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Bad at Math?

Bad at Math?
Dismantling Harmful Beliefs That Hinder Equitable Mathematics Education

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February 2023 | 200 pages | Corwin

Math really is for everyone—so let’s prove it.

You’ve heard it from kids, from friends, and from celebrities: “I’m bad at math.” It’s a line that society tends to accept without examination—after all, some people just aren’t “math people,” right?

Wrong. As we do with other essential skills, we need to expose the stereotypes, challenge the negative mindsets, and finally confront the systemic opportunity gaps in math education, and replace them with a new vision for what math is, who it’s for, and who can excel at it. In this book you’ll find

  • Research on teacher and student mindsets and their effect on student achievement
  • Audience-specific and differentiated tools, reflection questions, and suggested actions for educators at all levels of the system
  • Examples from popular media, as well as personal stories and anecdotes
  • Quotes, data-driven figures, and suggestions for deeper learning on all aspects of a positive and equitable vision of math education

Both social commentary and a toolkit of solutions, this bold new book directly challenges the constructs that have historically dictated our perceptions of what makes someone a “math person”. Only by dismantling those misplaced assumptions can we reform math education so it works for everyone. Because in truth, we are all math people.

Chapter 1: What Does it Mean to be Good at Math?
Chapter 2: Beyond Numbers and Equations: What is mathematics
Chapter 3: Mathematicians and Mathematicians in Training
Chapter 4: We are All Math People
Chapter 5: Identity in Mathematics Education
Chapter 6: School Mathematics
Chapter 7: Mathematics as Gatekeeper
Chapter 8: Achievement Gaps or Opportunity Gaps?
Chapter 9: Is the School System Broken?
Chapter 10: Teaching Mathematics as a Political Act
Chapter 11: Where do we go from Here?

One of the saddest comments we often hear is “I was never any good at math.” People blame themselves or the math. Rarely do they blame the mismatch between their cognitive and emotional needs and how they were being taught. In this engaging book, Lidia Gonzalez shines a light on the cultural, curricular, and classroom realities that are the real culprits.

Steve Leinwand
American Institutes for Research

Insight into why we need to change the narrative, “I’m bad at math!” So many moments of “Yes, you hit the nail on the head!” Authentic stories and compelling evidence reveal how our society continues to perpetuate this harmful myth. There are abundant resources to help stakeholders dismantle systemic barriers that persist in math and math education and reflection questions for education professionals. Awesome work!

Shelly M. Jones
Central Connecticut State University

Bad at Math? creates the space to unpack people’s dispositions about mathematics. Many people dislike how mathematics is used to position them as either competent or incompetent. This book provides the content and context for people to unpack mathematics as the tool that helps us critique and understand the world.

Robert Q. Berry III
University of Arizona

This book was a pleasure to read and reread! Though the main discussion is mathematics, it should be a must-read for all preschool through higher education professionals. It’s well written, and deeply rooted research tells the story. The long overdue, honest discussion is chock full of inclusive history and timely strategies positioning us to move forward and do better!

Michele R. Dean
California Lutheran University

What a powerful and thought-provoking book! Gonzalez does a masterful job of addressing what is wrong with mathematics education currently and what can be done to make mathematics more accessible for more students, particularly those who are marginalized. Through these changes, we can help make it less socially acceptable for people to say they are bad at math.

Kevin J. Dykema
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Mattawan Middle School

This book truly breaks down cultural norms to build up a powerful vision of mathematics for everyone. The engaging and thought-provoking discussions are paired with rich examples and resources that collectively create a powerful message to help us change the way math is perceived and achieved in schools. An important book for all education stakeholders!

Jennifer Bay-Williams
University of Louisville

"Lidia Gonzalez does a masterful job sharing stories of student experiences in math class with a vision for creating access to all opportunities for all students. The material is written in a way that is very accessible for different education stakeholders, or for anyone who has experienced schooling. Bad at Math?: Dismantling Harmful Beliefs that Hinder Equitable Mathematics Education brings great clarity to how students and entire communities have been marginalized and continue to face oppression in mathematics spaces, along with actionable steps educators can take to disrupt negative beliefs about who belongs in mathematics spaces. Guided by the research and work of many brilliant mathematics educators, such as Sunil Singh, Dr. Peter Liljedahl, Dr. Rochelle Gutiérrez and Hema Khodai, just to name a few, this book shares many truths that need to acknowledged and addressed, which leads to ongoing opportunities for critical self-reflection throughout the book. Much gratitude for an excellent book."

Jordan Rappaport
Regional Mathematics Facilitator, York Region District School Board

Lidia Gonzalez

Lidia Gonzalez is a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at York College of the City University of New York. A first generation college graduate, she began her career as a high school mathematics teacher in a large, comprehensive high school in New York City. Interested in improving the mathematical experiences of urban students, her research focuses on the teaching of mathematics for social justice, the development of mathematics identity, and teacher development. She has published numerous articles and book chapters, has given talks at regional and national conferences, and is the recipient of several research... More About Author

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ISBN: 9781071887172