Mathematics Boosts So-Called ‘White Privilege’

Professor Rochelle Gutierrez says the ability to solve algebra and geometry perpetuates 'whiteness'

A math education professor at the University of Illinois says the ability to solve geometry and algebra problems, and teaching such subjects, perpetuates so-called white privilege.

Rochelle Gutiérrez laid out her views on the subject in an article for a newly published anthology for math educators titled “Building Support for Scholarly Practices in Mathematics Methods.”

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“School mathematics curricula emphasizing terms like Pythagorean theorem and pi perpetuate a perception that mathematics was largely developed by Greeks and other Europeans,” she says, according to Campus Reform.

She also says that addressing equity in mathematics education will come when teachers can understand and negotiate the politics outside the classroom.

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“On many levels, mathematics itself operates as whiteness. Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as white,” she writes.

Further, she says mathematics operates with unearned privilege in society, “just like whiteness.”

Gutiérrez did not respond to an email from Fox News Tuesday seeking comment.

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University of Illinois interim Provost John Wilkin told Fox News that Gutiérrez is an established and admired scholar who has been published in many peer-reviewed publications.

“As with all of our faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Prof. Gutiérrez has the rights of academic freedom necessary to pursue scholarship and research on important subjects and to reach conclusions even if some might disagree with those conclusions,” he said.

He added, “The issues around equity and access in education are real — with significant implications to our entire educational system. Exploring challenging pedagogical questions is exactly what faculty in a world-class college of education should be doing.”

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In the book Gutiérrez points out that mathematics operates as a proxy for intelligence, but asks, “Are we really that smart just because we do mathematics?”

“As researchers, are we more deserving of large grants because we focus on mathematics education and not social studies or English?”

Gutiérrez says evaluations of math skills can perpetuate discrimination against minorities, especially if they do worse than their white counterparts, Campus Reform reported.

“If one is not viewed as mathematical, there will always be a sense of inferiority that can be summoned” because the average person won’t necessarily question the role of mathematics in society, she writes.

According to the website, Gutiérrez adds that there are so many people who “have experienced microaggressions from participating in math classrooms… [where people are] judged by whether they can reason abstractly.”

Her solution is a call for teachers to develop political “conocimeinto,” Spanish for knowledge, to better prepare them in deciding on what learning opportunities work best for their students.

The book, published by Information Age Publishing, is a collaborative effort among more than 40 educators who teach mathematics methods courses for prospective pre-K‐12 teachers.

This Fox News piece is used by permission.

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