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Welcome fellow Recovering Traditionalists to Episode 102.  Today we are looking at the Equity & Access sessions at the 2021 Virtual Math Summit.

Welcome to Build Math Minds the podcast, where fidelity to your students is greater than fidelity to your textbook. I’m your host, Christina Tondevold, the recovering traditionalist and Founder, where my mission is to change the way we teach elementary math to our kiddos. Are you ready to start building math minds and not just creating calculators? Let’s get started.

This week is another preview week of some sessions at the 2021 Virtual Math Summit.  There are lots of sessions in the summit that give ideas to help ensure equity and access in the classroom, but two of them are specifically focused on that idea.  I intentionally put these two sessions as our opening and closing session for the 2021 Virtual Math Summit because I want to help ensure it is forefront in everyone’s minds as we go into the other sessions and to wrap up the summit as a reminder before everyone ‘leaves’ the summit.

The 2021 Virtual Math Summit is completely virtual so it’s not like people are walking out of a conference together.  But we do encourage attendees to attend live just like you would at a normal conference so that you can interact with presenters and attendees in the chat area. This year the summit will be July 29th and 30th.  If you want to join me and the 23 presenters, go to to get registered.

Here’s your sneak peeks for this week.

Our first sneak peek is from our opening session with Zaretta Hammond.  She and I got to chat about Culturally Responsive Teaching in this interview style session.

Zaretta is the author of Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain.  She is passionate about the intersection of the science of learning, equity, and student academic mindset, which you will see that throughout this interview I got to do with her for the summit.  

Zaretta Hammond:  So culturally responsive teaching is something that’s super popular right now. And there are a lot of, I think, misconceptions and misunderstandings about what it is. A lot of people think it’s about engagement strategies for black and brown kids or that it’s something, just a treatment for those particular racially diverse kids in someone’s classroom. But here’s the thing I help people understand, that culturally responsive teaching, it’s the responsive part that actually is the first thing we need to look at. Because what we’re trying to do with culturally responsive teaching grounded in what Dr. Gloria Ladson Billings talked about is, for any child, for any student who is underperforming and is what I call a dependent learner in my book, Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, the only way that achievement will go up is that the student actually has to change their learning moves.

Zaretta Hammond: So the only way that anything improves is for the learner to learn differently. That means that they have to be the leaders of their own learning. So culturally responsive teaching really is the responsive part. Everybody has culture and culture is not racially defined, culture is just kind of the stuff organized in your head, right? They call it schema. And schema theory, it’s not a theory it’s a real thing. Think of it as like a knowledge tree in your head. So how are we using the funds of knowledge or the knowledge tree in a student’s head to actually braid together the new content?

Zaretta Hammond:  So culturally responsive teaching is really about helping the student expand their capacity so they can carry more of the cognitive load, so they can accelerate their own learning. I know that’s a mouthful. It’s not what a lot of people think culturally responsive teaching is, but it really is an important distinction to make.

Our next sneak peak is from Pam Seda and Kyndall Brown’s session.  Critical Consciousness: A Necessary Prerequisite for Math Equity will be our closing session at the 2021 Virtual Math Summit.

Pam and Kyndall are co-authors on a new book, Choosing to See: A Framework for Equity in the Math Classroom.  Pam currently serves as the Mathematics Curriculum Coordinator in the metro Atlanta area.  Kyndall is currently the executive director of the California Mathematics Project. And together they are bringing us some great info at this year’s summit.

Pam Seda:  All right. So now that we’ve learned about stereotype threat, let’s talk about what are some things that we can do to overcome the effects of stereotype threat. So Stanford has a list on the website and that’s going to be, I’ll reference it on the handout, but they have a list of empirically validated strategies for overcoming stereotype threat. And so I’ve listed three of them. I think there’s actually 12 listed, but here are that we’re going to talk about. The first one is to improve cross-group interactions.

Pam Seda:  One of the strategies that has been promising in this area is complex instruction. And when I talk about cross-group interactions, I’m talking about the fact that how, if we don’t pay attention to social status, if we don’t pay attention to who gets listened to, who answers most of the question who is perceived as smart, if we don’t pay attention to those things, then students automatically fall into stereotypical thinking.

Pam Seda:  So to be able to improve cross-group interactions, one way to do that is what’s called complex instruction. It’s actually a cooperative learning strategy that was developed in the 90s by Cohen and Lotan, and there’s lots of research out about that. But one of the things I’m going to specifically talk about is an aspect of that complex instruction that is called assigning competence.

Pam Seda:  In assigning competence, what you do is you take note of who are your high and low status students. You give open-ended problems that there are multiple entry points and you make sure that it takes all different types of abilities to be able to solve that problem. Then what you do is you take notice of when you have a low status student engage in a significant skill that contributes to the learning of that problem. You publicly recognize it. And you do it publicly and you do it meaningfully. That way the rest of the class begins to recognize the expertise that is in that low status student. So assigning competence is a very specific strategy that you can use to improve cross-group interactions.

Pam Seda:  Another way to improve cross-group interactions is how you group students. Dr. Peter Liljedahl has done some research on the impact of visibly randomized groups. He says that if you randomly grouped students like every 60 minutes or so, students eventually become receptive to receiving help from people from different backgrounds, from different races, different ethnicities, it breaks down all of those stereotypical thinking. And all students began to realize that they need to play a thinking role while they’re in groups. Or I say it gets rid of the hog and the log mentality where somebody does all the work and other people just let them. So that visibly randomized groups is one way to do it.  Another way is to provide wise feedback. And that is simply-

If you want to watch these entire presentations, make sure you go get registered for the summit at Virtual Math Summit has always been free to attend for 10 days but if you want extended access and more interaction with presenters, you will see options for upgrading your Virtual Math Summit experience on the registration page. 


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As you start off the school year, I want you to keep in mind what is really important as we're trying to teach mathematics to our students.