Embracing Diversity

From the acts of atrocities based on a group’s ethnic identity happening in too many countries of the world, to the senseless killing of some Blacks by police officers, to the bullying of kids in our schools, we see harsh and painful realities of how intolerance and lack of respect for people from different races, backgrounds, religions, or beliefs can cause death and destruction. How can mathematics teachers help children—our future generation—respond to people in ways that promote acceptance of and respect for differences that do not violate a democracy? What are our responsibilities toward promoting a peaceful world? Barta (2001) writes:

Mathematics is a vital aspect of culture. Mathematical principles may not in and of themselves be “cultural," but as soon as those principles are used by human beings, what is done becomes culturally influenced. Mathematics, therefore, is a reflection of the culture using it. We can use this knowledge to better understand not only the nature of mathematics itself but also of ourselves and the people with whom we share the planet . . . Early in our lives we learn to value and devalue certain behavioral differences and the people doing them. In our mathematics classrooms, we can help our students learn that we all count. What a wonderful opportunity this situation poses and what a weighty responsibility we bear!

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