Mathematics and Statistics Teaching for Social Justice

In Mathematical Power: Exploring critical pedagogy in mathematics and statistics, Lawrence Lesser and Sally Blake (UTEP) discuss the role that mathematics and statistics education can take in challenging the status quo for the sake of social justice. They provide some interesting examples of data and problems that can be used in the classroom to generate discussions of social inequalities. Examples include "random" drug testing, death penalty cases, SAT scores and income, and income inequality.
Teachers hopefully already know that curriculum need not be neutral, as drama-tically demonstrated by some of the “how much poison gas needed to kill” problems used in Nazi-era German textbooks (Cohen 1953, Shulman 2002). While today’s books gene-rally avoid such grossly blatant evils, they still require critical examination by mathe-matics teachers for less blatant evils (e.g., gender stereotypes in word problem scenarios) that unduly or uncritically reinforce an oppressive or unhealthy social hierarchy or world-view. For example, teachers should note whether the “real-life” application problems in the textbook are simply focused on maximizing profit, while ignoring the human or envi-ronmental dimension, such as a typical offshore oil pipeline cost minimization problem (e.g., Swokowski 1988, p. 171). Frankenstein (1983, p. 12) maintains that even the most trivial math applications are biased (such as a grocery bill calculation presupposing the naturalness of everyone having to buy food from grocery stores) and that even a problem with no real-life data has “the non-neutral hidden message that learning math must be divorced from helping real people understand and control the real world.”
I've seen some really good examples of this in action. A teacher I taught with my first year in Brooklyn did an amazing job of bringing in conventional and non-conventional examples (like nutrition) into the classroom. Teachers aren't mindless, heart-less people; but they need to do a better job of proving it to the public.