This question has been at the heart of Professor John Zobitz’s career as a mathematician and data scientist. Now he’s working to help other faculty bring a social justice lens to mathematics and statistics education.
With a $50,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, Zobitz and colleagues from Concordia College–Moorhead, Winona State University, and Anoka-Ramsey Community College will convene an inaugural three-day conference for math instructors this summer.
The Mathematics and Data for Social Justice Summer Seminar aims to help faculty at two- and four-year colleges teach math in context, using examples such as credit risk modeling or differential impacts from climate change to illustrate core concepts.
From a teaching standpoint, this means seeking out appropriate data sets, exploring local issues, and developing greater capacity to manage classroom conversations about social justice. Seminar facilitators include Gizen Karaali and Lily Khadjavi, editors of “Mathematics for Social Justice: Resources for the College Classroom,” to which Zobitz was a contributing author.
After this summer’s gathering, the organizers aim to develop a community of practice that will provide ongoing collaboration and peer support as faculty work to make their teaching more culturally relevant and responsive. They will also share lessons and curricular resources with other institutions through the Mathematical Association of America’s regional conference.
“Our goal is to enact change in the classroom by starting at the instructor level,” said Zobitz. “But we also hope that this seminar will serve as a model for professional development aimed at advancing equity in STEM fields.”