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Talking Politics: Valuing Different Perspectives

Dewey’s philosophy has contemporary echoes as well. Robert Moses is a civil rights activist and founder of the Algebra Project, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to raising the academic performance of every child in America, a cause Moses describes as a modern-day civil right for minorities. One of the underlying principles of the Algebra Project is that “people talk” is used to relate math concepts to students. This principle implies that mathematical concepts in general, and algebra in particular, are discussed in language that is natural and intuitive for students before those students are exposed to the technical terms found in textbooks. Analysis of schools using the Algebra Project has shown improvement in test scores; supporters, however, point to the more important result: the perception that inner-city kids are neither interested nor proficient in math has been effectively shot down (Cobb & Moses, 2001).

In my own classroom, I am culturally responsive because I teach in a way that every student can understand. I use student-centered stories, vocabulary, and language. Student-centered stories and language are critical to hooking students’ attention and making them receptive to learning the curriculum and textbook vocabulary. I constantly try to find ways to infuse hip hop, sports, and other student interests without seeming fake. It is important that you connect to your students, but it is even more important to be sincere and be yourself. Students have an innate ability to know when you’re not being yourself.