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Written by Idrine Matenda-Zambi

Committing to promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) can be done through small, simple actions that can make your classroom a safe space for your students, including those who have learning disabilities (LDs) or who come from historically marginalized communities. Over time, many small actions will add up to significant results.

Here are three reasons why equity, diversity and inclusion are necessary in math classes:

To create a feeling of belonging for students.

After the two years that we have just lived through, students need to feel that they belong to their school community. They need to see similarities between themselves and their peers, and a connection with the content that they are learning. Small actions—such as using the students’ names in math problems, using the context of a story that a student shared with you for solving a problem or an equation, or asking students to bring something from home for a lesson—can help them to feel connected to the other students and to the content that they are learning in the classroom.

To stimulate creativity.

Enabling students to share their life experiences promotes a better understanding of the world in which they live. In this way, students can learn to appreciate the different experiences and perspectives of their peers. Their curiosity will be at its peak, and they will leave math class each day wanting to know more about the way in which math is connected to their lives. Thus, math becomes a way of exploring the world around them.

The Ontario of tomorrow starts today.

The sociodemographic portrait of today’s Ontario is very different from what it was a few years ago. Students now live in a world that is constantly evolving at a fast pace. They must be ready to work with people from different backgrounds. As educators, it is our duty to prepare them for the world in which they are already living. It is our belief that differentiated activities guarantee equitable access for students to current and future opportunities.


So, how can you make it your personal mission to focus on EDI?


To begin with, an educator must understand and believe in equity, diversity, and inclusion. This involves anchoring your teaching practices in the belief that every child has the ability to learn and that every child is a mathematician. Math is a powerful tool that should be available to every child. By adopting such an approach, teachers can ensure that they maintain a developmental mindset by continually striving to bridge gaps in school success and access among minority and marginalized groups.


Secondly, EDI can be achieved through the actions and expectations of educators. Every choice that is made in selecting a program, putting in place instructional strategies, carrying out assessments, and thinking reflectively about the lessons can be implemented by taking EDI into account. From day to day, teachers can ensure that students have access to challenging problems that have been adapted following equitable practices, guaranteeing that each student is able to succeed. Teachers can design their classroom space so that students feel at home by displaying their work and by welcoming students into this space. Teachers must know their students, where they come from and what their areas of interest are in order to select rich mathematical tasks that they enjoy.


Finally, math teachers have the important task of teaching students how to ensure that they have the necessary skills to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion principles. In mathematics, students can review data to evaluate, by way of example, success level and feelings of inclusion and belonging. Also, social justice issues and topics can be used as a context for tackling problem-solving. Students will learn to establish and justify their own opinions, and will analyze the facts and the data by themselves to determine whether they have been presented in an accurate and transparent manner.


Here are four strategies that you can put in place immediately in math classes to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion at each step of the teaching process.

1. Find out about the places of origin of your students.

Knowing about the cultures and traditions to which your students are accustomed will help you to ensure that all students feel represented by the contexts and problems used in a math class. Try to learn more about the languages that they speak, the traditions in which they participate at home, the community activities that they like, and the types of work that their families and/or guardians do. Knowing about these aspects will give you a perspective on the diversity that your students bring to the classroom and will enable you to diversify the contexts and math problems such that the students can be proud of their origins or cultures.

2. Take the time to really get to know your students.

The feeling of belonging begins with the simple fact of hearing one’s name. One of the most endearing things that you can do is to welcome your students in class each day and say their names. This will help them to feel seen and included and will help you to establish a good relationship with each of them, as every day will begin with a positive interaction. As the year goes forward, get to know your students better by finding out about their pastimes and interests, and their families, and by mutually sharing stories in order to continue to build a relationship.

3. Develop classroom rules anchored in EDI.

These are essential elements that should be incorporated into the foundation of your classes. These principles, which are already emphasized by many schools, in particular respect, integrity, honesty, and accountability, all play a role in EDI. Developing classroom rules that focus on these characteristics, as well as on those of belonging and inclusivity, will support the effort that you make even when you cannot be with each group during group work. The students will become as engaged as you are, as they also want to feel celebrated and included. The group work standards, including taking turns to speak, working together, and sharing ideas, not only solutions, are ways for students to act inclusively.

4. Reflect on your practice through the lens of EDI.

Assessing each part of your practice allows you to identify the elements that need to be changed the most. You might consider asking yourself the following questions: Did all students have access to the same information? Did all students seem interested? Did all students have the basic knowledge required to engage in the task? Was there anyone who was left out or who felt excluded?

This list of strategies is not exhaustive, but with the few mentioned above, we can promote inclusive and diversified settings where the teaching of mathematics benefits all students, especially those who come from our marginalized communities and who have learning disabilities.


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Askew, M. (2015). Diversity, inclusion and equity in mathematics classrooms: From individual problems to collective possibility. In A. Bishop, H. Tan, & T. N. Barkatsas (Eds.), Diversity in mathematics education: Towards inclusive practices (pp. 129–145). Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Bishop, A. J., & Kalogeropoulos, P. (2015). (Dis)engagement and exclusion in mathematics classrooms: Values, labelling and stereotyping. In A. Bishop, H. Tan, & T. N. Barkatsas (Eds.), Diversity in mathematics education: Towards inclusive practices (pp. 193–217). Cham: Springer International Publishing.

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Hart Barnett, J. E., & Cleary, S. (2015). Review of evidence-based mathematics interventions for students with autism spectrum disorder. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 50(2), 172–185.

Idrine Matenda-Zambi is a part-time professor at the University of Ottawa Windsor Campus. He has been an educational consultant in numeracy for Grades 7–12 and is currently an educational consultant in charge of equity and inclusive education with the Conseil scolaire catholique (CSC) Providence. In this capacity, his role is to model equitable and inclusive teaching, and to support the other educational consultants in various sectors to initiate practices that foster an approach of equity and inclusivity, and to create relevant resources for teachers to support them in their work in schools. As a several-time member of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Content Review Committee of the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO), he has been interested for a number of years in issues related to inclusive education and diversity.