Monday, May 11, 2009


When I first started this course, I was one of those wide eyed bushy tailed teacher to be. I only knew a little about the education system. When I heard about an inner city/urban class, I thought to myself, it would not have a huge impact on the way I view the school system today. But throughout the semester, whether forced or whatever it might be, I did the readings and listened to people's points of views. It was rather interesting conversation as good points were made on the topic of the moment.

I think looking back on the project and also the walking tour, it gave me something more tangible. As I visited Newark and toured the schools, I just saw a different side of Newark than what I normally see, such as the airport. I went with a lot of stereotypes and negative stigmas. To my surprise there were a lot of good signs of change for the city. The project connected better when I saw Newark in person. I think in general actually visiting and driving around Newark helps bring some things into perspective.

It is disheartening to hear how broken the education system is, at the same time it is encouraging to read stories such the book Spectacular Things, that make you realize that there is always an opening for change. The children in urban communities are just as intelligent as any other child. They just need to be provided the opportunity. It will be interesting to see where I wind up as a teacher, but I will have more awareness and knowledge. I hope I can be a teacher that can make a difference.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Summary of Findings


As we have discovered in this curriculum inquiry project, Social Justice Math can invert a curriculum that has become compressed and narrowed by restrictions such as teaching to the test. As with all well-written and executed lessons, a math lesson that incorporates real-world issues of concern with advanced mathematics applications and critical-thinking skills puts the students in the driver’s seat. More student-directed learning rather than teacher-directed is the direction classrooms should be heading.

Although we had every intention of creating a Social Justice Math lesson from something we wanted to investigate within the boundaries of Newark, we were open to all possibilities. As we toured the city, a small nugget of an idea began to form and grow. We had just begun our research on Social Justice Math, and would soon come to realize that the process of exploration and discovery that we experienced that afternoon in Newark was exactly how a good Social Justice Math lesson or unit should be constructed. There must certainly be the bones of an organizational plan in place to implement the lesson or unit, but students are encouraged to develop thoughtful inquiry questions to steer the direction of the project. With that in mind, outcomes cannot be preplanned or scripted.

Professor Miller noted there is much resistance to Social Justice Math on the part of classroom teachers, particularly due to their inclination to stay neutral and apolitical in the math class, or any class, for that matter. He spoke of sports statistics, commonly used in math classes, to make an excellent point. “If you use those applications, which are good and valuable, you’re missing that component in math that says to the students that this math has relevance in your life – not because it is about topics that occur in your life, but because this math can help you in areas of mathematics in your life.”

Thursday, May 7, 2009



The purpose of this project was to examine how Social Justice Math can help students in urban school districts make real-world connections between the mandated curriculum, and issues and topics of need and concern in their own communities. The goal of Social Justice Math is to help students not only become more aware of the needs of their community through units of study such as this, but to become agents of change themselves. We selected Newark as our target community, and began our project with a walking tour of the city and neighborhoods encompassing several of its public high schools. Our tour, recorded in the form of field notes, revealed that the type of stores, businesses and services readily available to Newark citizens was severely limited in the poorer neighborhoods. This particular disparity between neighborhoods gave rise to a lesson plan and unit analyzing community businesses and services in poorer neighborhoods of Newark, and drawing comparisons to more affluent communities. Using SJM can enable students to “read their world” and develop creative solutions to real problems.

What I've learned...

I've learned that math can be taught in many ways that can be fun and innovative. There can't be any excuses of how math cannot be taught to students. Social justice math, SJM, is a great way to teach children from any background. This technique not only teaches students mathematics, but also connects them more to their community. As we have seen in the last book we read, students do want change. They have also shown great ability when provided the opportunity.
SJM allows students to have a chance to identify the problem as a group and work together to find a solution. Students were much more engaged in the classroom but more importantly they took ownership and felt empowered.

Throughout our walking tour, we really found opportunities and situations that would fit into SJM and would create great lessons for students. It was really important for us to go down to Newark and see the city for ourselves. We all know that Newark has some poor performing schools. I hope that SJM can be used as a solution towards improving math performance and bring it closer to their lives.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Online Assignment

In Unequal Childhoods, many families from many different socioeconomic statuses were described and analyzed. We go one step further to check if these families could live in Essex County. After looking over the self-sufficiency wages in the NJRCL, it looks as though families such as the Tallingers, Williams, Marshalls, and Handlons that are middle class are well off enough to live in NJ pretty much unchanged.

However, families such as the Brindles, Mc Allisters, and Taylors might not be so lucky. The annual self-sufficiency wage shows that families need to make about $39,299 and up to $61,017 for single parent homes. The three families previously mentioned would have a tough time surviving in Essex County.

Unfortunately, I believe that there will need to be some hard decisions to be made. Take the Mc Allisters for example, they go through rough spells in terms of food. Living in Essex County might make this problem worse and lead to malnutrition and the consumption of fatty processed foods. These families will also have to live in the bigger cities such has Newark. From my walking tour in Newark, there was plenty of public transportation to get around. Necessities such as grocery stores were in relatively close distances. A major concern would also be the crime. Although, crime rates have slowly dropped over the years, that still has to be a major concern for the parents.

LSNJ paints a grim picture for those living in poverty. As I mentioned earlier, families of poverty who want to live in Essex County might have to live in cities such as Newark. While the Federal Poverty Level is at $17,600, to live in Essex County, it takes $39,299, which is a little over double! New Jersey is outrageously expensive! Reports show that Newark has an income inadequacy rate of 44 percent. To add on to the bad news, the average median household income for New Jersey is $55,146 from the census of 2000, the average median household income for Essex County was reported to be $44,944. The self-sufficient hourly wage ranges from $18.61-28.89.

These findings don’t bode to well for the families in Unequal Childhoods if they were to live in Essex County. For one thing, any and all extra curricular activities would have to be stopped immediately. They might have to decide which bills to be now and later. There might be more frequent nights without food. Children won’t get the opportunity to try out or pursue interests such as sports. Their busy schedules will have a lot more free time open up. Free time is not necessarily a bad thing. It might help the kids be more independent.

These reports are just eye opening. The deeper I look at the numbers; it blows me away. I have lived my whole life in New Jersey, but after this I definitely question whether I truly know New Jersey and all of its deeper darker secrets. This information puts things in better perspectives.
As a future teacher, especially with the potential to work in an urban area, its important to know more about where the students come and the road they took to get to where they are now. One way to start that is to engage with the students and teach in a manner that relates to them as people. I also would need to do more research on the background of the urban district that I teach at, so I know what the current issues are. The more I know about the community, the more I can be proactive in it. In doing so, a natural result is trust in the community.

This goes back to the inquiry project that Mark, and Rose Ellen are working on. One way in helping students in math is to bring application back to mathematics. We connect mathematics and the community. This type of curriculum has shown to engage students.It no longer becomes math as this difficult abstract task, but more as a tool to bring more awareness to the community.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Introduction to the Inquiry Project

Over the years research has shown that urban schools are not performing well. With the introduction of No Child Left Behind, schools are not kept more accountable for the education of the children. Urban schools have shown to struggle greatly in academic performance. As No Child Left Behind has been policing these schools, the schools have changed their curriculum to focus more on getting better standardized test grades. The children are no longer getting a proper education, but rather ones that will help the school stay out of trouble, and any punishment that comes along with it.

Our project presents a new perspective in teaching mathematics. It is a curriculum that has high hopes of engaging students as they learn mathematics. Social justice mathematics is an innovative way of connecting math to the student and student to the community. It is our hope that social justice math can not only teach a child mathematics, but educate them about the real world as well.

Post Reading After Thoughts

After reading the chapters, and going through discussion I noticed a lot of nature vs nurture differences. Looking at the perspective of middle class child vs poor child, just really made me think. Middle class parents are so involved and almost to the point of suffocating a child with things to do, giving that child no chance to get into any mischief but rather almost try to create the perfect human. The lower class family showed me that they let children do what they want and learn by nature and experience. Granted that parents might be working all the time, resulting in children having all this free time, but regardless, the child still does what he wants. Middle class children feel entitlement, and more often voice their opinion. They seem to try and negotiate with adults while lower class children just get yelled at and obey what the adult tells them.

Classes will always be full of diversity. Knowing how children are raised can bring awareness of how to handle a classroom and more importantly an individual. The child's economic status does not necessarily mean that they are not as intelligent, but as a teacher I need to realize that kids are different and may need to be reached out in a different light.