Is math racist? Sexist? Homophobic? It seems yes — just ask a math professor.
Luis Leyva knows math. And he knows education; he’s an associate professor of mathematics education at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development. Luis also evidently knows social justice, and he’s trying to add it to number-oriented instruction.
The teacher recently delivered a lecture with a tittilating title. In a photo online, Luis’s opening slide from Boston’s Joint Mathematics Meetings — the largest math conference in the world — read as follows:
“Undergraduate Mathematics Education as a White, Cisheteropatriarchal Space and Opportunities for Structural Disruption to Advance Queer of Color Justice”
Luis A. Leyva, Ph.D. (he/él)
At Meetings.AMS.org, Luis lays out his lecture’s summary of points:
For the first half of the lecture, I present findings from my research about the educational experiences of 39 undergraduate queer and trans* (QT) students of color pursuing STEM majors across historically white and minority-serving universities in the United States. Findings depict how Black, Latin*, and Asian QT students’ narratives of experience reflect forms of intersectionality, or instances of oppression and resistance at intersecting systems of white supremacy and cisheteropatriarchy (or white cisheteropatriarchy).
How might anyone fight the oppression by straight white men who don’t identify as a gender in contrast to their sex? Luis has ideas:
In addition, I highlight findings that illustrate structural disruptions, defined as educational structures and practices that resist intersectional oppression in undergraduate STEM.
He also pinpoints “coping strategies among QT students of color navigating white cisheteropatriarchy in STEM for protecting their academic success and intersectional identities.”
During the second half of the lecture, I apply my framework and research findings to argue how undergraduate mathematics education operates as a white, cisheteropatriarchal space that limits learning opportunities affirming of queer of color identities and experiences.
Problem, meet solution:
I conclude by re-imagining undergraduate mathematics education with structural disruptions that advance justice for learners marginalized across intersections of race, gender, and sexuality. This re-imagining accounts for ideological, institutional, and relational forms of disruption that interrogate dominant forms of knowledge production as well as expand access to learning opportunities and departmental support that affirm queer of color identities.
Math was already often viewed as colossally complicated; but word of it bearing bad will toward all skin shades but one, all sexual desires but one, and all sexual identities but one certainly skyrockets the sophistication.
However, regarding racism, Luis isn’t exactly breaking the news:
The College Fix reports there’s a bit of academic opposition to Luis Leyva’s lecture. Aryeh Kontorovich, Ben-Gurion University professor of computer science, served some via email:
“[His] abstract reads like an over-the-top caricature… It is my opinion as a computer scientist/mathematician and instructor with over 14 years of experience that politics and social justice have no place in math pedagogy. We can never all agree on what is just, while we can (hopefully) agree on what is mathematically correct, so math education should focus exclusively on the latter.”
Though not all agree with Luis — who was named Out to Innovate’s 2022 LGBTQ+ Educator of the Year — his is an expert opinion. And once he’s subtracted all the -isms and -phobias from math, hopefully he can move on to fixing other areas and their bigoted ills. But one may prove difficult for the professional professor:
In Honor of Black History Month, University Asks, ‘Is Professionalism a Racist Construct?’https://t.co/TGRUEZ6yOB
— Alex Parker (@alexparker1984) February 7, 2022
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