Research Library

Despite a common belief that mathematics is neutral and apolitical, a critical analysis reveals a legacy of mathematics education that has catered to the dominant (white, middle-class) culture, and served to stratify students along the lines of race, gender, socioeconomic status, and other dimensions of identity and difference. However, there is increasing awareness that mathematics education should be reformed to make it more relevant to all students’ lived experiences. In this paper we make the case for why the goal of increasing the relevance of math is closely related to (and can be achieved in service of) inclusion and equity. We discuss two very different approaches to promoting relevance in the classroom and suggest a way forward to combine those two approaches in pursuit of equity and inclusion. Specifically, we review two bodies of literature: utility-value interventions, which stem from the motivation literature and focus on personal relevance, and teaching and learning math for social justice, which stems from the critical mathematics education literature and focuses on cultural relevance. Our review suggests that these two literatures, which have been disparate in terms of their epistemological traditions, theoretical foundations, and methodological approaches, could be complementary and even synergistic in promoting inclusive math learning environments for all students.