In this interview, we talked with Dr. Danny Bernard Martin, professor of Mathematics and Education at the University of Illinois Chicago. Dr. Martin’s extensive research has focused primarily on understanding the salience of race and mathematics identity in Black learners’ mathematical experiences. He is the recipient of multiple national awards as well as author and editor of multiple books on the intersection of race, identity, and mathematics education (see list of suggested reading below).
The focus on racial justice in early math education is a relatively new phenomenon. Yet, racial justice-centered research in math education has increased over the last two decades. In fact, when thinking about the changes he has noted in math education in the last 20 years, Dr. Martin highlighted the larger (and growing) number of scholars doing such research, bringing with them different methodological frameworks and a more diverse set of ideas and perspectives to the field.
While the growing interest and diverse contributions are certainly welcomed, Dr. Martin called attention to the fact that having more people addressing racism, antiblackness, and white supremacy in math education signals that these issues are persistent. “These issues haven’t gone anywhere,” he says. “So there is a constant need to address them. When you talk about change, as I said, you also have to talk about what hasn’t changed.” More specifically to the world of early math, Dr. Martin identified the lack of quality justice-centered research on Black children in particular as a concern for him. Along with the absence of research, Dr. Martin also wonders about the kinds of policies (if any) and practices – grassroots, institutional, and others – that are in place to foster the mathematical development and brilliance of Black children.
At the end of the interview, Dr. Martin shared thoughts for those who are interested in doing racial justice in early math. For him, “it starts with the self,” and it is very important that we understand how we engage in white supremacy and antiblackness. Dr. Martin also discussed the importance of analyzing the interconnectedness and self-correcting nature of the oppressive systems, since no meaningful change can really occur when the foundational purpose of these systems is to take away the humanity of Black people. Lastly, Dr. Martin asked those who are committed to racial justice work, and racial justice in early math in particular, to keep up the good work!
Refusing systemic violence against Black children: Toward a Black liberatory mathematics education (2019) by Danny Bernard Martin, Paula Groves Price, Roxanne Moore
Mathematics Teaching, Learning, and Liberation in the Lives of Black Children (2000) edited by Danny Martin
The Impact of Identity in K–8 Mathematics Learning and Teaching (2013) co-edited by Julia Aguirre, Karen Mayfield-Ingram, Danny Martin