As a project based lesson, having high school students examine data for police precincts is a dose of reality shown through math skills.
At South High, freshmen in an algebra class are examining data of arrests, assaults, homicides and community engagements with police in Minneapolis. They are determining which precincts have the most positive interactions when compared with crimes and arrests.
“Sometimes you think, ‘Will I ever use this in real life?’ ” said Sisi Mitchell, a freshman. “But we tend to do a lot of stuff that you are going to do in real life here.”
Mitchell’s teacher, Stephanie Woldrum, shows students the practical uses of math through statistics and data that reveal inequity in society. The protests by Black Lives Matter activists after the shooting of Jamar Clark grabbed their attention. They found the events interesting, and understood the math behind the social issues.
“There are very few math teachers that have figured out how to bring social justice into the math classroom,” said Sara Van Der Werf, president of the Minnesota Council of Teachers of Mathematics. “Most math classes are what you remember math looking like.”
Students examined the data about Minneapolis, from income, to housing, to race. They came up with questions, about income, and the statistics about racial makeup of neighborhoods. Many of the questions were focused on crime and policing.