When you consider how to make digital math instruction equal and fair for all students, you are likely referring to the concept of digital mathematical equity. Initially, digital mathematical equity may appear to be simple and straightforward. However, as you scratch the surface, you can quickly begin to see how complicated reaching digital mathematical equity has become.
Defining Mathematical Equity
First, it is important to define the two components of digital mathematical equity: mathematical equity and digital equity. According to The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, creating, supporting, and sustaining a culture of mathematical equity can be defined as:
“being responsive to students' backgrounds, experiences, cultural perspectives, traditions, and knowledge when designing and implementing a mathematics program and assessing its effectiveness. Acknowledging and addressing factors that contribute to differential outcomes among groups of students are critical to ensuring that all students routinely have opportunities to experience high-quality mathematics instruction, learn challenging mathematics content, and receive the support necessary to be successful. Addressing equity and access includes both ensuring that all students attain mathematics proficiency and increasing the numbers of students from all racial, ethnic, linguistic, gender, and socioeconomic groups who attain the highest levels of mathematics achievement.”
Defining Digital Equity
Even with this comprehensive definition of mathematical equity, the numerous hurdles necessary for both students and teachers to overcome become apparent. Now with this understanding of mathematical equity in mind, let’s define digital equity. ISTE describes digital equity as:
“easier to define than it is to solve. It’s about making sure students have equal access to technology like devices, software and the internet, and that they have trained educators to help them navigate those tools.
That can be a heavy lift when you consider all the types of students on the playing field – those from low-income districts or rural communities, kids with physical or learning challenges, and girls or minority students who are not getting the same opportunities and support that would set them up for careers in tech fields.”
Furthermore, Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), worries that, “technology will be one more way to expand inequities rather than a bridge to narrow.”
Defining Digital Mathematical Equity
To bring together mathematical equity and digital equity, we can define digital mathematical equity as:
“ensuring students, regardless of who they are, have equal access to technology devices, learning software for these devices, the Internet, and equally-experienced educators to help them navigate those tools while keeping mathematical instruction in mind.”
For teachers, creating digital mathematical equity is complicated at best and seemingly-impossible at worst. Consider all of the variables that mathematics teachers cannot control:
- Technology and materials access: do students have equal access to technology, devices, and learning materials in the classroom and at home?
- Internet access: do students have equal Internet speeds in the classroom and at home? Do students even have Internet access in the classroom and at home?
- Their experience level: do students have equal access to experienced instructors who can bridge any gaps between technology, devices, and learning materials?
If any one of these variables is changed, the outcome of the student will likely drastically change as well.
Tips for Improving Digital Mathematical Equity
As you can imagine, it is extremely difficult for schools and school districts to create and foster digital mathematical equity. As a result, many are struggling to do so.
Here are a few considerations to help improve digital mathematical equity for students:
- According to the Atlantic, 70% of schools nationwide do not have a high-speed internet connection. Given that 90% of the data on the internet has been created since 2016, high-speed internet allows students access to the best and updated educational information and materials in a timely manner. Not having this valuable asset can negatively impact digital mathematical equity among students, so pushing for high speed internet access can help to level the playing field.
- If your school/school district does not have a laptop/tablet lending program, push for this type of program. Allowing students to utilize technology is important for all students but especially for students that do not have this access at home. If you school or school district is lucky to have a laptop/tablet lending program, make sure that these devices are well taken care of and tracked. Otherwise, schools may easily follow the hundreds of businesses losing on average hundreds of laptops a year.
- According to the K-12 Mathematics Market Survey Report 2019, “only about one-quarter of math instructional time is spent using digital tools or content.” This means that three-quarters of math instructional time is not spent supporting digital equity. Ensuring that students are interacting with technology frequently is necessary to foster all three previously-mentioned equities and support students to become digital natives.