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Anti-racist mathematics

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The issue of anti-racism in mathematics teaching has been the topic of some research, and there are supporters of education reform who promote an anti-bias curriculum to counter a perceived bias in mathematical education.[1] These works claim that there is a sociocultural context to mathematical education and suggest that the study of mathematics in Western societies has traditionally exhibited racial or cultural bias.[2]

The problem created by this bias from teachers in education in the western societies effects students of the non dominant race. These students may not be getting the quality education that they deserve when teachers have a preconceived notion about what these students already know or do not know.[3]

While Western mathematicians often claim Western mathematics is universal, anti-racist mathematics and ethnomathematics scholars share the assumption that any given mathematical understanding or practice is a product of a particular culture.[4] Scholars such as C. K. Raju have advocated multicultural mathematics, in which different cultures can develop different forms of mathematics.


Further information: Ethnomathematics

Anti-racist mathematics education is primarily concerned with the way in which mathematics is taught, although it also examines the contents of the curriculum in as much as this might reasonably differ from universally acceptable mathematical education.[citation needed] An anti-racist approach to mathematics education could include any or all of the following:

  • Discussion of the mathematical knowledge of ancient civilizations outside of Europe, and non-European contributions to mathematical knowledge and discovery.
  • The avoidance of racial stereotypes or cultural bias in classroom materials, textbooks, coursework topics and examination questions. For example, common non-European names, such as Chaim (Jewish), Jamal (Arabic), or Muhammed (Islamic), could be used in story problems, rather than common European names, like Mary or Emily.

The article "The Politics of Antiracist Mathematics" by George Gheverghese Joseph goes through many different assumptions made by teachers of mathematics that can have a negative effect on students of a minority race.[3]

Academic imperalismEdit

Indian mathematician and polymath C. K. Raju has coined the term "academic imperialism" to describe what he perceives as the Western academic system's suppression of non-Western mathematical ideas.[5] He pointed out the contradiction in Western mathematicians' claim that modern mathematics is a universal language, yet of Greek origin.[6] He argued that modern Western mathematics is built on two-valued logic, and would not work under a different logical system like the quasi-truth functional logic of Buddhism, and the logic of quantum mechanics may be quasi truth-functional.[7]

European appropriation of non-European ideasEdit

C. K. Raju has argued that the Catholic Church has systematically appropriated mathematical knowledge from Muslim, Hindu, Persian and Arab sources, then gave these ideas a theologically correct Greek origin.[8] Some elements of calculus were developed in India 250 years before Newton and Leibniz made their independent discoveries.[9] C. K. Raju argued that calculus was imported to Europe from India by Jesuit missionaries in order to calculate trigonometric values which were in great demand for the Mercator chart which was indispensable for European navigation.[10]


Former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher made reference to anti-racist mathematics in expressing opposition to "multicultural" and "anti-racist" educational approaches.[11] In her address to the Conservative Party Conference in October 1987, she said inner city children's opportunities for decent education were being "snatched away from them by hard-left education authorities" and that "children who need to be able to count and multiply are learning anti-racist mathematics, whatever that is."[12] In 2005, Liza Porteus of Fox News reported that an "anti-racist education" program in the Newton Public Schools district of the wealthy Newton, Massachusetts community angered some parents, who perceived the program to focus more on political correctness than mathematics itself.[13]

Further readingEdit

  • Woodrow, D. (1989). Multicultural and anti-racist mathematics teaching. In P. Ernest (Ed.), Mathematics teaching: The state of the art (pp. 229–235). London: Falmer.
  • Cotton, A. (1990). Anti-racist mathematics teaching and the national curriculum. Mathematics Teaching, 132, 22-26.
  • Levidow, L. (1987). Racism in scientific innovation. In D. Gill and L. Levidow (Eds.), Anti-racist science teaching (pp. 43–58). London: Free Association.
  • Vance, M. (1987). Biology teaching in a racist society. In D. Gill and L. Levidow (Eds.), Anti-racist science teaching. (pp. 107–123). London: Free Association.
  • Young, R. M. (1987). Racist society, racist science. In D. Gill and L. Levidow (Eds.), Anti-racist science teaching. (pp. 16–42). London: Free Association.
  • Mears, T. (1986). Multicultural and anti-racist approaches to the teaching of science in schools. In J. Guadara, C. Jones and K. Kimberley (Eds.), Racism, diversity and education (pp. 154–166). London: Hodder and Stoughton.
  • The Politics of Anti-Racist Mathematics in Proceedings of the First International Conference on Political Dimensions of Mathematics Education, (Ed. R. Noss), Institute of Education Publications, University of London, 1990.
  • The Politics of Anti-Racist Mathematics, European Education Journal, July 1994, pp. 67–74
  • Harding, Sandra. The Science Question in Feminism. 1986.


  1. Ending Academic Imperialism: a Beginning, C. K. Raju
  2. Is Science Western in Origin?, C. K. Raju
  3. 3.0 3.1 Gheverghese, George (2010). The Politics of Anti-Racism Mathematics: 67-73.
  4. Contact, Carl Sagan
  6. History of Mathematics, Rouse Ball
  7. Zeroism and Calculus without Limits, C. K. Raju, 2008
  9. Calculus created in India 250 years before Newton: study - Technology & Science - CBC News
  10. Zeroism and Calculus without limits, C. K. Raju
  11. George Gheverghese Joseph (Spring 1994). The Politics of Anti-Racist Mathematics. European Education 26 (1): 67–74.
  12. Quoted from King, Anna S. (1993). The Multicultural Dimension of the National Curriculum, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, England.
  13. includeonly>Porteus, Liza. "'Anti-Racist' Message in Mass. Math Class", Fox News, 2005-02-08. Retrieved on 2008-07-26.

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