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25 Oct, 2017 15:20

Math equals white privilege? US professor's claim in new book raises eyebrows

Math equals white privilege? US professor's claim in new book raises eyebrows

A professor at the University of Illinois has advised colleagues to be politically aware while teaching algebra and geometry in a new book aimed at helping teachers to improve their scholarly practices.

"On many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness. Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White," Rochelle Gutierrez writes in the book on teaching mathematics, Campus Reform reports.

She argues in support of her point that white math professors generally get more grants than their colleagues in "social studies or English," with this particular study having become a form of "unearned privilege."

"If one is not viewed as mathematical, there will always be a sense of inferiority that can be summoned," Gutierrez warns, encouraging other math teachers to exercise political knowledge for teaching.

READ MORE: Religious students perform worse in math & science – study

Another form of mathematical discrimination, according to the professor, might be the use of such terms as "Pythagorean theorem and pi," as these might apparently "perpetuate a perception that mathematics was largely developed by Greeks and other Europeans."

The approach has been criticized by Gad Saad, a marketing professor, who said that the "idea of identity politics" is behind the US professor's claims that mathematics is dominated by a certain racial group.

"Maths by definition exists independently of your subjective reality. The distribution of prime numbers exists whether you are an indigenous person, a tall person, a fat person, a black person or a white person," Saad told RT, adding that "truth becomes secondary to protecting so-called marginalized people” in Gutierrez’s approach.

"If you look at the 100m Olympic champions over the past 30 years, you'll notice that there are no overweight, middle-aged Lebanese Jews – I happen to be a Lebanese Jew, and none of them are the winners on the podium. Yet I don't complain that I feel marginalized," said Saad.

"You should have equality of access, but that doesn't mean that we have equality of outcomes,” he added.