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Early Elementary Mathematics Lessons to Explore, Understand, and Respond to Social Injustice

Early Elementary Mathematics Lessons to Explore, Understand, and Respond to Social Injustice

Foreword by Julia M. Aguirre, Brian R. Lawler, Series Editor

September 2022 | 304 pages | Corwin

“This book is a must-read for all elementary educators. A call to action, the guide for teachers offers incredible resources, including powerful lesson plans, to engage readers in the practice of teaching mathematics for social justice in early childhood settings. An immense contribution to the conversation around social justice and mathematics in elementary education.”

Ruchi Agarwal-Rangnath
Assistant Professor, University of San Francisco
San Francisco, CA

Empower children to be the change—join the teaching mathematics for social justice movement!

We live in an era in which students of all ages have—through media and their lived experiences— a more visceral experience of social injustices. However, when people think of social justice, mathematics rarely comes to mind. With a teacher-friendly design, this book brings early elementary mathematics content to life by connecting it to the natural curiosity and empathy young children bring with them and the issues they experience.

Tested in PK-2 classrooms, the model lessons contributed in this book walk teachers through the process of applying critical frameworks to instruction, using standards-based mathematics to explore, understand, and respond to social justice issues. Learn to plan instruction that engages children in mathematics explorations through age-appropriate, culturally relevant topics such as fairness, valuing diversity and difference, representation and inequality, and environmental justice. Features include: 

  • Content cross-referenced by mathematical concept and social issues
  • Connection to Learning for Justice’s social justice standards
  • Downloadable instructional materials and lesson resources
  • Guidance for lessons driven by children’s unique passions and challenges
  • Connections between research and practice

Written for teachers committed to developing equitable and just practices through the lens of mathematics content and practice standards as well as social justice standards, this book will help connect content to children’s daily lives, fortify their mathematical understanding, and expose them to issues that will support them in becoming active citizens and leaders.

Chapter 1: What Is Social Justice and Why Does It Matter in Teaching Mathematics?
Chapter 2: Fostering a Classroom Community for Social Justice
Chapter 3: Instructional Tools for a Social Justice Mathematics Lesson
Chapter 4: Teaching Social Justice Mathematics Lessons
Chapter 5: Social Justice Mathematics Lessons
Lesson 5.1 Exploring Fairness Through Data and Numbers
Lesson 5.2 Addressing Food Insecurity
Lesson 5.3 Same and Different: An Exploration of Identity through Geometry Shapes
Lesson 5.4 Examining Air Quality
Lesson 5.5 Family Counts! Mathematics, Family, and the Diversity Across Our Homes
Lesson 5.6 Learning From Our Animal Friends: Mathematizing With the Artwork of Ricardo Levins Morales
Lesson 5.7 Activism Through Art
Lesson 5.8 Seeing the Colors of Ourselves and Others
Lesson 5.9 Human Diversity and Disability: Do We All Have 10 Fingers?
Lesson 5.10 Feeding Ourselves and Others
Lesson 5.11 Representation Matters in Mathematics Class
Lesson 5.12 Respecting Our House: Protecting Our Salmon Neighbors
Lesson 5.13 Early Elementary Mathematics to Explore People Represented in Our World and Community
Lesson 5.14 Journey for Justice: The Farmworkers’ Movement
Chapter 6: Advice From the Field
Chapter 7: Creating Social Justice Lessons for Your Own Classroom
Appendix A: Additional Resources
Appendix B Lesson Resources
Appendix C: Education of Young Children Learning Paths (2010)
Appendix D: Social Justice Standards
Appendix E: Social Justice Topics and Mathematics Domains
Appendix F: Social Justice Mathematics Lesson Planner

A wonderful collection of lessons, submitted by teachers, to help students of all ages see topics they care about, and use mathematics as a tool for progress in the world.

Jo Boaler
Stanford University, Stanford, CA
Stanford, CA

This is the book so many of us in early childhood mathematics have been waiting for. It’s practical, justice oriented, and, maybe most importantly, child centered. From lessons about representation in cartoons to differences in family structures to living through a pandemic, the book provides many detailed lessons that take up social justice concerns in ways that are real and relevant to young children while also providing ways to productively engage in grade-level mathematics.

Amy Noelle Parks
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI

Finally, a bold and beautiful mathematics resource for the early elementary educator that guides us to fully connect children’s natural mathematical curiosity with their intimate sense of justice and humanity. In reading this book, I wanted to try out every single lesson immediately, just to see that look of joy when children truly read and write their own world with mathematics!

Theodore Chao
The Ohio State University,
Columbus, OH

This book is a gift for early childhood educators, whether they are newly curious to social justice and mathematics or seasoned experts at implementing socially-conscious, mathematically rich experiences for their young learners. The authors invite readers in with their conversational and respectful tone, their attention to the specific contexts of the early childhood educator (such as discourses around “developmentally appropriate practice”), and their use of contemporary, research-based frameworks.

Andrea McCloskey
Penn State University
University Park, PA

Koestler and colleagues have curated a diverse set of lessons that invite children to “make sense of themselves and the world” through the lens of social justice mathematics. A particular strength of this book is the voices and experiences of the lesson authors, encouraging the reader to “trust in children” and allow the power of children’s voices to guide this important and challenging work.

Angela Chan Turrou
University of California
Los Angeles, CA

As a teacher educator for social justice, I am familiar with the near-constant refrain of “this isn’t something you can do in math!” This book illustrates just the opposite. Indeed, not only is it possible to engage in social justice mathematics, but it is an educational imperative to do so. This much-needed and valuable collection provides practitioners with clear and compelling lessons that are grounded in theories of justice and equity. Especially timely in this text is the clear evidence that not only can early elementary–aged children engage in critical conversations, problem solving, and sociocultural analysis in their mathematics classes, but they must. The editors and contributors to this volume have curated a powerful resource that is a must-read for all mathematics educators and those who care about social justice teaching and learning.

Alyssa Hadley Dunn
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI

I imagine many people will purchase this book for the sample lesson plans. And you should; they’re fabulous. But just as fabulous, and equally important, is the framework the authors lay out for a comprehensive, holistic, transformative approach to mathematics teaching—social justice at its core

Paul C. Gorski
Equity Literacy Institute
Columbia, SC

This book is a must-read for all elementary educators. A call to action, the guide for teachers offers incredible resources, including powerful lesson plans, to engage readers in the practice of teaching mathematics for social justice in early childhood settings. This is an immense contribution to the conversation around social justice and mathematics in elementary education.

Ruchi Agarwal-Rangnath
University of San Francisco,
San Francisco, CA

A very compelling set of fresh ideas are offered that prepare educators to turn the corner on advocating for social justice in the mathematics classroom. Each book is full of engaging activities, frameworks, and standards that center instruction on community, worldview, and the developmental needs of all students—a must-needed resource to reboot our commitment to the next generation

Linda M. Fulmore
TODOS: Mathematics For ALL
Cave Creek, AZ

Early Elementary Mathematics Lessons to Explore, Understand, and Respond to Social Injustice is an outstanding addition to the growing number of texts and projects that weave the teaching of mathematics and social justice together. The authors go deep and broad to show how, why, and when this combination of curricular topics improves our students’ mathematical understandings while honing their abilities and dispositions to promote
social and environmental justice in their own lives and communities.

Bob Peterson
Milwaukee, WI

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