STRATEGIES FOR BUILDING HUMANISTIC LEARNING
AND EFFECTIVE TEACHING ENVIRONMENTS FOR
ALL STUDENTS IN THE MATHEMATICAL SCIENCES
Our basic assumptions are:
(1) All students can excel in Mathematics.
(2) A high level of success in Mathematics depends upon the student's perception of his/her own abilities and upon his/her hard work.
(3) Students come to our classes to learn.
To maximize each student's motivation and raise his/her self-esteem, we seek to change as quickly as possible the inhibiting false perceptions which permeate the whole of American society:
(1) Only a few students can reach high levels of excellence in Mathematics,
(2) African, Latino, and Native American students are not expected to reach high levels of success in Mathematics.
The best ways to change these two misconceptions are:
(1) Show students how they in their ancestors have contributed to the growth and development of the Mathematical Sciences through the ages,
(2) provide them with role models in their own images and with many examples of successful students like themselves, and
(3) create a favorable humanistic learning and teaching environment in which they can mature and develop to high degrees rapidly.
Lack of knowledge or background should not be used against students, for not having a rounded mathematical background is not a real barrier to mathematical development. What is missing should be supplied, what is broken should be fixed, and should be done as quickly as possible. With this as background, to effectively teach all students,
(1) teachers must come to the classroom with knowledge and understanding of the subject to be taught and with the will to teach all students,
(2) they must believe that all students can learn mathematics,
(3) they must accept the fact that all students need to know the part they have played in the creation and development of mathematical knowledge,
(4) they must teach with (3) in mind,
(5) they must come to know, love and respect their students, and indeed, be able to identify with their students as their very own,
(6) they must take their students as they come and then take them where they want them to go, without ever blaming them or attacking their self-esteem for their lack of knowledge and understanding,
(7) they must ever seek ways and means to inspire their students to work harder and harder in the pursuit of mathematical truth, which they must make come alive, and
(8) they should seize every opportunity to publicize their students' success in mathematics.
(Abdulalim A Shabazz, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics, Lincoln University, PA)