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Saturday December 3rd

UNC hosts professor to discuss teaching math to minorities

Rochelle Gutiérrez, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, speaks as part of the UNC Latina/o Cultures Speakers Series in the University Room of Hyde Hall on Monday, October 3. The talk was called "Cultivando Nepantler@s: Rethinking the Knowledge Needed to Teach Mathematics." She opened with a warm-up math problem and also discussed concepts, sociopolitical dimensions, and tensions and uncertainty in mathematics.
Buy Photos Rochelle Gutiérrez, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, speaks as part of the UNC Latina/o Cultures Speakers Series in the University Room of Hyde Hall on Monday, October 3. The talk was called "Cultivando Nepantler@s: Rethinking the Knowledge Needed to Teach Mathematics." She opened with a warm-up math problem and also discussed concepts, sociopolitical dimensions, and tensions and uncertainty in mathematics.

Teaching mathematics requires a knowledge of politics and recognition of multiple socioeconomic realities, a visiting professor argued in Hyde Hall on Monday night.

Rochelle Gutierrez, professor of curriculum and instruction and Latina/o studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, lectured on flaws in common methods of teaching mathematics to minorities.

Gutierrez was the 36th speaker in the “Latina/o Culture Speaker Series,” said Maria DeGuzman, director of Latina/o Studies at UNC.

“We need to be able to see through the myths of the achievement gap, which is code for, ‘black and brown people don’t measure up to white people,’” Gutierrez said.

She said the media focuses on the inferiority of Latinos and blacks but does not acknowledge other disparities, such as the higher achievement of multi-lingual students compared to monolingual students.

Marta Civil, a UNC mathematics education professor, said she invited Gutierrez to speak.

“We are both interested in issues of equity in terms of mathematics education and particularly how it pertains to Latino and Latina students,” Civil said.

DeGuzman said Gutierrez’s honorarium was $700.

Gutierrez said she wants to focus on creating teachers that are “nepantleros” or “nepantleras,” individuals able to perceive multiple realities to overcome social or cultural boundaries to education.

In other words, she said, teachers must recognize minority students and figure out how to educate them as part of a whole, while helping them maintain a sense of their culture.

“We need to find ways to make connections in communities, to recognize different strengths and help parents be advocates (for students),” she said.

She encouraged future teachers to engage in “creative insubordination” — to find ways of teaching that reject the “factory system” of prepping students for standardized testing.

Junior Sophia Zhang said she identified with the message.

“I liked how she addressed that sometimes people think they’re good at math, or that they’re artistic, and then get to school and feel as though they are no longer good at those things,” Zhang said.

Junior Isaac Marsh said he wasn’t sure how Gutierrez’s theories would work in reality.

“I’ve worked in Chicago schools for three or four years where populations are mostly black,” he said. “It’s not that simple.”

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