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The Mathematics of Opportunity: Advancing Social Justice Through Math Education

February 2-4, 2021

Just Equations’ third annual Mathematics of Opportunity conference brought a social justice lens to how education systems, colleges, schools, and teachers are implementing math pathways that enhance deeper learning and advance equitable outcomes.

Highlights Video


Click on the to see more information about the session, including speakers, sponsors, and supporting materials.

Math and its Aftermath: Reimagining Data for Justice

To claim a role for equity in math education requires examining what happens in its wake. Students leave math classrooms and enter careers and communities where their prior math experiences influence the opportunities they can pursue. At the same time, the algorithms they learn are deployed in ways that have profound implications for social justice. Just Equations Executive Director Pamela Burdman introduces the conference and this opening session which inquires into the perils and possibilities of math education in a digital age. In the first half, Princeton University professor Ruha Benjamin speaks about Innovation, Race, and Imagination in the Data Age. Then, in Student Voices: The Promise of Data Science Education, former data science students reflect on their experiences, in conversation with Viviann Anguiano of the Center for American Progress.

Viviann Anguiano
Associate Director for Postsecondary Education
Center for American Progress
Diamon Batts
Former Intoduction to Data Science Student
Ruha Benjamin
Associate Professor
Princeton University
Pamela Burdman
Executive Director
Just Equations
Emilio Jaime
Former Intoduction to Data Science Student
University of Chicago Center for RISC

Keynote Dialogue: Centering Equity in Math Education

Math education too often operates in ways that exacerbate, rather than alleviate, educational inequities. Leading thinkers on equity and mathematics share insights on the imperative and possibility of ensuring math education serves the goal of educational justice.

John B. King, Jr.
President & CEO
The Education Trust
Rachel Levy
Congressional Policy Fellow American Mathematical Society
Michele Siqueiros
The Campaign for College Opportunity
José Luis Vilson
Executive Director and Co-Founder
The Opportunity Institute
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics

Equity in Math Assessment: Implications for Policy and Practice

Tests are routinely used to rank and sort students, whether for course placement, scholarships, or college admission. And traditional multiple-choice exams and timed tests emphasize speed over depth and answer-getting over understanding. They also neglect the ways math can be generative, creative, or interpretive. What do new approaches to math assessment mean for classroom practice and education policy?

Akil Bello
Senior Director of Advocacy and Advancement
Edwin Galan
Math and Computer Science Instructor
Los Angeles High School of the Arts
Jonathan Katz
Math Specialist
New York Performance Standards Consortium
Monica Martinez
Director of Strategic Initiatives
Learning Policy Institute
Career Ladders Project
Policy Analysis for California Education

Social Justice Mathematics: Innovating for the Future

Learning math can offer students a way to understand, critique, and transform the world. In this session, researchers and educators continue building a shared conversation about teaching math for social justice: How can it contribute to math learning and educational equity? What are good strategies to advance its implementation in high schools and colleges?

Nathan Alexander
Visiting Professor, Division of Mathematical and Computational Sciences
Morehouse College
Robert Q. Berry, III
Professor of Mathematics Education & Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
University of Virginia
Kari Kokka
Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education
University of Pittsburgh
Maria del Rosario Zavala
Associate Professor of Elementary Education
San Francisco State University
The Benjamin Banneker Association
TODOS: Mathematics for All

Disrupting Tracking in High School Mathematics

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has called for an end to the “insidious” practice of tracking students into “qualitatively different or dead-end course pathways.” But educational systems are still solving the challenge of how to do so. Education leaders and equity advocates discuss various district-level and state policy strategies that seek to ensure equal access to advanced high school math.

Elisha Smith Arrillaga
The Education Trust-West
Lizzy Hull Barnes
Mathematics & Computer Science Supervisor
San Francisco Unified School District
Luvelle Brown
Ithaca City School District
Dia Bryant
Deputy Director and Chief of Partnerships
The Education Trust-New York
The Education Trust – New York
The Education Trust – West

New Research on Creating Inclusive Math Classrooms

The traditional architecture of mathematics opportunity is grounded in misconceptions about math ability and reinforced by the use of mathematics achievement to preserve privilege rather than provide preparation. Changing that requires building awareness of inequities and developing an understanding of how to restructure classroom environments and norms. Participants discuss new research into how to make math classrooms more inclusive and how to ensure those insights are implemented.

Nicole Williams Beechum
Senior Research Analyst
Chicago Consortium on School Research
Neil Lewis, Jr.
Assistant Professor
Cornell University and Weill Cornell Medicine
Celine Liu
Educational Services Coordinator
San Leandro Unified School District
Dana Miller-Cotto
Postdoctoral Researcher
University of Delaware, College of Education and Human Development
Mindset Scholars Network

Implementing Postsecondary Math Pathways: Solving for Equity

Postsecondary systems around the country are redesigning math pathways to ensure all students can access college-level (rather than remedial) courses that are relevant to their interests or field of study. But though these changes are often adopted with equity goals in mind, whether or not they actually eliminate disparities will depend on how they are implemented. What design elements do leading researchers and practitioners say are necessary for success?

Jessica Brathwaite
Senior Research Associate
Community College Research Center
Mina Dadgar
Education Equity Solutions
Aisha Lowe
Vice Chancellor of Educational Services
California Community College Chancellor’s Office
Tammi Marshall
Chair, Mathematics Department
Cuyamaca College
Ricardo Moena
Professor of Mathematics & Director of Entry Level Mathematics
University of Cincinnati, Ohio
Strong Start to Finish
Complete College America

Minding the Gate: Reshaping College Admissions for 21st Century Math

As education systems redesign math pathways to expand equitable college opportunity, admissions policies can pose unique obstacles. Traditional math requirements have long served as a gatekeeper to selective colleges as well as competitive majors. How can we ensure that the way math figures into the admissions process is as equitable as possible?

Mark Cortez
Director, Outreach and Recruitment Undergraduate Admissions
Ohio State University
Robyn Ince
Executive Director, Newark City of Learning Collaborative,
Rutgers University-Newark
Michal Kurlaender
Professor and Department Chair
University of California-Davis School of Education
Monica Lin
Director, A-G and Transfer Policy Analysis & Coordination
University of California
Gayle Mashburn
Head Counselor
Millikan High School
Linked Learning Alliance
The Campaign for College Opportunity

Prioritizing Math Opportunity Through State Policy

Students’ math experiences can profoundly influence their lives beyond the classroom. And policy decisions by state officials, boards, and systems—in areas ranging from admissions and placement policies to curricular alignment and professional development—can have a dramatic effect on how equitably the doors to educational and career advancement are opened. Join state education leaders in considering how to leverage state policy to promote math equity. Then, Just Equations’ Executive Director Pamela Burdman shares closing remarks.

Pamela Burdman
Executive Director
Just Equations
John D’Agati
Senior Deputy Commissioner for Education Policy
New York State Department of Education
Martha Ellis
Interim Managing Director
Charles A. Dana Center
Kim Hunter Reed
Commissioner of Higher Education
Louisiana Board of Regents
Eloy Ortiz Oakley
California Community Colleges
The Charles A. Dana Center, University of Texas-Austin