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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Anti-racist math: 2 + 2 = whiteness

Apples and oranges featured heavily in my elementary school math curriculum, and yet I knew math was about the numbers, not about the fruit. Even if it's Rashawn who has 6 apples and Carlos who has 3 apples, and they plan to share them with Mei, the problem is white-centric, according to Jennifer Randall, a University of Michigan professor who's founded the Center for Measurement Justice. Could Rashawn afford all those apples? Does his neighborhood have a well-stocked supermarket?


Making tests "anti-racist" would make them "worse than useless," writes Max Eden, who notes that Randall's center has scored $5 million from the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative,


In her journal article, 'Color-neutral’ Is Not a Thing: Redefining Construct Definition and Representation through a Justice-Oriented Critical Antiracist Lens, Randall observes that test questions typically are scrubbed of distractions. "When context is not clear (or seemingly not present), the implied context, historically, has been whiteness.”


As an alternative, she presents a context-rich, justice-oriented sixth-grade math problem:

“Marcellus is cooking hot meals to hand out to a small group of twelve Black Lives Matters protestors demonstrating against separating families held at the U.S./Mexico border. He is making a meal of rice, cornbread, and red beans. He wants to make enough red beans for each person to have more than ¾ cup. Determine whether each inequality or number lines correctly models c, the number of red bean Marcellus needs to make."

Students are supposed to multiply 12 by ¾ to get 9, and then choose the number line that shows "more than nine."


Of course, if Marcellus was doling out Irish stew or if Helga was cooking sauerkraut for neo-Nazis, the answer be the same.


Later in the journal article, she complains that test questions are written in standard English, rather than African-American Vernacular English. Solving that would require "separate but equal" assessments written in students' preferred modes of communication. Perhaps text-speak and emojis?


Randall talked to Hechinger's Jill Barshay last year about "assessment reparations."


Think about those black parents in the Learning Heroes survey, who say they'd take action if they knew their "B" student did poorly on math tests. An education professor tells them there's no need to check out online math lessons or try to get a tutor. Those tests asked about white-centric math in standard English. Your child would have known the right answer if only the questions were about Black Lives Matter and red beans.

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10 Comments


deirdre.mundy
Dec 02, 2023

This is an unsolvable problem, or all presented answers will be wrong. Why? The problem wants 3/4 cooked red beans per person. The question asks for the NUMBER of red beans to cook. There's no conversion for 'number of dried red beans' that give 3/4 of a cup of cooked red beans. (and no one does this with numbers of red beans anyway.)

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Craig Randall
Craig Randall
Nov 30, 2023

This Randall lady gets $5M for nonsense while others who have more relevant and important missions go out of business for lack of funds.


She needs to at least change her surname.

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rob
Nov 30, 2023

As Steve says below, this is just a move to make sure no one, much less uppity minority students, gets an actual education.

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Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
Dec 01, 2023
Replying to

Reminder: the Asian-American minority outperforms all of America's other identified groups on these tests, and it certainly doesn't invest in idiots like Professor Randall; I teach such students and have bought their mathematical books, and only ideologues like Mussolini's Fascists, the Islamic State, and now American anti-racists distract their students with these political intrusions into mathematics.

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Jeff Melcher
Jeff Melcher
Nov 30, 2023

This isn't new idiocy, but the same ol' idiocy. A few years back the Dallas system scrapped a replaced a printed unit on "Fractions" that illustrated and described identical slices of pumpkin pie. (Yes, the lesson schedule called for it to fall near Thanksgiving.) Certain families insisted their kids couldn't work out 8 slices or 6 pieces or whatever of a whole pumpkin pie -- THEIR traditions served up SWEET POTATO pie.


Now, had the families suggested that half a pie was intended to be divided among three adults while the other half of the same pie was to be divided among five children, and asked whether two kids' slices were more, or less, than adults' slices, THEN I migh…

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superdestroyer
Nov 30, 2023
Replying to

Coudl one provide a link for this claim. I tried to find it but could not. However, I found lots of ideas for teachers to teach fractions using pumpkin pie.

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Jim Daniels
Jim Daniels
Nov 29, 2023

This is idiocy of course, but one of the games these grifters play is to make any objection to their agenda (which is often simply asking for empirical proof of their assertions) further evidence of your racism and therefore all the greater need for their activism.

It's a great hustle putting "anti-racist" in the title line of your snake oil since these grifters know the checkbooks are going to open, and the easily duped white boujie liberal establishment will simply ask "how much?" Throw in a little "at the intersection of" along with some "is rooted in" and a dash of "critical", add one arm-crossed, empowered leader of color in a smart suit as your leader and you've got yourself…

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