Table of Contents

    Cover Story
  • Free A Cauldron of Opposition in Duncan's Hometown

    An Interview with Karen Lewis and Jackson Potter

    translation missing: en.articles.interviewers Bob Peterson

    The new leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union explains how they won and where they're going.

  • Cover Stories
  • The Proving Grounds

    School 'Rheeform' in Washington, D.C.

    Authored By Leigh Dingerson

    Michelle Rhee is the exemplar of Duncan's school "reform." What's really happening to children and teachers in D.C.?

  • California’s Perfect Storm

    Authored By David Bacon

    Last year, demonstrations by students, teachers, parents, and staff erupted throughout California - with the potential to redefine the fight for public education.

  • Book Reviews
  • Free Teacher Layoffs and War

    Edited By the editors of Rethinking Schools
  • Features
  • Free Who Can Stay Here?

    Documentation and citizenship in children’s literature

    Authored By Grace Cornell

    Picture books about immigration and citizenship rarely portray the issues that children from immigrant families face every day. Here is a framework to help teachers choose books and open discussion.

  • Free Deporting Elena’s Father

    Authored By Melissa Bollow Tempel

    The story of one child whose father was deported casts light on a growing crisis.

  • The Other Internment

    Teaching the hidden story of Japanese Latin Americans during WWII

    Authored By Moe Yonamine

    A role play engages students in exploration of a little-known piece of history - the deportation of people of Japanese origin from Latin American countries to U.S. internment camps and back to Japan as POWs.

  • You Are Where You Sit

    Uncovering the lessons of classroom furniture

    Students analyze the impact of different seating arrangements in class, linking issues of power, space, and hierarchy to the world outside.

  • A Social Justice Data Fair

    Questioning the world through math

    Math is at the center of student-generated projects on environmental, social, and political themes.

  • Departments Free
    Action Education
  • Puerto Rican Students Win Major Victory

    Authored By Jody Sokolower
  • Good Stuff
  • Tricksters and Their Opposite

    Authored By Herbert Kohl
  • Review
  • Drop That Knowledge

    Recognizing and unlocking the wisdom of everyday people

  • Resources
  • Our picks for books, videos, websites, and other social justice education resources.

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A Social Justice Data Fair

Questioning the world through math
A Social Justice Data Fair

The gym roars with 50 different conversations. Around the walls, and throughout the room, students stand before their projects. Most are pasted on poster board, others on reused pizza boxes. Over the din, the girls describe their work to fellow students, teachers, and a handful of “willing listeners”—volunteer adults (parents, mostly) who have come to find out what the kids have learned.

Along the back wall, the 5th- and 6th-grade classes present their findings from the school waste audit. The 1st- and 2nd-grade students have studied how hard it is to live on the “welfare diet”—the contents of the average food bank recipient’s weekly allotment—and have created graphs to show what they, and their families, have eaten that week. The older girls have prepared individual projects. Melanie, 7th grade, wondered if children with autism received the same amount of funding as children with other disorders, and her results are strikingly demonstrated on a bar graph. Mi-sun, 9th grade, used a line graph to demonstrate that Korean students, among all nationalities, are most likely to commit suicide. Andrea, 7th grade, used a scatter plot to investigate the correlation between GDP and carbon dioxide emissions. On a table, the results of the 6th-grade class’s collective research is illustrated, with labeled bags of rice offering a three-dimensional representation of what the world eats every day: China has a huge pile; Iceland just a few grains.

The lights flicker on and off, and the conversations die down. “We’re halfway finished,” Michelle calls out. “It’s time to switch! Those of you who were presenting should now listen, and those who were listening should now present!” The noise picks up again.

The Social Justice Data Fair has been held at the Linden School in Toronto for the past several years. It is an opportunity for our math students to use data management skills to study issues they’re concerned about. The fair is an example of how our independent, girl-centered school for students in grades 1 to 12 tries to include topics of social justice in our curriculum. Compared with other Toronto-area private schools, our school is quite culturally diverse, and we enroll students from many nontraditional families. Most of our families support learning math through the lens of social justice. (Parents have commented how much they enjoy having their daughters bring math class conversations to the dinner table.)

We, like all teachers, feel the pressure to cover a packed curriculum in a limited amount of time. In Michelle’s case, data management accounts for only a few expectations in her 7th-grade curriculum—what one would expect to cover in a few classes. Preparing students for the data fair takes several weeks, putting the crunch on other important topics. There is increasing evidence, however, that case studies enable students to form meaningful connections with their mathematics and lead to greater learning—especially for girls. The Ontario curriculum, which we follow, also encourages making real-life connections, and this helps justify our program.

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