Teaching with equity in the math classroom helps support students from all backgrounds and learning styles. So what exactly is equity and how can you apply it to your math classroom?
What is equity and why is it important in education?
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines equity as, “justice according to natural law or right specifically: freedom from bias or favoritism.” In the classroom, equity takes on a similar meaning.
“Equity does not mean that every student should receive identical instruction; instead, it demands that reasonable and appropriate accommodations be made as needed to promote access and attainment for all students." (NCTM, 2000, p. 12).
Equity is the catalyst for effective, differentiated instruction, and it creates opportunities for independent thinking and student success in the classroom.
Creating an equitable math classroom
As a teacher, you are responsible for meeting the needs of all learners in your classroom. Creating an equitable classroom ensures that each of your students can be successful regardless of race, culture, gender, religious affiliation, or learning differences.
Here are five tips for how to keep equity at the forefront of your math classroom.
1. Know your students and adapt to their differences.
As an educator, it is imperative that you first understand your students and how they learn. Typically, students learn through the lens of a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. Educators can scaffold their teaching by recognizing students’ multiple intelligences or preferred methods of learning that support the process of independent thinking.
Along with encouraging a growth mindset and scaffolding, there are various forms of communication preferences among learners that take place in the classroom. When these learning strategies are taken into consideration, you can speak to the needs of each student and can deliver equitable instruction.
According to Howard Gardner of Harvard University, “students possess different kinds of minds and therefore learn, remember, perform, and understand in different ways.”
In addition, when building equity in the classroom, teachers must embrace the use of fair systems of rules, procedures, and classroom management. When students see that there are systems in place, teachers can eliminate the complaints of favoritism that may surface during instruction.
2. Use high-impact teaching strategies.
Dr. John Hattie, a highly respected education researcher, has completed more than 800 meta-studies and one of his most well-known is Visible Learning meta-study. In this study, Hattie discovered 250+ factors that impact student achievement. His research shows that when a teacher uses high-impact teaching strategies, students can obtain up to two years of academic growth within a single academic year. Some of the top teaching strategies include:
- Teacher clarity
- Providing feedback
- Direct instruction
- Classroom instruction
- Spaced v. mass practice
By incorporating high-impact teaching strategies, as outlined by John Hattie, you can have a greater impact on reaching all students in math.
3. Understand the cultures of your school and students.
When dealing with equity, consider the culture of your school and what has been the “cultural norm.” Start by talking to veteran teachers and leaders on the campus to learn about the memories and unique attributes that help define the culture of your school and its success.
In addition, learn about the traditions of your students’ families and communities. By celebrating the culture of your students and embracing the whole child, you can significantly contribute to the academic success of each learner. When considering the norm, you can create an environment that is safe and conducive to learning, while making all students feel welcome and supported.
4. Work collaboratively with school leaders and community stakeholders.
Building equity within a school takes the genuine effort of every leader on board. You can hold meetings with other teachers and leaders to discuss equity along with making an intentional effort to implement equitable strategies with appropriate resources. When seeing that equity is implemented with fidelity, communication is essential as well as progress monitoring along the way. By setting reasonable timelines and realistic goals, you can ensure that the desired plans for equity in action are met.
5. Remain aligned with your district’s vision and mission.
District leaders are continuously providing feedback concerning updates they receive from the state on various issues, including how to make sure that your district can effectively speak to equity. In this process, they need the support of building principals, instructional coaches, teachers, and the community to ensure that they can demonstrate the work that has been accomplished.
Once your district distributes the information received from state and/or national leaders, your leadership team should plan and strategize how you will successfully implement the district’s vision of equity and academic performance. When your district is aligned with your school in equitable resources, practices, and ongoing training, your unified mission of academic success and equity for all learners will likely be achieved. It will also help close the achievement gap and will speak to the overall success of learners in your district.
In conclusion, it is time to teach with equity in mind. If you think about the proven, pedagogical research, take time to know your students, understand the school culture, work collaboratively with leaders, and remain aligned with your district’s vision and mission for academic achievement, you will begin to see the impact that equitable teaching will have on student learning. Choose to put equity into action and celebrate the success of all learners.