Strategies For Teaching Black Kids Math

Marcus Blakeney, Louisville, KY

This past February, I had the opportunity to participate in an Ignite Talk at the CPM National Conference. I proudly proclaimed, “I’m also a Black male math teacher.” When you start to think about it, I only represent 7% of the teaching population, but I learned that 53% of our kids are the minorities. Our students look a lot like me. I also proclaimed, “I love teaching math and I am very passionate about sharing that with my students. I embrace the diversity every day when I walk into my school and I walk into my classroom.”

In the same weekend of my Ignite Talk, the president of NCTM wrote a blog that asked, “How do you teach Black kids math?” I thought to myself, “Wait a minute. My undergrad program did not prepare me…” So, how do we do it?

I will share three strategies for addressing, “How do I teach Black kids math?” First, we want to become transparent in the learning goals and tasks with our students. Consider these questions: Where is this going? Why am I doing this? How is this relevant to what we are currently doing in our math classrooms? Where is the contextual evidence? Implementing the CPM
curriculum will provide a foundation for us to address these questions but it is our role to forwardly state the answer to our students throughout the year.

Next, relationships matter. Now I am going to say it: you have to like kids. You have to like Black kids. When we build positive relationships with our students in the classroom, students know we care about them. When students know they matter in our classroom, our students, especially our Black students, will continue to excel personally and academically. When this type of growth occurs within our students, they can start to become agents of change within their community and in the classroom.

Finally, when teaching our content, especially with our Black students (who often do not see themselves in math), we need to have fun. Many students come into our classrooms with their own personal trauma and look to us as a source of escape or to provide coping mechanisms. We have to laugh. When we are building that community by doing team building activities and icebreakers, it is okay to smile. It is okay to smile at your kids because it may make a difference in their day.

So I am going to ask you a question to think about. When your Black students walk into your classroom, who do you see? Do you see mathematicians? Do you see agents of change? Do you see math? Or when you look at them, do you see another black face? As you begin to think about that question, reflect on your own practice. Have difficult conversations with your colleagues. It is okay to be uncomfortable. But when you acknowledge that belief, you then begin to start changing practices while also changing the students you teach. It is essential for our Black students to be able to see themselves as math students.

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Algebra Tiles Blue Icon

Algebra Tiles Session

  • Used throughout CPM middle and high school courses
  • Concrete, geometric representation of algebraic concepts.
  • Two-hour virtual session,
  •  Learn how students build their conceptual understanding of simplifying algebraic expressions
  • Solving equations using these tools.  
  • Determining perimeter,
  • Combining like terms,
  • Comparing expressions,
  • Solving equations
  • Use an area model to multiply polynomials,
  • Factor quadratics and other polynomials, and
  • Complete the square.
  • Support the transition from a concrete (manipulative) representation to an abstract model of mathematics..

Foundations for Implementation

This professional learning is designed for teachers as they begin their implementation of CPM. This series contains multiple components and is grounded in multiple active experiences delivered over the first year. This learning experience will encourage teachers to adjust their instructional practices, expand their content knowledge, and challenge their beliefs about teaching and learning. Teachers and leaders will gain first-hand experience with CPM with emphasis on what they will be teaching. Throughout this series educators will experience the mathematics, consider instructional practices, and learn about the classroom environment necessary for a successful implementation of CPM curriculum resources.

Page 2 of the Professional Learning Progression (PDF) describes all of the components of this learning event and the additional support available. Teachers new to a course, but have previously attended Foundations for Implementation, can choose to engage in the course Content Modules in the Professional Learning Portal rather than attending the entire series of learning events again.

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Building on Instructional Practice Series

The Building on Instructional Practice Series consists of three different events – Building on Discourse, Building on Assessment, Building on Equity – that are designed for teachers with a minimum of one year of experience teaching with CPM instructional materials and who have completed the Foundations for Implementation Series.

Building on Equity

In Building on Equity, participants will learn how to include equitable practices in their classroom and support traditionally underserved students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Essential questions include: How do I shift dependent learners into independent learners? How does my own math identity and cultural background impact my classroom? The focus of day one is equitable classroom culture. Participants will reflect on how their math identity and mindsets impact student learning. They will begin working on a plan for Chapter 1 that creates an equitable classroom culture. The focus of day two and three is implementing equitable tasks. Participants will develop their use of the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Meaningful Mathematical Discussions and curate strategies for supporting all students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Participants will use an equity lens to reflect on and revise their Chapter 1 lesson plans.

Building on Assessment

In Building on Assessment, participants will apply assessment research and develop methods to provide feedback to students and inform equitable assessment decisions. On day one, participants will align assessment practices with learning progressions and the principle of mastery over time as well as write assessment items. During day two, participants will develop rubrics, explore alternate types of assessment, and plan for implementation that supports student ownership. On the third day, participants will develop strategies to monitor progress and provide evidence of proficiency with identified mathematics content and practices. Participants will develop assessment action plans that will encourage continued collaboration within their learning community.

Building on Discourse

In Building on Discourse, participants will improve their ability to facilitate meaningful mathematical discourse. This learning experience will encourage participants to adjust their instructional practices in the areas of sharing math authority, developing independent learners, and the creation of equitable classroom environments. Participants will plan for student learning by using teaching practices such as posing purposeful questioning, supporting productive struggle, and facilitating meaningful mathematical discourse. In doing so, participants learn to support students collaboratively engaged with rich tasks with all elements of the Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices incorporated through intentional and reflective planning.