Locating Praxis for Equity in Mathematics: Lessons From and for Professional Development

Feb. 12, 2013

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, 64(1), January/February 2013, p. 22-34.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, the authors examine how particular lived experiences influenced negotiation of the figured worlds participants inhabit and how that negotiation might contribute to the ways in which they took up certain issues, in this case equity in mathematics education.

The participants were 13 teachers who were school based and who attended the professional development (PD) for more than half of the sessions.
This included 9 first to fifth-grade classroom teachers, 2 English as a second language (ESL) teachers, and 2 school-based mathematics resource teachers.
A total of 12 out of the 13 teacher participants self-identified as White. One teacher, who self-identified as Latina.

Data sources included autobiographies and five to seven semi-structured reflections from each participant.


The authors identified two strands that ran through the findings:

A. Moving Toward Equitable Mathematics Pedagogy
By the end of the PD, the authors found all the teachers were integrating their views of standards-based mathematics and multicultural education but did so in different ways.
The five teachers who were positioned as newcomers to multicultural education were not all new to teaching, but shared limited experience with diverse students.
They all considered ways they might bring multicultural education to their mathematics classrooms by first focusing on mathematics and then considered how to bring equity into that space.
The rest of the teachers shared the view of equitable mathematics pedagogy and integrated equity and mathematics.
Thus, the figured world of standards-based mathematics was not one they saw as separate from the figured world of equitable mathematics pedagogy.
They recognized that to teach mathematics equitably, one must draw on the resources that students bring.
The other three old timers in multicultural education positioned themselves by examining their own trajectories, rather than comparing themselves to others.
Each had multiple experiences working with children who had been traditionally marginalized. All continued to grow as multicultural educators by taking up ideas from the PD in their instruction.

B. Praxis in and Beyond the Classroom
Participation in the figured worlds influenced where participants located praxis—those spaces in which teachers chose to take action to achieve transformation.
Some of the teachers who had limited experience with diversity and considered themselves emergent multicultural educators located praxis in their classrooms.

Conclusions and Implications

Over the course of the PD, the teachers developed stronger identities as equitable mathematics educators.
They each identified explicit changes they would make to their own practice and learned to reflect deeply on the relationship between equity and mathematics.

PD to support teaching mathematics with understanding is grounded in the premise that teachers first identify the mathematical strategies their students bring and build on that understanding.
In PD on equity and mathematics, this notion is further extended to consider the sociocultural factors that affect learning.
The authors argue that facilitators need to be aware that teachers may start with a lens of mathematics, or equity, or both and recognize how these varying lenses provide access to the figured world of equitable mathematics pedagogy.
This study revealed that teachers’ experiences in figured worlds contributed to where they located praxis.
The authors suggest that linear views of PD, in which the facilitators’ goals drive the process, underestimate the learning that may actually occur.

Updated: Feb. 15, 2016