Making math relevant starts with valuing your students’ experiences

Anita Crowder, Director of Impact at Illustrative Mathematics, reimagines math education by emphasizing the importance of students’ own experiences and existing knowledge. She challenges the traditional view of students as blank-slate recipients of mathematical concepts. Instead, she advocates for a teaching approach that integrates the students’ own personal and cultural backgrounds into the curriculum. Crowder highlights the creation of a genuine math community in the classroom that fosters collaborative learning and the value of each student’s unique contributions. By promoting a culturally responsive, problem-based curriculum, she aims to make math education more engaging and relevant, ensuring that students’ life experiences and prior knowledge are central to their mathematical development.