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Diversity in Mathematics Education

Alan Bishop, Hazel Tan, and Tasos N. Barkatsas, editors
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
Mathematics Education Library
[Reviewed by
Woong Lim
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A lot of MAA members are mathematics educators who take it seriously upon themselves to pass on mathematical knowledge and insight to the next generation of mathematicians and those supporting and using mathematics. Teachers of mathematics constantly experience and interact with a diverse array of classroom dynamics, which vary socioeconomically, racially, culturally, ethnically, and linguistically.

Students come to your class with diverse needs, readiness, and interests. No matter how much teachers provide students with aha! moments through thoughtful and meticulous explanations, there still will be those who may have benefitted more from different examples or diagrams. Diversity in Mathematics Education: Towards Inclusive Practices presents theories, research, and perspectives regarding diversity and inclusivity in mathematics education for those willing to examine the challenges and possibilities of the ambitious practice of diversity and equity.

The book consists of three different sections, with a chapter of critique and commentary provided in each section. For readers desiring a fast track orientation of the book, I would recommend starting with the chapters 7, 11, and 15. The first section, “Survey the Territory,” explores diversity in the broad context of research studies incorporating large scale data in Australia, China, and Singapore. The second section, “Interrogating the Boundaries,” presents multiple layers of diversity in terms of the relations between learners, teachers, and the classroom — theorizing the need for inclusivity, role of the teacher, and inclusive practice in mathematics teaching. The third section, “From Diversity to Inclusive Practice” discusses the struggles and opportunities of teachers as they conceptualize and implement inclusive classroom practices.

While the book does not include studies with data based on U.S. classrooms, the richness of its theoretical approaches and depth of writing will convince readers in the U.S. that challenges, opportunities, and solutions in any classroom setting ought to be appreciated universally. Also noteworthy is the manner in which the book manages to persist in the dense, meticulous, and objective foundational qualities of classic scholarly writing.

I was already familiar with the works of Alan Bishop, Laurinda Brown, Peter Sullivan, Sarah Lubienski, and McKenzie A(Ken) Clements — largely through their extensive publications in US-based journals — as well as other authors in the book presenting important work regarding inclusive practices. In particular, Brown’s writing (Chapter 15) aptly takes the reader (especially those yet to fully internalize inclusive practices) through her personal journey of learning what it means to teach inclusivity in mathematics, making the suggestion that children benefit from and therefore ought to be entrusted to teachers who are invested in getting to know the cultures, thoughts, feelings, needs, and interests of individual students.

This book is a great resource for mathematics teachers wishing to learn ways to develop better strategies for inclusion and evaluating effectiveness. Graduate students in mathematics education would do well to strive to appreciate the complex and diverse experiences, research, principles, and convictions concerning diversity, equity, and inclusivity.

On a more personal note, I will put this book on reserve in the library and recommend it to my doctoral candidates in mathematics education endeavoring to recognize the differences of diverse learners and the impact that (dis)abilities, behaviors and thinking can have on student learning.

Woong Lim ([email protected]) is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education at Kennesaw State University, GA. His research interests include interrelations between language and mathematics, content knowledge for teaching, and social justice issues in mathematics education.