices that make up the department's curriculum were discovered rather than culturally constructed (considering that this shapes what the students will be studying). If you say that don't see the choices of what to study as part of the objectivity of mathematics and leave it at that, you may be considered to have missed the point of the question.

You also make a strong statement that:

"[...] Math will provide an equal opportunity for all my college students to reach their goals."

[emphasis mine] Consider how you will answer challenges to whether math can actually provide the opportunity you promise.

I have seen very intelligent people I respect take very different and compelling views on diversity questions in mathematics, which tells me that it is a difficult set of questions. And some of it may come down to beliefs and values.

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    $\begingroup$ This is pretty similar to what I had in mind; the other sentence that jumped out at me: Mathematics is accessible for all students. I think the language overall needs to be shifted from personifying mathematics as an entity that is already accessible, doesn't discriminate, etc., to viewing it as a subject with the potential to help others in their quest for social justice, better understanding other groups, and so forth. wrt contemporary issues, CCSSM's focus on Mathematical Modeling could be a good in for discussing ways of getting a foothold on some related issues. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 20:27
  • $\begingroup$ JP, I think I misunderstood the question overall. I guess it really is asking me of my experience with working with students from different socio-economic backgrounds. Here's what I have and let me know what you think: $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 0:12
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    $\begingroup$ For about 6 years I've been working with students from low income communities. I have been exposed to some of the challenges of these students, I've been successful in reaching out to these students and teaching them by providing extended office hours, extended due date times on homework assignments - especially for working parents, examination retakes to improve their grades, accommodations for disabled students (preferential seating, visual aids, guided notes, graphic organizers), and typed/printed notes for students who are absent and have to miss class as a resultof overtime fromtheir jobs $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 0:12
  • $\begingroup$ I think you've highlighted some experiences that show you to be concerned about the students, flexible, and accommodating to their particular situations. $\endgroup$
    – JPBurke
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 0:47

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