With help from a $10 million federal grant, the University of Arizona will try to make math instruction culturally and linguistically sensitive to Hispanics, thereby raising math achievement. The Tucson Citizen reports:
Among the goals of the new center are to create teaching materials and ways of teaching that bring in a cultural and linguistic context specific to Latinos, said Ron Marx, dean of the UA College of Education.
“Historically the dominant culture of the country has been western European and English. Curriculum materials reflect (those) cultural patterns, which isn’t good or bad, it just means that kids from those kinds of backgrounds tend to have more advantages because the content and the way it is delivered matches the way their culture represents the world and what they learn at home,” Marx said.
Educators can take advantage of the way Latinos express concepts of the world and the way they interact with parents and the community to build a better math program for them, Marx said.
“If you build on their home culture, then you are going to have more success,” he said.
Rosenblog thinks this is about teaching math in Spanish. I think it’s more devious than that. They’re going to come up with a “Hispanic way of knowing” math. None of that Anglocentric 2 + 2 = 4.
Linda Seebach, a former mathematician, describes “ethnomathematics” in this 2000 column. She quotes Ron Eglash of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute:
“What goes under the name of multicultural mathematics is too often a cheap shortcut that merely replaces Dick and Jane counting marbles with Tatuk and Esteban counting coconuts,” he writes.
At least, 2 coconuts plus 2 coconuts equals 4 coconuts.