February 1, 2011

Teachers' Conceptions of Equity

The motivation for the article stems from the assumption that the majority of secondary math teachers have largely unexamined, varying conceptions of what NCTM's Equity Principle means in the classroom. The research question asks what equity means and how we will recognize it when we see it.

Teachers participating in the study met monthly over a year, for about 2.5 hours each meeting. They discussed their initial conceptions about equity, findings from reading research about equity, and their final conceptions about equity after the sessions. This reminded me of my Senior Seminar class, when we would reflect on articles that focused on a particular mathematical content or process (e.g. Trig functions, Representation, etc.), and then would discuss our conclusions and reactions. One of the things we were taught to do was to assume everybody in the class has read the assigned article, so that we wouldn't waste time summarizing.

I am trying to simulate that same practice in this blog (Mathematics Education Research). Even though it would be easy to summarize the research that I find interesting for those who haven't read it, I have to remind myself that anyone interested in reading those articles can obtain the resources to do so. Else, the article's abstract provides a summary. Rather, this blog is more about my reactions and thoughts about the readings—or viewings—so that I can expand on it and provide insight for myself and others.

Anyway, the results of the first part of the study showed that the teachers' conceptions of equity fell into four major categories, and that although these categories were remarkably different from one another, the participants agreed that the responsibility of working toward equity falls on the teacher. During the second half of the study, teachers were asked to pick one student in their class, who was struggling mathematically, to get to know on a more personal level. The teachers that succeeded found that those students raised their level of engagement and achievement in the classroom.

Bartell and Meyer (2008) conclude that the first step for teachers to support and maintain equity is to explore and identify their own conceptions of equity. Further, becoming more personal with an under-proficient student can boost morale and achievement, and not to mention, help the teacher form bonds with his or her students. The authors then pose a few open-ended questions at the end, perhaps as motivation for future research.


  • Bartell, T. G., & Meyer, M. R. (). Addressing the equity principle in the mathematics classroom. Mathematics Teacher, 101(8), 604–608.

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