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Equity: One of our guiding principles

Author: Luc Goudreault | Publish on June 19, 2020

Last year, my friend Sunil Singh (@MathGarden) published an article on Medium entitled “Equity in Math Education: It is a Journey not a Destination.”

In the article, Sunil took care to explain that Scolab (creator of Netmath and Buzzmath) had made the decision to include a new principle in its mission: equity. But what exactly do we mean by “principle”?

Each person or group of people can adopt a mission that embodies its principles. Put simply, a principle is a concept that serves as the basis for making decisions, and gives them a coherent framework. As Stephen R. Covey has argued, success is not achieved in a day. It is built little by little, on the basis of just and immutable principles.

In business, there are three factors that limit a project: budget, scope, and delay. In one of our last projects, which was a review of our geometric constructions in the form of a demonstration video, we put one of our teams in a tough situation because these three factors were very limited. As a result, they couldn’t include other members of the team or use external resources.

On our first viewing of one of the video demonstrations, we saw right away what we’d done. The project objective was completely out of sync with our principle of equity. We had to face the fact that a principle isn’t something you can just turn on or off. We couldn’t deliver the project as it stood, so we asked ourselves: “What do we do?”

Before answering this question, I had a brief exchange with Dr. Kristopher J. Childs (@DrKChilds), who had been introduced to me by Mary Kemper (@MrsKemper)—thanks, Mary!! Kris is a US leader in the inclusion of equity and social injustice in math education. I started by reminding him of what he’d told me the first time we met: “It’s time for the Caucasian community to take action in order for this principle to be integrated into our society.” I told him that for us, the important thing is for all our students to be able to recognize themselves as mathematicians on our platform. Kris answered that I’d identified the “why” of this principle and that it was our duty to make it a reality in our projects.

As soon as our discussion was over, we put out a call on our social networks. We got over 20 responses in just a few hours. Our “why” had resonated. At the blink of an eye, we had our 3 students from different cultures, a Maghrebian, a Haitian and an Iranian:

  • Baya Zitouni Villeneuve, 10 years old, Grade 4
  • Enzo Fortier, 11 years old, Grade 5
  • Sobhan Ebrahimi, 12 years old, Grade 6

They were extraordinary! Not only did they help us make our principle of equity resonate, they all expressed pride in the idea that, thanks to them, students from different cultures would be able to recognize themselves as mathematicians through our videos. After all, it’s not every day that you have the opportunity to contribute to the inclusion of equity in math education for hundreds of thousands of students around the world! Thanks again, from the bottom of our hearts, to Baya, Enzo and Sobhan as well as to their families for having devoted themselves to this wonderful project.

“Equity in mathematics: It is a journey, not a destination.”

– Sunil Singh

At Scolab, we decided to be learners along this entire journey and to commit to applying the principle of equity. We decided to stop and talk about it, even when it was uncomfortable. We decided to be authentic and vulnerable in our approach and in sharing our experiences with you.

During this project, we were reminded that:

  • It’s sometimes difficult but necessary to advocate our principles.
  • The solution is often simpler than we imagine.
  • We are lucky to be supported by a gold-standard math community.

We can never thank you enough for your show of openness, which has bolstered us in our belief that we must address head on the subjects we hold dear, such as equity.

What about you? What principles guide you and allow you to imagine a better world?

P.S. If you’d also like to participate in the inclusion of equity through kindness, I’d recommend you read the following:

  • Where Do We Go From Here – by Martin Luther King Jr.
  • White Fragility – by Robin DiAngelo
  • Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life – by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg

A special thank you to Athlene (@AthleneWhyte), who always answers all my questions with such authenticity and sound judgement. Our discussions have really helped me change and better understand the social injustice around diversity and injustice. Thank you, my friend!

1. Stephen R Covey, Les 7 habitudes de ceux qui réalisent tout ce qu’ils entreprennent (Paris-France: Éditions J’AI LU, 2012).

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