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Math education prof says using '2+2=4' to show math's objectivity 'reeks of white supremacist patriarchy' — and gets dragged for it

'If I were an astronaut, and you worked for NASA, I would quit my job'

Photographer: Adam Glanzman/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A math education professor said that using the phrase "2+2=4" to demonstrate the objectivity and neutrality of mathematics "reeks of white supremacist patriarchy."

"The idea that math (or data) is culturally neutral or in any way objective is a MYTH," Laurie Rubel of Brooklyn College tweeted a week ago. "I'm ready to move on with that understanding. who's coming with me?"

She added in a subsequent tweet that "along with the 'of course math is neutral because 2+2=4' trope are the related (and creepy) 'math is pure' and 'protect math,'' and that it all "reeks of white supremacist patriarchy. I'd rather think on nurturing people & protecting the planet (with math in service of them goals)."

How did folks react?

As you might guess, quite a number of folks were none too kind in responding to Rubel's tweets:

  • "Okay this literally has to be parody," one person commented.
  • "If I were an astronaut, and you worked for NASA, I would quit my job," another reacted.
  • "This may well be one of the dumbest tweets I've seen today," someone else noted. "And given the general nature of Twitter, that's saying a lot."
  • "Silliest tweet I have seen in quite some time," another commenter opined.
  • "Math is employed every day to heal people and the earth," yet another said. "Expanding that is noble, but redefining the tool will not achieve it. It will just create another tool that the next popular ideology will say 'reeks.'"

And this person had a bit too much fun with the prof's claims: "If there are 2 idiots in a room, and 2 more idiots walk in, there are still only 4 idiots present, not 5 math teachers."

Not the first time

If Rubel's stance sounds a bit familiar, it may be because she made some headlines a few years back with an academic paper arguing that rewards based on hard work are a "tool of whiteness" that oppresses minorities.

She added in her paper that in order to fix the problem teachers must incorporate social justice ideas into their lesson plans, a process she called "teaching for" social justice to lift up disadvantaged students.

The process "is providing students from underserved, marginalized groups access to challenging mathematics ... with the critical equity-directed practices, or teaching about social justice. In other words, dominant equity-directed practices do not challenge the status quo," she said in her paper for the Journal of Urban Mathematics Education.

(H/T: Washington Examiner)

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