I am grateful to have had the opportunity to review this book, because I would otherwise have overlooked it, despite being very interested in its topic. This is because the title is not descriptive of the contents: The book uses case stories and reactions to those stories to explore various dimensions of the relationships among mathematics, schools, and culture.
For each case, the author presents a description of the case (about four pages), a set of reader reactions to the case (about six pages), and suggested questions for leading a discussion about the case. The four cases are as follows.
The cases are followed by a section titled “Public Arguments”, chunked into three categories:
The author acknowledges that the descriptions in this section are oversimplified. Nevertheless, the statements appearing in this section exemplify claims that people really do make and I can imagine that this section would lead also to good discussions.
I can imagine using the cases and political arguments presented in Mathematics and Teaching with a number of audiences:
The book series title says, “A Series for Prospective and Practicing Teachers”. I have had a bit of experience with K–12 teacher preparation programs; however, I have had much more experience with the professional development of graduate teaching assistants (TAs). I have used a number of resources in that context. In general, I found that new TAs tended to be skeptical of cases, refusing to believe that such situations occur in real life. I had greater success using cases with experienced instructors.
That said, I can imagine using the cases with pre-service teachers. I would personally find that the most difficult group with whom to use this effectively, because they have such very limited experience with classrooms and politics. Furthermore, I know that many teacher education programs struggle to balance time the spend learning mathematics at a deep level, developing pedagogy and classroom management skills, and discussing social/political issues — I get distressed when I hear about programs that spend no time with books such as this one, but I also get distressed when I hear about programs that spend so much time with books such as this one that they disregard the learning of mathematics or pedagogy.
I can imagine the book being more effective with student teachers, who are immersed in teaching and beginning to confront very difficult situations. This group is also in the process of constructing themselves as professionals, making this group a particularly important focus point. I can also imagine using the cases with experienced teachers. I would expect that this group would provide powerful but perhaps conflicting issues: they would have experiences on which to draw and to which to make connections but they may also be more entrenched in their beliefs about mathematics, teaching, learning, students, and politics.
The book itself includes reactions from parents, grandparents, school board members, administrators, and other professionals associated with K–12 schooling. These audiences are not listed explicitly as intended audiences in the series title, but it seems to me that the author did a very powerful thing by having discussions with such people about the cases and including their comments in the reactions sections. These groups can be influential in decision-making processes and are critical in the support structure for teachers who are trying to be maximally effective for all students.
Teri J. Murphy is an Associate Professor at Northern Kentucky University. Her research area is undergraduate science, engineering, and mathematics education.
Table of Contents
Series Preface iii
PART I: CASES AND REACTIONS 12
Introduction to Case 1 12
Case 1: "Race and Teacher Expectations" 13
Reader Reactions to "Race and Teacher Expectations" 19
Reactions to "Race and Teacher Expectation 20
Summary and Additional Questions 34
Introduction to Case 2 35
Case 2: "Mathematics for All?" 36
Reader Reactions to "Mathematics for All?" 42
Reactions to "Mathematics for All?" 43
Summary and Additional Questions 55
Introduction to Case 3 57
Case 3: "Culture and School Mathematics" 59
Reader Reactions to "Culture and School Mathematics" 64
Reactions to "Culture and School Mathematics" 65
Summary and Additional Questions 76
Introduction to Case 4 79
Case 4: "Politics and School Mathematics" 81
Reader Reactions to "Politics and School Mathematics" 87
Reactions to "Politics and School Mathematics" 88
Summary and Additional Questions 104
Reader Reactions to the Four Cases 107
Reactions to the Four Cases 108
Part II. Public Arguments 119
A "Conservative View": Mathematics for Global Economic Leadership 122
Comments and Questions 135
A "Liberal View": Equality of Opportunity and School Mathematics in a Democracy 138
Comments and Questions 147
A "Radical Multiculturalist View": Mathematics for Developing Critical Dispositions for Social Reconstruction 150
Comments and Questions 164
Part III. Concluding Remarks, Some Reflections, and Resources for Further Reflections