Dissertation of the Year! [With Comment by John]

From the Academic Gibberish file, I’ve found a winner for Power Line’s new Dissertation of the Year Award for 2015. Here’s the title and abstract, which is all you need:

Solving for irrational zeros: Whiteness in mathematics teacher education

by Warburton, Trevor Thayne, Ph.D., THE UNIVERSITY OF UTAH, 2015, 327 pages; 10010629


For many, mathematics and social justice are perceived as incompatible. Several mathematics education researchers have noted resistance to social justice among mathematics teachers. However, mathematics education has a consistently negative impact on the education of students of color. This study seeks to better understand the nature of this resistance by studying how preservice secondary mathematics teachers grapple with understanding social justice mathematics education. For this study I draw on discursive understandings of the operation of power and Whiteness Theory in order to understand the ways in which the discourses of mathematics serve to exclude the discourses of social justice. The participants in this study were seven preservice secondary mathematics teachers in a master’s degree program in mathematics with teaching certification. Class discussions were recorded and transcribed then analyzed using Critical Discourse Analysis and a Whiteness Theory lens to interpret the analysis. The findings are organized around three main themes. These themes include discourses of the abstract nature of school mathematics, teacher and student subject positions, and our struggle to engage with the concepts of social justice mathematics. At times we disrupted these discourses through playfulness, repositioning students, and embracing the struggle of incorporating social justice into mathematics. There are important implications for mathematics education, mathematics teacher education, and teacher education generally.

JOHN adds: Wow, that’s…really sinister. The best example of social justice mathematics I can think of comes from a children’s book starring Junie B. Jones. Junie to her grandfather:

You have five dollars. I need five dollars. Boom! Do the math.

I’m pretty sure that sums up the concept well, no matter how much academic jargon you dress it up in.