The Antiracist Algebra Coalition.

In this post I answer 5 key questions:

  • 1. What was the initial process of forming the Antiracist Algebra Coalition like?
  • 2. How did my ideas become reality?
  • 3. Did you receive support from any of your colleagues or the university?
  • 4. What sparked your interest in starting “The Antiracist Algebra Coalition”?
  • 5. What are the results of this project?

I wrote this post as response to a Syracuse University student who wanted to learn more a bout the Antiracist Algebra Coalition. I hope you enjoy learning more about this work!

1. What was the initial process of forming the Antiracist Algebra Coalition like?

The initial process involved:

  • making clear for myself what my goals were and why I was starting this work
  • identifying several folks whom I thought would be interested in collaborating with me
  • setting agendas and repeated meetings to continue the conversation and work

To be honest, I also didn’t really know what I was doing at the start. I didn’t have a “playbook” for next steps, and it felt really uncertain and vulnerable. I have since learned that doing community engaged work can be summed up by doing work together, co-creating knowledge, and being in relationship.

Dr. Nicole Fonger on What is Community-Engaged Scholarship (a zine)

2. How did my ideas become reality?

In starting this community-engagement project, it was important to have a clear sense of the topic and scope of the work. I also articulated several driving questions and goals. As the work continued, more stakeholders came into the fold and expanded who was involved.

I describe the goals and aims of the Antiracist Algebra Coalition at this website.

The sketchnote below provides a visual of this kind of planning and reflection that it took to realize these ideas.

A community engagement planning table to support new projects and keep track of ongoing work. See the “How do I get started in community-engaged scholarship” zine.

3. Did you receive support from any of your colleagues or the university?

I feel very supported at Syracuse University to engage in community engaged work. While I may not have felt that way at the start, I feel that way now. I believe in the work of community-engaged scholarship, and I now have a network of faculty, students, and community leaders who share that commitment.

Dr. Nicole Fonger on community-engaged work at Syracuse University.

Time. One huge form of support in starting this group was having the flexibility to focus on my research and scholarship through a research leave. This meant I wasn’t responsible for teaching classes during the semester that I was forming the coalition. It takes a huge amount of time to build relationships with community partners. With this research leave I was able to focus on building something new.

Funding. Grant money also supported this work in a very tangible and practical way. Having funds to pay collaborators such as school teachers, district and building coaches, consultants, parents, and other community leaders was important to me. This work was funded through a CUSE Grant “Building Research-Practice Partnerships to Improve Student Outcomes in School Algebra” as well as the Engaged Humanities Mini-Grant “Antiracist Algebra Coalition.”

Relationships. Now that I have been a part of the SU community for over 4 years, I have a network of colleagues who support me along the way. My colleagues encourage me, celebrate my successes, and provide words of wisdom when I meet challenging obstacles.

4. What sparked your interest in starting “The Antiracist Algebra Coalition”?

I’ve done a huge amount of personal growth related on unlearning racism, seeing the ways that inequities is designed into systems that govern our society–including mathematics education–and better understanding my role as a teacher and scholar in making change.

In my learning, I realized that to make impactful change, I needed the support of a larger community of people who had different roles in mathematics education–different stakeholders–if you will. I needed to hear from students, from teachers, from school and district leaders, and from parents. The work of abolition in mathematics education is not an individual person’s responsibility, it’s a collective responsibility of the community.

Dr. Fonger on why she started the Antiracist Algebra Coalition

I’ve included the following arts-based representations of that growth to showcase some of starting points for the coalition.

This sketchnote shared some of my reflections on how bias and racism is interwoven in the procedures and practices of school matheamtics.
This sketchnote showcases some of the ways I am “unlearning” racism in my practice as a math teacher.
This zine captures some of what I’m learning about race, racial literacy, and the work of being a co-conspirator as a white person dedicated to advancing racial justice for Black, Indegenous, People of Color.
This zine was produced in collaboration with Syracuse University office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. It captures ideas related to redlining, and biases that may be reflected in our speech patterns through microaggressions.

5. What are the results of this project?

The Antiracist Algebra Coalition is ongoing. It’s currently folded into the work of the Meaningful Math Research Lab that I lead at Syracuse University with undergraduates and graduate student researchers.

Some of the history of the group is captured here:

  • In Spring 2022 our work is focused on designing and implementing social justice math units in high school and middle school. We will host an event in May 2022. Stay tuned!
  • Fall 2021 Work Sessions were held in October and November and focused on Black Brilliance and Mathematics Coaching
  • Spring 2021 was the initial convening of the group to set aims, visions, and foci of our work.

Some of the arts-based products of this group include:

Some of the written products of the work include:

  • A Grant Proposal to the W. T. Grant Foundation focused on Black Brilliance in Algebra
  • An article for the Mathematics Teacher Learning and Teaching journal on my journey toward becoming an antiracist math educator
  • News briefs on high school math lessons that connect Black History, the 15th Ward, and math
  • A journal article on teaching other math teachers how to engage in antiracist math teaching practices

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