Becoming a mathematics teacher for climate justice

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We face unprecedented challenges in the world today. Issues of ecological sustainability such as climate change, loss of biodiversity and depletion of natural resources are impacting on all of our lives and futures. Some societies are more exposed than others to the direct impacts of climate change, and certain policy and practice responses based on mathematical models and related sets of assumptions, can exacerbate or even cause inequitable outcomes within and across nations and between current and future generations. Despite a growing understanding of how mathematics is implicated, at every level, in issues relating to climate change (Barwell, 2013), the National Curriculum for Mathematics in England (Department for Education, 2021) still pays no attention to the intersection of mathematics and ecological sustainability.

With a lack of recognition at policy level, there are few formal professional development (PD) opportunities for mathematics teachers in England with a focus on ecological sustainability. Developments in this area tend to be initiated by individuals who are personally motivated to engage with climate-related issues in their practices. In this empirical study, we explore a small-scale PD programme for secondary mathematics teachers in England, stemming from the personal motivation of two teacher educator-researchers (Tracy and Lauren), with a focus on teaching mathematics for climate justice (a phrase we use to unite the social and the ecological and to capture issues relating to climate change, the ecological crisis, and the associated injustices for societies around the world). Ten secondary (aged 11-18 years) mathematics teachers participated in three full-day workshops over the course of an academic year, designed and facilitated by a team comprising a mathematician, two teacher educator-researchers, a site-responsive artist and curator, a creative writer, and a geographical scientist. Drawing on the expertise of the various members of our interdisciplinary team, we designed the PD around a series of arts-based activities alongside the consideration of formal scientific representations of climate justice, as a way drawing on multiple forms of knowing to support participants in becoming mathematics teachers for climate justice.

For the symposium, we focus on the story of one participating teacher, Karl. We use data collected in the form of recorded workshop observations, field notes and interviews to co-create a layered text (Lather, 1997; Rath, 2012) as a way of expressing and theorising aspects of Karl’s becoming in the context of the PD described. The layered text consists of three layers: A third-person narrative telling the story of Karl’s becoming in relation to the PD activities; Karl’s first-person narrative informed by his journal entries (both during and beyond the PD workshops) and his wider experiences of becoming a mathematics teacher for climate justice; and a formal-analytical layer. During the symposium, we will ‘perform’ the layered text to demonstrate the complexity involved in navigating issues of climate justice as a mathematics teacher, and to illustrate different ways in which teaching mathematics for climate justice can be realised. Implications from this study for a socio-ecological turn in mathematics teacher education will be the focus of a discussion.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages3
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2023
EventICMI Symposium on Mathematics Education and the Socio-Ecological - Online
Duration: 20 Mar 202320 Mar 2023


ConferenceICMI Symposium on Mathematics Education and the Socio-Ecological
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