In a math textbook for teachers, a math professor claims that her discipline is a “white privilege,” but do her claims add up? “A math education professor at the University of Illinois argued in a newly published book that algebraic and geometry skills perpetuate ‘unearned privilege’ among whites,” Toni Airaksinen writes on Campus Reform. “Rochelle Gutierrez, a professor at the University of Illinois, made the claim in a new anthology for math teachers, arguing that teachers must be aware of the ‘politics that mathematics brings’ in society.”
“On many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness,” Gutierrez writes. “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.”
“Gutierrez also worries that algebra and geometry perpetuate privilege, fretting that ‘curricula emphasizing terms like Pythagorean theorem and pi perpetuate a perception that mathematics was largely developed by Greeks and other Europeans,’” Airaksinen writes. “Math also helps actively perpetuate white privilege too, since the way our economy places a premium on math skills gives math a form of ‘unearned privilege’ for math professors, who are disproportionately white.”
“’Are we really that smart just because we do mathematics?’ Gutierrez asks, further wondering why math professors get more research grants than ‘social studies or English’ professors.”
Perhaps in her next treatise Gutierrez can reveal how any of us of any color can calculate change without mathematical privileges.