Indicator C.4.3. Draw on Students’ Mathematical Strengths
Well-prepared beginning teachers of mathematics identify and implement practices that draw on students’ mathematical, cultural, and linguistic resources/strengths and challenge policies and practices grounded in deficit-based thinking.
When teachers are faced with students who think or speak differently from the mainstream, they may inadvertently seek to remedy those differences rather than seeing them as strengths and resources upon which to build. Educators with deficit-based thinking assume that students are lacking in something; such thinking pervades education policy and practice (Valencia, 2010). Every student enters the classroom with mathematical, cultural, and linguistic strengths that support his or her learning of mathematics. Well-prepared beginners value and notice these funds of knowledge (Moll, Amanti, Neff, & Gonzalez, 1992) and draw upon them in ways that help every learner in the classroom. For example, students from other countries are able to offer algorithms that are mathematically correct but unknown to the U.S. students and can underscore the value of different approaches to problem solving or different representations of work (Gutiérrez, 2015; Perkins & Flores, 2002).
Well-prepared beginners also realize that supporting the mathematical learning of emergent multilinguals means attending to language and familiar contexts and experiences that promote conjecturing, reasoning, sense making, and convincing others of mathematical claims so that multilingual students will be encouraged to use their language skills and become valued members of the mathematics classroom (Dominguez, 2011; Moschkovich, 2012). When working with indigenous students, teachers need to consider how a community’s needs along with different ways of knowing may influence representations and the reasons for doing mathematics outside of school (Meaney, Trinnick, & Fairhall, 2013; Wagner & Lunney Borden, 2015).
Teachers' beliefs about students can profoundly affect their rationales for student success and failure as well as the decisions teachers make to invest in students’ learning. Researchers who ask teachers to assess the abilities of Latinx and Black students generally show significant bias toward negative stereotypes and low expectations (Baron, Tom, & Cooper, 1985; Chval & Pinnow, 2010), and many teachers believe that the achievement gap is at least partially genetic (Bol & Berry, 2005). Well-prepared beginners are prepared to challenge deficit-based thinking in schools and reflect on their own practices in terms of building upon the cultural, linguistic, and unique ways of knowing of their students.