# Preservice teachers examine gender equity in teaching mathematics

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<ul><li>1.SUPPORTING TEACHER LEARNING Maureen D. NeumannPreservice Teachers Examine Gender Equity inTeaching MathematicsThe National Council of Teachers of Math- increasingly find themselves in the same position asematics recognizes that mathematical knowl-those who were illiterate in the twentieth century.edge is essential for employment and fullIt is essential that mathematics teachers engageparticipation in our society. The strategic inclusionall students in developing a deep understanding ofof the Equity Principle in NCTMs Principles and mathematics by seeking to eliminate inequitableStandards for School Mathematics (2000) reflects teaching practices. In this article, I discuss aspectsthe need in the mathematics education communityof gender equity that exist in mathematics class-to eliminate long-standing disparities in mathemat-rooms, describe a project that I use with preserviceics performance. However, incorporating equitableelementary school teachers to help them recognizepedagogical practices into ones instruction doespossible inequitable practices, and share ways ofnot mean that every student should receive identical adapting this project to address other aspects ofinstruction; rather, it demands that reasonable and inequitable practice.appropriate accommodations be made as neededto promote access and attainment [of mathematicsknowledge] for all students (NCTM 2000, p. 12). Inequity in Mathematics Although NCTM asserts that equity in math-Teachingematics learning is a goal, achieving that goal is Mathematics teaching is a product of society. Itmuch more complex. NAEP average scale scores reflects and serves the interests of particular groupshave risen since 1990 for both male and female stu-and can be examined by looking at the socialdents; however, gender gaps have not narrowed. Onsystem in which mathematics is created and usedthe 2003 NAEP test for fourth graders, girls scored(Martin 1997, p. 155). Claims that females do notthree points lower than boys. Some researchers have the gene for math or are less biologicallyview this difference as a relatively small gap incapable of doing mathematics are unsubstanti-achievement. However, other scholars believe thatated (Martin 1997; Zaslavsky 1996). Zaslavskythis small, persistent gap could explain the gender(1996) worked to expose the belief that certaindifferences of women entering mathematics-relatedlarge categories of peoplewomen, minorities,occupations (McGraw, Lubienski, and Strutchens and working-class peopleare incapable of learn-2006). ing high-level mathematics. Her research showed Mathematical proficiency is critical to the futurethat teachers are guilty, perhaps unconsciously,careers of all students. Most high-paying scienceof this type of stereotyping. Teachers often thinkand technological positions require strong math- that girls succeed because they try hard whereasematical skills. These positions have historically boys succeed because of their innate ability (Perezbeen filled by white males; women and minorities 2000, p. 28). However, Principles and Standardshave been poorly represented in these fields. People for School Mathematics asserts, Well-documentedwho are innumerate in the twenty-first century willexamples demonstrate that all children, including those who have been traditionally underserved, canMaureen D. Neumann, Maureen.Neumann@uvm.edu, teaches mathematics education coursesfor preservice and in-service teachers at the University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405. learn mathematics when they have access to high-Edited by Fran Arbaugh, arbaughe@missouri.edu, and John Lannin, LanninJ@missouri.edu. quality instructional programs that support theirArbaugh and Lannin are members of the mathematics education faculty at the University of learning (NCTM 2000, p. 14).MissouriColumbia, Columbia, MO 65203. Supporting Teacher Learning serves as a forum Teachers need to uncover any inequitablefor the exchange of ideas and a source of activities and pedagogical strategies for teacher edu- instructional practices and change their attitudescators in their day-to-day work with prospective and practicing teachers. Readers are encour-aged to send manuscripts appropriate for this department by accessing tcm.msubmit.net. and beliefs about who can learn mathematics (Zaslavsky 1996). Teachers communicate unwrit-388 Teaching Children Mathematics / March 2007 Copyright 2007 The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Inc. www.nctm.org. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed electronically or in any other format without written permission from NCTM.</li></ul><p>2. ten expectations of their students academic successthrough their verbal interactions during classroom The Equity Teaching Analysisinstruction, their comments on student papers, their Projecttracking of students into ability groups, and theirThe Equity Teaching Analysis Project (Equity Proj-lack of consistent support for students who need a ect) was designed to introduce elementary preser-deeper mathematical understanding (NCTM 2000). vice teachers to equity in instructional practice byDisparities between girls and boys are rootedanalyzing an actual teaching experience within anearly in childrens schooling. As early as secondundergraduate mathematics methods course. Thisor third grade, girls perceive themselves as lower systematic analysis helps the preservice teachersin mathematical ability than boys (Fennema et al.see the need to make their teaching of mathematics1998; Hanson 1992). The ways teachers instruct more equitable. The term more equitable is definedcan contribute to the continuation or elimination of here as fostering equity in the quality and quantitythese patterns.of statements made by male and female students One way for teachers to address gender ineq-while learning mathematics during a period ofuity is to identify their own inequitable teaching K6 classroom instruction. The concept for thepractices and then work to improve these. LampertEquity Project was developed from the work of a(2001) documented her struggle to include allcolleague, Charles Rathbone, who initially taught astudents and adapt to meet their needs. Her sys- version of this project in his mathematics methodstematic investigation into her teaching by reflect-course.ing on video recordings helped her focus on whatThe Equity Project is conducted during pre-make[s] it possible for students to perform inservice teachers third year in their undergraduatedifferent ways to different kinds of competencies teacher education program. They enroll in a three-(p. 367), thereby enabling her to better meet thecredit mathematics methods course that is part of aneeds of all her students. Paley (1986) related that larger block of professional coursework in literacy.tape-recording herself enabled her to hear what sheField assignments with K6 students are supervisedreally said to students, not what she thought sheby university faculty and public school teacherssaid or how she thought she handled situations.who serve as mentors.The audio tape served as an objective, nonbiasedOften elementary preservice teachers do notobserver in her classroom. realize that their actions reflect or contribute toTeaching Children Mathematics / March 2007 389 3. Figure 1 Verbal interaction categories (adapted from Shepardson and Pizzini 1991) and examplesCategoriesExamples Praise AcademicTeacher rewards students and rein- Interesting strategy. forces the intellectual quality of academic work. I like your thinking in solving that problem. NonacademicTeacher rewards students andYoure being nice and quiet today. reinforces work or activity not related to the intel- I like how you put your name at the top of your lectual quality of academic work. test. Academic Criticism Intellectual qualityTeacher directs critical re- I dont think youre good at mathematics. marks at the lack of intellectual quality.This is a simple problem that you got wrong. EffortTeacher attributes academic failure to lackYoure not trying hard enough. of effort.You could do the math if you just put your mind to it and worked harder Nonacademic Criticism MildTeacher makes negative comments aboutMegan, you need to raise your hand. violations of conduct, rules, and forms; behaviors; Tom, stay in line. and other nonacademic areas. HarshTeacher makes negative comments thatTom, I told you to get in line! I dont want to talk attract attention because they are louder, longer,to you again about this. The next time I say some- and stronger than mild criticism. thing, no recess! Questions Low-levelTeacher asks questions that require What number follows 59? memorization of facts.What is 6 times 5? High-levelTeacher asks questions that requireHow did you figure out that 62 times 51 equals higher intellectual processesi.e., that ask the3162? student to use information, not just memorize it. How did you know that 60 follows 59? These are considered open-ended questions or probing/pressing questions. Academic Intervention FacilitatesTeacher facilitates learning by provid- How does solving 60 times 50 help you solve 62 ing students with suggestions, hints, and cuestimes 51? that encourage and enable them to complete theLooking at the hundreds chart, what do you assignment themselves.notice about the numbers that follow numbers that end in 9? Short-circuitsTeacher prevents or short-circuits Give me your pencil. When multiplying, you students success by taking over the learning first. process.Youve got this part wrong60 times 50 is 3000, not 300. Information AcademicTeacher gives information related toThe sum of the interior angles for any triangle is the lesson content. 180 . NonacademicTeacher gives information that is I need everyone to put their desks in groups of 4 procedural or related to classroom management.for todays lesson.390 Teaching Children Mathematics / March 2007 4. inequity. Before my preservice teachers begin this Figure 2project, a majority believe that their instruction toK6 students is equitable. Through video and audioSample of elementary preservice teachers transcript and codingtape recordings, transcriptions, and self-reflection,To begin the lesson, the teacher demonstrates a chip trading game using deci-the Equity Project illuminates how they as teachers mal numbers. The teacher has drawn a chart on the blackboard and taped thecreate conditions of unequal participation in their chips on the board. The chips are used to represent a decimal number, and theclassrooms. The project also requires that the teach- teacher challenges the students to interpret the representation.ers prescribe immediate changes to their verbal Teacher [low-level question, directed to male student]. How would you sayinstructions and address their inequitable behavior that number, Boy 1?Boy 1. Two and forty-two hundredths.as part of their critical reflection assignment.Teacher [low-level question, directed to male student]. Im sorry. What did you To demonstrate the type of instruction elemen- say?tary teachers should use with their students, the Boy 1. Two and forty-two hundredths.Equity Project is conducted during a unit onTeacher [academic praise, directed to male student]. Yes, two and forty-twoteaching data investigations to K6 students. For hundredths. [academic praise, directed to male student] I like the way youused and in there, as you were taught.this project, the preservice teachers need to sort, Teacher [high-level question, directed to whole class]. Now what would hap-display, analyze, and describe data just as their K6 pen if I took these chips off?students do in their data investigations. [low-level question, directed to whole class] How would I say that? [academicinformation, directed to the whole class] Thats a little bit different. [low-levelThe taskquestion, directed to female student] Girl 1?Girl 1. Two and four tenths.Elementary preservice teachers teach and, using Teacher [academic praise, directed to female student]. Two and four tenths,either video or audio tape, tape-record a mathemat- good. [high-level question, directed to female student] And why is it two andics lesson for twenty minutes. From this recording, four tenths and not hundredths?they create transcripts of teacher-student discussion.Girl 1. Because you dont have any chips in the hundredths?They then code each sentence from the transcripts Teacher [academic praise, directed to female student]. Thats right. Lets doone more to refresh our memories. [Puts more chips on the board.] [low-levelaccording to the verbal interaction categories cre- question, directed to male student] Okay, Boy 2?ated by Shepardson and Pizzini (1991), which help Boy 2. Three and twenty-five hundredths.identify potential gender inequities: praise, aca-Teacher [academic praise, directed to male student]. Good, three and twenty-demic criticism, nonacademic criticism, questions,five hundredths. [low-level question, directed to whole class] Does everyoneacademic intervention, and information (see figs. 1 agree with that?Whole class. Yes.and 2). The preservice teachers then create a datasummary sheet using a spreadsheet computer pro-gram (see fig. 3, p. 392) and graph the data (see fig.Meganare representative of the thinking that4, p. 394) to represent the verbal interactions thatemerged from the larger group.occur during their lesson. The teachers then analyze Melissa noticed that her classroom managementtheir transcripts as to both the quality and the quan-strategies often enabled boys to receive more sub-tity of the various interactions. This analysis aidsstantive mathematics instruction:the teachers in identifying and interpreting patternsof potential inequitable practice and in creating anAs I reflect on [my classroom managementintervention plan for their teaching behavior.strategies], it becomes clear that the boys whoFor their written report, the preservice teachers were acting out and not being cooperative werebegin by discussing equity in instruction. Next,rewarded with more opportunities for learning!they describe their results and reflect on their analy- I look back over my transcript and realize thatsis. Reflection questions help them focus their dataI tried to manage behavioral issues in the classanalysis discussion (see fig. 5, p. 395, for sample by inviting the disruptive person to the front ofreflection questions).the room and asking [him] a high-level mathquestion. In all cases, the disruptive studentsHidden inequities in teaching that I engaged in high-level questioning weremathematics boys. The boys would stop the negative behav-The Equity Project opens elementary preser- ior and become engaged in math concepts thatvice teachers eyes to their inequitable teaching were being explored. I did not realize that thispractices. Although more than 200 teachers have was rewarding behavior with opportunities tocompleted the project during the last five years, learn math. I rewarded girls [who demonstrated]the insights of three of themMeli...</p>