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Includes an overview of culturally-responsive teaching, lesson plans, and a rubric to evaluate your lessons against equity standards.

Culturally Responsive Teaching Overview

Coined by Geneva Gay and built off the work of Gloria Ladson-Billings, culturally responsive teaching is a pedagogical approach that focuses on affirming and leveraging students’ individuality to make meaningful connections to their cultures and experiences and improve the learning capacity of students who have been marginalized educationally.

Key Characteristics of Culturally Responsive Teaching

Representation

  • Your curriculum contributes towards creating a space in which students are exposed to a diversity of cultures and identities and feel seen in their differences.
  • Representation is more than just a token gesture in which white male characters are swapped out for BIPOC or female characters. Your curriculum actively pushes back against negative narratives about people of color and other marginalized groups.

Power & Participation

  • Students don't feel like they have to choose between their cultures and the perceived culture of power1 in order to participate in your classroom. Your curriculum provides ample opportunities for you to get to know your students, for your students to get to know you, and for your students to get to know each other.
  • Your curriculum communicates to your students that the authority of math knowledge does not solely reside in you. Your lessons are student-centered and actively provide opportunities for students to see each other as thought partners from whom they can learn.
  • Students have a stake in choosing how they learn and how they demonstrate their understanding. This cultivates a higher investment of interest and motivation.

Relevance

  • In order to make learning relevant, you need to have a good sense of who your students are. Parents and families often get a bad rap in the education sector, but they carry immense “funds of knowledge”2 and can be one of the greatest resources to understanding your students and the world they experience.
  • Your curriculum uses your students' cultural experiences as a foundation upon which to develop knowledge and skills. Content learned in this way is more significant to the students and facilitates the transfer of what is learned in school to real-life situations.

Cognitive Demand

  • Culturally responsive teaching is not about watering down the curriculum and making it “easier.” Setting high expectations communicates to your students that they can master challenging material and meet learning goals through effective effort.
  • A culture of high expectations demands high levels of support and trust. You take on the role of a warm demander who "expects a great deal of your students, convinces them of their own brilliance, and helps them to reach their potential in a disciplined and structured environment."3

Academic Language Support for English Language Learners

  • Your curriculum consistently employs strategies that work to remove language barriers that limit English language learners from grasping meaning and actively participating in learning activities and discussions.

Culturally Responsive Teaching Mindset in Math

We're just going to keep it real because this probably isn't a surprise to you: culturally responsive teaching is no easy task, and when you take on the added challenge of incorporating it into math instruction, things get even more difficult.

So while there needs to be a sense of urgency, it’s important to be kind to yourself as you craft and refine your teaching practice. It’s also important to look at this as an upfront investment that will not only benefit your students, but also benefit you. When you invest time into designing a curriculum that relates to and captures your students’ interests, you minimize the occurrence of “misbehavior” in your classroom, which is really just behavior in response to a negative experience.

Another important element to consider is how you define math for yourself and your students. The notion that math is a universal, objective language can be misleading. Technically speaking, math is objective; however, the context in which we apply it can be subjective and obscuring.

Rather than thinking about math as a language, think about it as an alphabet - an aggregate of letters, numbers, and symbols that can be strung together to derive new meaning and used to defend, persuade, challenge, and even manipulate accepted truths.

It’s often said that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Similarly, math is in the mind of the beholder. Students mastering their ABC’s in math means students developing a toolkit that empowers them to better understand their world and challenge the status quo.

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