Advancing Equity and Strengthening Teaching through Elementary Mathematical Modeling
What is Mathematical Modeling?
As stated in the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Modeling, “Real-world situations are not organized and labeled for analysis; formulating tractable models, representing such models, and analyzing them is appropriately a creative process  (p.60)” These real-world problems tend to be messy and require multiple math concepts, a creative approach to math, and involve a cyclical process of revising and analyzing the model. Mathematical modeling translates between the real world and mathematics in both directions, defining the real world as everything that has to do with nature, society, or culture, including everyday life, school, and university subjects, or scientific and scholarly disciplines different from mathematics.
Advancing Equity through Math Modeling
Mathematical modeling has the potential to “re-humanize” mathematics (Gutierrez, 2018) by providing students opportunities to make mathematical connections to themselves and the world around them. Mathematical Modeling promotes critical thinking and civic empathy as students work together to analyze and solve real world situations that are often complex and messy. Our project emphasizes a culturally responsive approach to math modeling instruction. By tapping into students’ funds of knowledge and diverse mathematical thinking; opening access to high cognitive demand activities with high supports; and promoting collaboration and collective action to solve problems, mathematical modeling provides an enriching space for students and their teachers to thrive.
Strengthening Teaching and Learning through Promoting Equitable Participation and Modeling Competencies
In the modeling process, we identified pivotal spaces for equity and for rigorous mathematics: a) In these spaces, teachers have to make decisions that could advance, or hinder equitable participation and diverse contributions. In other words, teachers have to make and enact instructional decisions that have consequences with respect to equity; b) They have the potential to foster the development of MM competencies which are central to modeling as content/practice standards (Kaiser, 2007; Maaβ, 2006; CCSSM, 2010). This is key given such cognitively demanding competencies are often under-emphasized in elementary settings serving historically marginalized children.