Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

With our increasingly diverse classrooms, it is not always easy to connect math content with student experience. For a start, teachers must not only know their content area well, but must also know their students well. It is important for teachers to make an effort to bridge this gap, cultivating what researchers Geneva Gay (2000) and Gloria Ladson-Billings (1995) have identified as culturally responsive pedagogy. Below is a list of "best practices" identified from prior research (Richards, Brown, & Forde, 2004):

  • Acknowledge students' differences as well as their commonalities.
  • Validate students' cultural identity in classroom practices and instructional materials.
  • Educate students about the diversity of the world around them.
  • Promote equity and mutual respect among students.
  • Assess students' ability and achievement validly.
  • Foster a positive interrelationship among students, their families, the community, and school.
  • Motivate students to become active participants in their learning.
  • Encourage students to think critically.
  • Challenge students to strive for excellence as defined by their potential.
  • Assist students in becoming socially and politically conscious.

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Ms. England's changes to the original task involved only "surface" characteristics; the mathematics content remained the same. Nonetheless, this effort on her part served to draw students in to the problem. She made the problem of more interest to her students by setting up the context as a family hiking trip and choosing family names that were familiar to them (in this case, Spanish surnames found among her own students). The incorporation of familiar names, words, and contexts helps students to feel more connected to what they are being asked to do.