Integrating Media Literacy Into Mathematics: A Possible Solution to Inequity in Mathematics Instruction

Integrating Media Literacy Into Mathematics: A Possible Solution to Inequity in Mathematics Instruction

Patricia A. Kolodnicki (Long Island University, USA & Levittown Public Schools, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9261-7.ch003
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A disconnect between the content taught in mathematics classroom and the skills young adults need for future success has created need for more diverse pedagogy. Media literacy and mathematics communities agree on similar goals for students to access media, evaluate it, and produce their own. Through the use of progressive instructional techniques, specifically involving media literacy, educators can simultaneously address overlooked equity concerns in mathematics. Research has found that these techniques can help students by holding them to high standards, support math thinking and language development, draw on students' prior knowledge, value their communities, and solve real-world problems that they will be facing in the future. Practical suggestions and expert advice for implementing more progressive pedagogy are included. Issues and solutions to infuse new methods into the classroom are outlined along with future research suggestions.
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There has been a marked disconnect between instruction under current educational policy and the needs of employers and students. An article from a New York Times author recently opined that, “American employers want higher-order skills, and American teenagers want more interesting work” (Ripley, 2014). The World Economic Forum (2018) noted the top ten skills in demand include: analytical and critical thinking, complex problem solving, active learning, leadership, and emotional intelligence, among others. Rotherham and Willingham (2009) argued that skills such as these, coined ‘21st century skills’, are not new skills, but instead are skills that have not been deliberately and effectively taught in schools. Through recent educational policy changes and the dissemination of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), there has been an increased focus in reading, writing, and critical thinking skills across all subject areas, but there are critics that believe that American education still lacks these real-world skills as they apply to mathematics (Adams, 2014; Felton, 2014a, 2014b; Nemko, 2014; Ripley, 2014; Roh, 2003; Rotherham & Willingham, 2009).

A disconnect between needed skills and instruction continues to widen with the increased focus on accountability and high-stakes assessments. This sentiment has also been expressed by teachers, “Among mathematics educators, there is a growing recognition that a serious mismatch exists (and is growing) between the low-level skills emphasized in test-driven curriculum materials and the kind of understanding and abilities that are needed for success beyond school” (Lesh & Zawojewski, 2007, p. 764). With increased accountability, educational policies from the beginning of the 21st century to today have also focused on accessibility and equity for all students (Ravitch, 2010). This includes No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top (RTTT), and the Every Student Succeeds Act (Robinson & Harris, 2014; USDOE, 2010; USDOE, 2018). With regards to mathematics, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) upholds that Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM) have focused on more traditional math skills, while also emphasizing a deeper understanding of math procedures and concepts (Dossey, McCrone, & Halvorsen, 2016). Due to the focus on assessments and accountability of teachers and schools, however, traditional teaching pedagogy remains a dominant practice in classrooms (Ellis & Berry, 2005; Stanic & Kilpatrick, 1992; Whitney, 2016). Teachers continue to be the ‘sage on the stage’, disseminating procedures and skills and then provide students time to work on problems independently, to gain mastery of a given method (Ellis & Berry, 2005; Klein, 2003).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Accountability: The practice of holding districts, schools, and educators responsible for academic achievement of students, typically based on standardized test results.

Progressive Instruction: A set of techniques that involve student-driven instruction with a focus experiential learning through a constructivist approach.

Problem-Based Learning: An approach to learning where goals and outcomes may be determined through a joint effort between student and teacher, which involves real-life scenarios and students determining a solution to a provided problem.

Direct Instruction: An instructional technique that involves teaching of a concept, providing students with guided support, and having students complete work independently to demonstrate their understanding.

Project-Based Learning: An interdisciplinary instructional technique that utilizes pre-determined goals for student learning through real-world examples, resulting in students working to create, present, and evaluate their projects.

Model-Eliciting Activities: Mathematics-based activities that involve a scenario where students work collaboratively to construct a model which, upon reflection, is evaluated and edited for improvement.

Equity: Similar in thinking to equality, however instead of providing equal education, equity focuses on determining fairness and providing additional supports to offer a just opportunity for all students.

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