Confronting Bias in Teachers' Mathematical Mindsets
Mathematic ability has long been considered a “gatekeeper” to advanced education, better jobs, and higher status in society. People who are considered successful in mathematics are often selected by a teacher at a young age and put on a path of more challenging curriculum and additional opportunities for growth, not available to all students (Boaler, 2016). In this process, teachers assign mathematical competence to students. This assignment has both immediate effects on how students identify with mathematics, and gives a lifelong advantage when entering the workforce (Parsons & Bynner, 1997). Unfortunately, not all students experience the cultural advantages that come along with mathematic ability and many times this is due to factors outside of their control. A large number of math teachers still hold traditionally strict views of what it means to be “mathematically competent” (Boaler, 2016) along with potential bias based on race, gender, and socioeconomic status (Delpit, 2013; Martin, 2009). Instead of looking to the next educational reform for answers, I believe teachers’ must learn to reflect on their own mindset and how it manifests itself in their everyday practice. My recommendations for teachers are to: recognize that everyone has bias, reframe conversations about achievement disparities, seek out student perspectives, watch grades for indications of bias, support teacher diversity initiatives, and provide professional development to change behavior.