#BlackWomenRockMath: An Interview

If you’re looking for an exciting new blog to check out, look no further. Kaneka Turner, Deborah Peart, and Dionne Aminata recently launched #BlackWomenRockMath. In an interview conducted over email, we discussed why they started the blog, what they have planned for it and more. (The following interview has been lightly edited.)

Rachel Crowell: Why did you decide to start a blog now?

Kaneka Turner, Deborah Peart, and Dionne Aminata: We have been working together for about 2 and a half years and have had the opportunity to present together at conferences on varied topics around mathematics. We recognized that we have a lot in common and that our beliefs around equity in mathematics are aligned. During the pandemic, many things have been brought to light, and it is clear that Black communities are impacted at an alarming rate. Collectively, we have a deep and profound understanding of and experience with racism and decided that now was the time to speak up. Individually we have always had a lot to say, but by approaching it together we found the boldness to say so much more. We hold one another accountable and desire to lift up other Black women so they can find their voices. This is the platform we are hoping to create.

RC: What are some of your main hopes and goals for the blog?

KT, DP and DA: Our main goal is to create a community that recognizes the brilliance of Black women in math education and sets the stage for securing a legacy for Black girls to be inspired and walk in confidence as doers of mathematics. We hope to disrupt systems and break patterns, so Black women have the opportunity to lead and Black girls have the opportunity to shine. We hope everyone will begin to see the power we hold and the brilliance we share and open doors for so many who have gone unseen or unheard for far too long.

RC: Who are you hoping will read the blog?

KT, DP and DA: We are hoping that educators, school leaders, and parents are reading the blog, but we also hope that people with the power to support our mission to make a difference will also take notice. Educators and people in the field are the obvious choice, but we also want the community at large to recognize that our voices need to be heard because we (Black women) have valuable contributions to make in the field of math education.

In the first post on the blog, you wrote “A little over 2 years ago our paths crossed when we joined Illustrative Mathematics as lead writers for the K-5 Math Curriculum. This was a rare space and opportunity. We immediately recognized the weightiness of our roles and the need to support each other. The reality is, Black women are not typically asked to use their expertise in mathematics to co-design a national math curriculum. We were not brought to IM to address the diversity, equity, and inclusion components of the curriculum. We were hired for what we know about mathematics, and this was unprecedented.” How did you feel to be asked to use your expertise in math to co-design a national math curriculum?

KT: I felt honored to be selected because I was familiar with IM’s work and believed it was important to align with a company that had a reputation of producing quality materials. I didn’t know they had a plan to focus on supporting marginalized communities through their materials, but I was glad to know that I would be connected with this positive presence in math education.

DA: I believed that I needed to take this opportunity, especially if they were planning to serve students in marginalized communities. My work had always been with students of color or students living in poverty, so I thought it was vitally important to offer my perspective to support the development of materials for these children. I was hopeful that IM’s vision aligned with mine, a vision of a future of mathematics with a shift in curriculum towards inclusion.

DP: When I was offered the position, I was in disbelief. It seemed too good to be true. I had always thought of curriculum writers as something other than me; it never occurred to me that I could be one. It was exciting to be a part of something that would reach thousands of students. It was rewarding work from the beginning because I felt inspired by the people with whom I would have the chance to collaborate. It was a dream come true because I had wondered how I could be a part of a larger mission to impact math education for more students. Changing lives 1 class at a time was great, but I longed for such an opportunity as this.

RC: What are some of your favorite math or math education blogs?

KT, DP and DA: We don’t have a long list of math education blogs that we subscribe to, but we agreed that Krisin Gray’s blog “Math Minds” and Theresa Wills’ “Where THERE’S A WILLS, there’s a way” are both favorites. During the time we have been writing, we have read several books as a team around content and pedagogy. We have also started to listen more and more to podcasts, which is something we plan to launch for BWRM in 2021.

RC: Is there anything else you would like to share?

KT, DP and DA: Something that is important to all of us is that we want people to know that this is a heart project. Because of what we’ve experienced growing up and working in education, we have decided to do something to make a change. Our motivation and inspiration comes from the vision of a future where little Black girls know they rock math and boldly say it with pride. We overcame our math trauma and became something wonderful, so we hope to ease the path for those coming after us. We believe that Black women rock math because Black girls rock math! Now it’s time for the world to know.

Want to give feedback or suggest ideas for future blog posts? Reach out in the comments or on Twitter (@writesRCrowell).

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