## What is Culturally Responsive Mathematics Teaching (CRMT)?

Culturally Responsive Mathematics Teaching (CRMT) is an approach to math education that recognizes and values the cultural, linguistic, and social diversity of students. It aims to create a more inclusive and equitable learning environment by incorporating students’ cultural backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives into the teaching and learning of math. This approach recognizes that students from different cultural backgrounds may have different ways of understanding and approaching mathematical concepts. CRMT aims to create a more inclusive and equitable learning environment where culturally and linguistically diverse learners (CLD) feel valued and can develop a positive identity as math learners. This approach also recognizes that students from historically marginalized communities may have negative experiences with mathematics, such as ambiguous teacher expectations, challenging classes, lack of rapport with teachers, limited parental involvement, etc. CRMT seeks to address these experiences and build a positive learning environment for all students. The goal of CRMT is to improve mathematical understanding and achievement for all students, including those from marginalized communities by incorporating their lived experiences in math teaching.

## Why should we care about Culturally Responsive Mathematics Teaching (CRMT)? What does the research say?

Research in mathematics education over the past decade has aimed to improve math skills for students and instruction skills for teachers. The performance gap among students from ethnic minority groups has been a big motivator for improving math proficiency among CLD learners from marginalized backgrounds. NAEP Statistics 2017 show that 51% of white students perform above proficiency in the fourth grade in math compared to only 22.5% of minority students who performed above proficiency. However, this data on math proficiency ignores important qualitative factors such as teacher expectations, class difficulty, and family involvement that also affect math success (Abdulrahim, N & O, 2020). To better understand what helps students succeed in math, researchers look at overall learning environments, including culturally responsive teaching practices, that provide a level playing field for all students.

## Why Is Culturally Responsive Mathematics Teaching (CRMT) not everywhere yet?

Since the 1990s, studies on culturally responsive math instruction for minority students have been occurring, but it is not widely incorporated in schools. This is partly due to the political nature of education and the continued dominance of traditional teaching methods that focus on basic skills and not other skills from other cultures (Abdulrahim, N & O, 2020). The majority of math education, especially in the United States, uses standardized curriculums, teaching, and testing, which doesn’t take into account the lived experiences and strengths of minority students. This one-size-fits-all approach to teaching ignores students’ cultural backgrounds, which affects their response to math learning and understanding. Sociocultural knowledge (i.e., cultural and cognitive resources) that students from diverse backgrounds bring to the classroom and teachers incorporate in instruction helps all students make meaningful connections to new information.

## How do we include CRMT into Teaching?

Culturally Responsive Mathematics Teaching (CRMT) is a combination of Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) and Culturally Responsive Pedagogy (CRP), which focuses on how to teach mathematics while also promoting equity amongst different learners. CRMT works to create a more cohesive understanding of teaching mathematics.

There are four PCK categories: (1) an overarching knowledge and belief about the purpose for teaching; (2) knowledge of students’ understandings, strengths and weaknesses; (3) knowledge of curriculum and curriculum materials; and (4) knowledge of the instructional strategies and representations for teaching particular topics (Aguirre & Zavala, 2013). These four components provide an understanding of how math education should be approached in order for all students to achieve success. CRP is considered to be optional and not required for math teaching. CRP helps students grow academically, socially and culturally, feel confident in themselves, and develop a caring attitude. Let’s look at the four different ways we can incorporate CRMT into math classrooms:

### 1. Teaching Mathematics by attending to students’ funds of knowledge

The term “funds of knowledge” refers to the knowledge and skills people have from their everyday life and community that can be used for teaching. Researchers have found that family activities and cultural practices can be used as resources for math learning (Aguirre & Zavala, 2013). For example, daily activities like going to the grocery store can help with their math learning when adding up the prices. This approach to education considers students’ backgrounds and raises teacher awareness on resources for teaching. Teachers can incorporate students’ different cultural backgrounds in math problems and therefore gain more resources. Studies have also looked at funds of knowledge from the perspective of immigrant students and their families, as well as drawing on local community practices for math learning. Teachers can do that by exploring math practices of businesses such as bakeries, food markets, libraries, parks, and others.

### 2. Teaching math for social justice

Mathematics can be used to understand power structures. It often involves social justice and engaging students to challenge/change these structures that are in place in today’s society. This can include secondary students investigating racism or using data analysis to address race issues, and elementary students using math to challenge societal messages or district decisions. Teachers play a key role in facilitating students to understand and challenge power relationships through math by using real-world examples and problem sets that address issues of equity and social justice, encouraging critical thinking and discussion among students, and incorporating diverse perspectives and experiences into the curriculum.

### 3. Developing culturally responsive mathematics teachers

Culturally responsive teachers value diversity and incorporate it into mathematics instruction by utilizing students’ cultural and linguistic knowledge to improve academic achievement and foster high-level thinking skills. With this approach, teachers must understand the impact of power on school policies, be aware of the importance of math as an indicator of student performance, and actively work to challenge the inequities faced by minority students. CRMT expects teachers to be conscious of social and political issues, embracing the idea that learning is socially constructed and shaped by one’s culture, therefore, using the mathematical abilities and background of students to teach math. Teachers can do this by understanding that teaching is part of a broader social-political context and seeing their job as preparing students to live and engage in these contexts (Aguirre & Zavala, 2013). This approach expands students’ mathematical thinking, builds bridges between previous and new knowledge, supports bilingualism, and encourages critical thinking to address real-world problems (Aguirre & Zavala, 2013).

### 4. Collaboration

Studies show that collectivist approaches to learning, including collaboration between students, teachers, families, and communities, can improve mathematical understanding in cultures that value interdependence and shared problem-solving. Teachers can incorporate students’ cultural and cognitive resources into instruction by collaborating with students and their families. Teachers often use collaborative learning experiences like pair work and group work to encourage students to take responsibility for each other’s learning. Studies show that teachers who integrate collaborative work in their lessons, work with their colleagues, and build relationships with families and the community can enhance students’ success in mathematics (Aguirre & Zavala, 2013).

## How is Math Project Incorporating CRMT?

### 1. We build a community

Math Project teachers build relationships with students that come from culturally diverse backgrounds. We always create engaging and safe environments for our students. By directly working with students and parents we provide them with a style of teaching that best suits their personal needs. This provides us with insight into the way they learn and how math is viewed in their homes. Teachers learn from their students on how to best teach and engage them in sessions and homework. Our teachers also advocate for the needs of our students when they are struggling or when outside pressures become too much. The Math Project management team works very closely with our teachers by collaborating on how to come up with solutions and ideas for how to help support our students. As well, our management team is multilingual which helps us serve the needs of parents with all sorts of backgrounds.

### 2. Student Collaboration

We offer small group sessions so that students can get to know other people from different cultures. Studies also show that while working in small groups they may experience less pressure because they feel more comfortable when there is someone there as a friend (Ferlazzo, 2020). It can also make math learning more fun if you’re learning math with someone else. Our group sessions are organized by curriculum level, comprehension and age, allowing students to collaborate and feel at ease with one another, as they are all at the same level. This also provides an opportunity for them to benefit from their peers’ strengths and weaknesses.

There is also the option to have one-on-one sessions if the student wants individual attention due to their learning styles. Working in groups can also make students collaborate to enhance their social and emotional abilities, leading to improved learning and personal growth. We create an individualized plan and a fun learning environment, with the hope of transitioning them to a group setting once they are comfortable. We also have math-aid hours for extra homework help. Students can learn cooperatively there to brainstorm and problem-solve together.

## 3. We make real-world connections

Using real-world situations in math questions can help students to connect to diverse cultural experiences. For example, a question could be, “Jack spends 230 yen on a train ride from Yokohama to Tokyo then he spends 150 yen on sushi. How much does he spend in total?” This question teaches the student about the currency, cities, and cuisine of Japan in this math problem. Word problems are integrated into many Math Project curriculums in order for students to make connections to the world around them. They also provide our teachers and students with a way of discussing how society works, such as groceries, taxes, data collection, and so much more.

## CONCLUSION

In conclusion, culturally responsive mathematics teaching is an essential approach to fostering mathematics excellence and equity in the classroom. This approach involves leveraging the mathematical resources of students, families, and communities, expanding students’ mathematical thinking, building bridges between previous and new knowledge, supporting academic language development, and cultivating critical mathematical knowledge that enables students to analyze and address authentic problems. In turn, it provides students with the opportunity to become well-rounded individuals and learners in all aspects of life.

Author: **Quazell Cunningham**

#### REFERENCES

`Julia M. Aguirre & Maria del Rosario Zavala (2013) Making culturally responsive mathematics teaching explicit: a lesson analysis tool, Pedagogies: An International Journal, 8:2, 163-190, DOI: 10.1080/1554480X.2013.768518`

`Abdulrahim, Naheed & Orosco, Michael. (2020). Culturally Responsive Mathematics Teaching: A Research Synthesis. The Urban Review. 52. 1-25. 10.1007/s11256-019-00509-2.`

Ferlazzo, L. (2020, December 17).

*Twelve Ways to Make Math More Culturally Responsive (Opinion)*. Education Week. Retrieved January 30, 2023, from https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/opinion-twelve-ways-to-make-math-more-culturally-responsive/2020/12