Teaching postsecondary mathematics with a social justice orientation means teaching mathematics as if race, class, and gender mattered. In teaching math to nurses who had come back to school for credentialing, I discovered that my students were intelligent and competent, but found math the way it was traditionally taught an impossible struggle. I learned to use what I called the hidden curriculum, the context for how we teach and what we use to illustrate our subject matter, to be sure all students felt included, and to create what I called the “riskable classroom,” that is, a safe place for students to risk doing mathematics. I now work with the Pathways Program of the Carnegie Foundation, which is designed to address the fact that sixty to seventy percent of students entering community college are assigned to developmental math courses and, of those students, only twenty percent will get past this gatekeeping course. The consequence is that each year, 500,000 students entering community colleges will never complete their college math requirement and thus not be able to continue their education toward a college degree. That this is a social justice issue is apparent when we see that people of color, women, and working-class people are overrepresented among these students.

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