September 28, 2022
Student-Centered Instruction

Designing Mathematics Education for Liberation: Shakiyya Bland Introduces Her Just Equations Mission

Shakiyya Bland
Designing Mathematics Education for Liberation: Shakiyya Bland Introduces Her Just Equations Mission

I wanted to study all the lovely, real 

and logical things.

Confront regressive systems 

ordering operations rooted in 

predetermined melanated matrices.

Question the discrete calculated costs 

of the color line.

Embrace the exponential, limitless 

possibilities of power circumscribed in 

equity economics distributed properly.

Estimate the positive residuals of functional relations 

contextualized in affirming identity. 

Simplify and justify the steps to

prove conjectures of hope, fund futures 

undefined yet statistically significant.

To pose purposeful questions that 

examine the finite scientifically notated within 

the infinite solutions inscribed in community.

To persevere in dismantling multidimensional inequalities 


the remainder resulted in 

balanced and just equations.

My career has centered around the pursuit of equitable mathematics practices and culturally responsive curricula. My devotion to education equity influenced how I led my classroom and informed my advocacy work in math education. And in 2020, it is what set me on the path to serve as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow.

That experience enhanced my life significantly. Serving in the federal government gave me a new perspective on the systemic challenges within STEM education. As an experienced K–12 mathematics teacher and district instructional curriculum coach, I already understood many of the micro-level challenges educators and students face in their classrooms or within their school districts. But serving in Congress and the Department of Interior for two years gave me a new understanding of the macro-level systemic barriers and roadblocks facing our students.

Many federal agencies and organizations are developing STEM programming and resources with equity in mind. Often, communication and marketing for these programs, despite agencies’ best efforts, fall short of reaching underserved communities and advancing racial equity and support.

This is why Black, Indigenous, Latinx, disabled, and other marginalized identities must be acknowledged and valued as transformational leaders in education and STEM professions. Widening the range of populations we listen to, invest in, and seek to partner with is critical to creating equity in STEM education.

That’s where my work as the Math Educator in Residence at Just Equations begins. 

Just Equations reconceptualizes the role of mathematics in ensuring educational equity. As an independent resource, Just Equations collaborates across educational sectors to advance evidence-based strategies on the pathway from high school to college. 

In my new role, I continue to build a community of educators, policymakers, and student advocates dedicated to the sustainable advancement of high-quality, equitable mathematics education. Together, we can create math pathways that open, rather than close, doors for students.

As I build this community at Just Equations, here’s where I’m passionate about centering my work:

  • Engaging with innovative educators to support the design of culturally responsive professional learning communities. Innovative educators can feel silenced or undervalued when not positioned to connect with other like-minded educators curious to find new solutions that support their students. That’s why I advocate that you find your people. I’ve learned, through meeting with educators across the country, how widely spread the inequities and disparities in quality math education are across the United States. There is not equal access to culturally responsive professional development and curriculum or to dynamic and rigorous mathematics course pathways. And there is limited diversity in representation in STEM leadership at both the local and federal level.
  • Advocating for a culturally responsive STEM curriculum. I am most interested in counternarratives and advocacy efforts from educators, students, and families to state laws that pose restrictions on culturally responsive STEM curriculum development and instruction. What will be the outcome for our democracy based on these restrictions? Optimistically, some states, such as California, are investing in ethnic studies curriculum and professional development, seeking to recruit educators who value the identity and cultural histories of every member of our society. Hawaii is investing in ethnomathematics courses. How will these educational experiences transform our democracy and STEM innovation? In this role, I will continue asking critical questions in an effort to help create a more equitable future in mathematics education, with implications to address social injustices at the local and federal levels. 
  • Designing education for liberation. I strongly believe that, as educators, we should also participate as learners in the construction of mathematics and its discovery with and from our children. As I reflect on my own childhood educational experiences and mathematical explorations, I am eager to support teacher education programs that disrupt the foundational racism and deficit thinking that marginalizes people based on their identities. How can the teaching of mathematics be integral in advancing classroom and local community relationships? How are students positioned and encouraged to contribute to the discovery of mathematics in our learning spaces? How do we integrate history, music, language, storytelling, and art in mathematics courses as a means of communication and understanding mathematics? What questions, policies, and practices would create a sense of wonder and joy, increase access and wellness, and design education for liberation? 

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