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Teacher Educator Spotlight Series: Storytelling for Racial Equity

This article is part of a series that originally appeared on the Education First Blog and is reprinted with permission.

Melissa OliverThink back to when you were a student sitting in a math classroom. Did you believe you could excel at math? If you didn’t, you aren’t alone. Shequana Wright-Chung, adjunct assistant professor of early childhood mathematics education at Brooklyn College at the City University of New York, shares that it’s a common belief and one that is often impacted by racial identity and racial bias—our own internalized biases and those of our educators. In this blog, learn more about how Wright-Chung develops culturally-sensitive math educators who are mindful and aware of racial biases and how they impact students’ mathematical learning. It starts with…a story. 

“I always thought I was not great at math,” Shequana Wright-Chung recalls a teacher candidate sharing last semester. It’s not an uncommon belief. Thinking back to the good ole days of a weekend brunch with six of your closest friends, how many jokes would come up at the table about not being a math person when the bill arrives? The truth is, there is no Math nation with Math citizenry. Math people aren’t born, they’re developed. 

So, what impact does it have on students’ ability to excel at mathematics when their teachers are math averse? How do educators’ mindsets about content and student (assumed innate) ability to learn shape academic achievement? How does an educator’s racial identity and what they’ve internalized about their racial group in relation to math dictate the expectations they develop about same-race-students’ math abilities? How does what educators believe about other racial groups’ math aptitude impact the way they teach?