Contributor: Joel Kelly (The Blue School, Isleworth, London)
I came across Pete Wright’s work when studying for my Masters’ degree in Mathematics Education and subsequently joined the TMSJ Network. After one meeting, I spoke with Pete about doing some research around mathematics and social justice in the primary setting. As I work in a primary school myself, I suggested our school as well as another local school for the setting for the research.
Pete, Caroline Hilton and I then began work with six teacher researchers with the aim of improving socio-mathematical agency for primary children. We met as a group and discussed social justice, engaged with some of the ideas around social justice and began to think about how we could apply these ideas to a series of maths lessons. Over the year the teachers discussed, planned and delivered two social justice mathematics lessons.
There were many findings from the project, however the one that really stood out to me was teachers noting that the children had become more engaged in mathematics when they could see its purpose. One example of this was the Year 1 class (age 5-6) who had been previously complaining about an unfair rota for a special area of the playground, had been given the chance to make their own rota and put it to the Senior Leadership Team. Their maths lesson used all of the skills that they were learning as part of the maths curriculum that week, with the added purpose of making a change in their own environment in the name of fairness.
All the participants saw the benefit of this approach to mathematics and our school will now be increasing the opportunities for mathematics and social justice throughout the curriculum.
A detailed report from the Primary Maths and Social Justice research project can be found on the TMSJN Research page.