Math is a ‘white, cisheteropatriarchal space,’ professor tells world’s largest math conference

Math is a ‘white, cisheteropatriarchal space,’ professor tells world’s largest math conference

An education-school professor devoted an entire lecture to the world’s largest math gathering that called math a “white” and “cisheteropatriarchal” space.

Luis Leyva, a professor of math education at Vanderbilt University, delivered the lecture, titled “Undergraduate Mathematics Education as a White, Cisheteropatriarchal Space and Opportunities for Structural Disruption to Advance Queer of Color Justice.” It was given two weeks ago at the Joint Mathematics Meetings 2023, described as the “largest mathematics gathering in the world.”

“Cisheteropatriarchal” is a term in ethnic studies referring to “a system of male, straight, conforming-to-assigned sex system power,” according to ethnic studies teacher and curriculum designer R. Tolteka Cuauhtin.

Leyva’s writings “depict how Black, Latin*, and Asian QT [queer and transgender] students’ narratives of experience reflect forms of intersectionality, or instances of oppression and resistance,” according to the abstract of his lecture.

Leyva’s research followed the “educational experiences of 39 undergraduate queer and trans* (QT) students of color pursuing STEM majors across historically white and minority-serving universities in the United States,” according to the abstract. “I conclude by re-imagining undergraduate mathematics education with structural disruptions that advance justice for learners marginalized across intersections of race, gender, and sexuality,” it said.

Leyva also is affiliated with Vanderbilt’s Department of Gender & Sexuality Studies. His faculty biography says his work ​​”draws on critical race theory, women of color feminisms, and queer of color critique to conceptually and methodologically ground his scholarship, which centers historically marginalized voices in STEM higher education across intersections of race, gender, and sexuality.”

Leyva was named the LGBTQ+ Educator of the Year in 2022 by Out to Innovate, a professional organization for LGBTQ+ people in STEM.

But normal people find his lecture bizarre. Levya’s “abstract reads like an over-the-top caricature, another Sokal hoax,” says Aryeh Kontorovich, a professor of computer science at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. “This one is all too real, I know.”

“It is my opinion as a computer scientist/mathematician and instructor with over 14 years of experience that politics and social justice have no place in math pedagogy. We can never all agree on what is just, while we can (hopefully) agree on what is mathematically correct, so math education should focus exclusively on the latter.”

Vanderbilt freshman Noah Jenkins also was dismayed. I fail to see, in any way, shape, or form, how collegiate math education in the status quo represents a system of ‘oppression and resistance,’ especially in a field that is so objective. Either you solve the equation properly, or you don’t. It really is that simple. It doesn’t matter if a gay person, a trans person, or whoever solves the problem, two plus two will always equal four.”

LU Staff

LU Staff

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