WitCH 55: Oregonian Dreamin’

It must be something in the water.

This one, with due credit to Bill and Melinda, will be appearing in plenty of right wing snicker-rags in the very near future. It’s really a PoSWW. However, given the previous (and much more important) post, we decided to make it a companion blivit-WitCH. (As well, we’re working on another post on this stuff, in defense of it.)

Courtesy of the Oregon Department of Education, teachers there are being offered a “micro-course” on Equitable Math Instruction. More specific links are below. Good luck, and Good God.


1. Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction

2. Fostering Deep Understanding

3. Creating Conditions to Thrive (zip file)

4. Connecting Critical Intersections

5. Sustaining Equitable Practice

Whole Course (zip file)



23 Replies to “WitCH 55: Oregonian Dreamin’”

  1. I read the first document “A pathway…”. Once I put aside my initial gut reaction, I tried to read it dispassionately. The general ideas are sound and I am sure that sensitive teachers try to be inclusive in the material they present.

    I get annoyed by superficial efforts in this regard. I saw an exercise once about a person parachuting out of a plane. In part (a) the jumper was referred to as “she”. Again in part (b). By the time we got to part (c) it was back to “he”. My student suggested perhaps we should write “it”.

    I have seen an interesting argument about Australian Curriculum: Mathematics. The argument goes like this. In AC, the basic mathematical notion is number; we build from there. Yet, I gather that in Aboriginal cultures, the basic mathematical notion is “relationship”.

    In public examinations, questions are often framed in some realistic context. But is this context equally realistic for all candidates, no matter where they live?

    When I sat for the LANTITE test on literacy, we were asked questions about a slab of text. In the middle of the text, was a section in Latin. Was that inclusive?

    I have seen funny mathematical problems with a Russian flavour. Vladimir and Alexis have 5 bottles of vodka etc.

    There is a lot to be said in favour of purely mathematical problems that don’t introduce extraneous factors.

    Reading the document “A pathway…” made me think about my own teaching (or as the document says “self-reflect”).

    1. Well said, TM.

      “There is a lot to be said in favour of purely mathematical problems that don’t introduce extraneous factors.”

      TM, there is indeed a lot to be said. The growing momentum for inclusive language (and a precedent setting test case at some point?) will surely push VCAA down this path.


      As for the pronouns that such questions (such as your jumper) will require:

      Gender Pronouns

      The world’s getting more complicated by the day. Let’s see VCAA (and textbooks) write their idiotic contextual question(s) without it becoming a cause celebre and a possible precedent setting test case at some stage … It will be much easier for VCAA, textbooks and others to just stick to the maths, the whole maths and nothing but the maths. (Particularly once the dinosaurs at VCAA and the VCAA-stooges have been hit by an asteroid).

      Re: “I have seen an interesting argument about Australian Curriculum: Mathematics. The argument goes like this. In AC, the basic mathematical notion is number; we build from there. Yet, I gather that in Aboriginal cultures, the basic mathematical notion is “relationship”.”

      I have no answer to this except the observation that mathematics in Western culture is currently the dominant mathematical paradigm (I’m sure many theses could and have been written about this). I’ll say no more (and hopefully be thought a fool rather than be confirmed as one).

      1. Often gender-neutral language can be achieved through rewriting a sentence rather than using gimmicks such as s/he. Take for example the problem above about parachuting. The problem could have started out with “Jane has taken up parachuting.” Then we are off on the right foot.

        Re-writing sentences this way does take time and thought – but it can be an interesting challenge.

        Chess books almost always refer to a player as “he”.

        1. Re: Interesting challenge. Indeed. And only a fool would walk that challenge – slip once and the ‘inclusivity pushers’ will be on you like a pit bull on a poodle. Would VCAA and others be dumb enough to try? Or will VCAA et al take the pragmatic path towards “purely mathematical problems that don’t introduce extraneous factors.” I think VCAA et al might fancy themselves as leading paragons of virtuous social progression (they’re sanctimonious about everything else) so it might be interesting to watch …

          So it will be interesting to see this social effect on assessments, textbooks etc. in the coming years. Maybe as well all the other useless vettors, there will also be an ‘inclusivity vettor’ …?

          The enemy of my enemy is my friend …?

          1. I wrote part of a textbook once (not in Victoria… well, it was meant to be published here as well, but…) and was given a list of names to use in worded questions. I still have no idea whether some of them were male or female.

            So racial/cultural inclusivity was a big consideration for this multi-national publisher a decade ago at least.

            Does that mean all teachers need to make the push as well? I would argue no but school principals sometimes have other ideas!

            1. Racial/cultural/self-identification will probably be the next big educational frontier. The lead will be taken, as always, by the social engineers, not field experts.

              1. Genuine curiosity: where do said social engineers get their power/influence from?

                Some of the recent changes I do understand, mostly I try to avoid it (seems the safest route most of the time)

        2. In the VCE Physics exam they will often have reasoning questions where a question outlines conflicting views of two or more individuals. Students are required to identify which individual has the correct view and justify this with reference to the relevant theory.

          Until it was pointed out by the Chief Assessor to the exam writers, the girl always had the correct opinion. So students could, until recently, get one mark simply by identifying the girl as having the correct opinion without any understanding of why.

          For the curious: https://youtu.be/wRlbl2WaOfM?t=9515

          1. Reverse discrimination gone mad. Blatant VCAA gender discrimination. If I had the time, I’d contact the media, take VCAA to VCAT, ask for heads to roll, demand the VCAA examination unit and all its goons undergo extensive gender inclusiveness professional development etc. …. But I suppose because it’s the males that look like dumb-asses this sort of discrimination is OK.

            But apparently it’s bad because it makes the question simple. And the solution is to use gender-neutral names like Sam … I wonder what VCAA’s answer would be if interrogated on what gender Sam identifies with … I hope the ‘inclusivity pushers’ start nailing VCAA’s hide to the wall.

            Either these sorts of idiotic questions will disappear or all hell could break lose the minute the girl is the dumb-ass. The can of worms is large and there’s lot of worms inside it … There is absolutely no need for these stupid ‘he thinks, she thinks, sie thinks, zie thinks’ questions.

            1. JF, I don’t see any way this kind of awfulness is going to disappear. Kids are being taught to be precious and narcissistic, and teachers are being instructed to respect that preciousness and narcissism. And, at the same time teachers are instructed to further this poisoning, they are learning they should damn well fear it. Loyalty tests every fucking minute of the day.

              1. And yet teachers still turn up every day and try to deliver whatever is being defined as a curriculum these days…

                Personally, I try to treat the whole issue like STEM/STEAM/STEMM/WTF – just keep my mouth shut and hope it goes away one day.

                I call it the Donald Trump COVID approach.

                1. What can be more depressing than teachers – teachers, for fuck’s sake – deciding that the best/safest/only thing they can do is keep their mouths shut? What lessons are being learned? And why, then, would anyone think this snowball of self-righteous idiocy is ever going to shrink?

                  1. Marty, I was once young and stupid. Now I’m just stupid.

                    Once every few years I voice an opinion in a teacher forum and sometimes I even ask if others will support my assertions when I know very well they agree with me.

                    It is a bit tiring to be the only head that pokes above the wall which then gets to see the blank faces of others as the “righteous” as they are here named spout their opinions as though they were facts.

                    I’ll try again this year, perhaps, but when others say nothing, you tend to feel a bit like a Republican Senator who just voted to convict Trump. Nowhere near as bad of course!

                    1. RF, I wasn’t for a minute attacking you. You’d be an idiot to not shut up. Alas, I’m an idiot.

                    2. Sorry RF, I feel partly to blame for this. I don’t go to these teacher forums because they are a load of bullshit that consistently “gloss over or cover up vices, crimes or scandals [and] … exonerate by means of a biased presentation of data” and evasive answering of questions.

                      Maybe we should team up and raise hell at one of these useless things … (I’m hoping there’ll be some sort of forum before the new Mathematics Stupid Design is rubber stamped, but not holding my breath). I’ll bring the pitch fork if you bring the rope.

                    3. Thanks Marty et al; I think I’ve had my fill of MAV events for a long time… but hey, why not do the same thing and expect a different outcome…?

                      Unfortunately, the problem also occurs within schools, not just between them, when you try to stand up to a principal about (for example) their attitude that students always do better in mixed-ability classes (according to Hattie).

                    4. Principals are politicians and they are both like little children – attracted to bright shiny things, which get dropped the moment a new bright shiny thing comes along.

                      Research conducted on mixed-ability teaching (among other things) is generally conducted by researchers who are far from disinterested. Someone I know once said about research in all social sciences: “Tell me the conclusions you want, and I’ll find you the research”. But to argue against ‘mixed-ability’ classes is to ignore the clarion call from the radical left ‘inclusivity pushers’ …

                      I’ve found the following very interesting reading:

                      Why I Am Against Mixed Ability: Part 1

                      Why I Am Against Mixed Ability: Part 2

  2. TM touched on this, but something I always think when I see this stuff come up (it gained a lot of popularity in the US a couple of years ago) is that this is a kind of self-manufactured problem. Let’s say you want to teach students to solve

        \[12\times 3\]

    You might simply go ahead and teach them without any particular reference to a real-world interpretation of this equation. But then, that would be *boring*, and wouldn’t exactly fit what we all want in terms of *numeracy*. And what does this abstract equation mean, anyway? What can students hold on to?

    OK, so then we have things like: “A baker has three dozen eggs. How many eggs does he have total?” Students need to think about how much a dozen is and interpret what the question is asking before any calculation. Sometimes students don’t even write down

        \[12\times 3\]

    . When I was in school, we were sometimes “tricked” by being asked about a “Baker’s dozen”. If you didn’t spot this, then you had little chance of getting the right answer.

    Over the years we have seen people argue about this from both sides. But the side that is winning is the one that wants to move further into the realm of setting up elaborate contexts which students must decode before being able to understand what calculation they are being asked to perform. Now it has been noticed that some bias of whoever is writing these questions comes in (in whatever form). Maybe all the bakers are boys, or they are all white, or if there are vegan students (or vegan parents of students!) who may not like talking about eggs. Who knows.

    Yes, we can try to “fix” this by using more neutral language, for example. If it were up to me though, I’d simply fix it by returning to talking about 12\times 3 in the first place, and not worry about bakers and their eggs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 128 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here