Julian Weissglass, a professor emeritus in the Department of Education at the Gevirtz School at UC Santa Barbara, has published the chapter “How Many Sides Does a Box Have? The Struggle to Respect Young People’s Thinking” in the recent volume Mapping Equity and Quality in Mathematics Education (Springer 2011). Mapping Equity and Quality in Mathematics Education, edited by Bill Atweh, Mellony Graven, Walter Secada, and Paola Valero, covers a wide variety of topics in the research and practice of mathematics education, demonstrating how equity and quality are inherently political terms whose political bedrock is obscured by them being taken for granted.
The struggle to respect young people’s thinking underlies both the struggle for equity and the struggle for quality in mathematics education. Professor Weissglass’s article discusses what respect for young people’s thinking means, the relationship of respect to equity and quality in mathematics education, and the relationship between lack of respect and student disengagement [or even alienation] from school. Increasing respect for young people is both a personal and societal struggle. This article provides a brief account of both the author’s struggle and society’s struggle with particular attention to the California ‘math wars’ in the late 1990s. Weissglass makes some conjectures based both on the research and his own observations about why it is often challenging for people and institutions to respect young people’s thinking in mathematics and describe how the working conditions of teachers and the lack of respect for teachers contributes to the challenge of respecting young people’s thinking. He also points out that there has been progress over the years in respecting young people’s mathematical thinking.
The article concludes by proposing seven principles that could form the foundation of a strategy for increasing educational institutions’ capacity to respect young people’s thinking.
Julian Weissglass received his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and was a member of the UCSB Mathematics Department for over 30 years, joining the Department of Education in 2001, where he taught courses on educational change, race and ethnicity, U.S. education, and studying and teaching the Holocaust. He has taught mathematics to elementary classes, written about education and educational change, and spoken and led workshops on learning and educational change in the U.S., Europe, Australia, and Mexico. His early career was focused on mathematics research. He has worked extensively doing professional development in mathematics education, receiving more then 14 million dollars in extramural funding over his career. He started the Tri-County Mathematics Project (a site of the California Mathematics Project) in 1983. He was Director of the NSF funded Equity in Mathematics Education Leadership Institute, which developed leadership capacity for equity in mathematics education, and is currently director of the National Coalition for Equity in Education.
[Julian Weissglass is available for interviews; to arrange an interview, contact George Yatchisin at 805 893 5789]
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