Eden Badertscher, who earned both a master’s in mathematics education in 2000 and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction in 2007 from the University of Maryland, recently received the 2018 Kay Gilliland Equity Lecture Award. The award is given annually by the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (NCSM) to an individual who honors the memory of Kay Gilliland through demonstrating the same kind of “unique and dedicated contributions to equity in mathematics education.”
She delivered the Kay Gilliland Equity Lecture, “Empowering Teachers to Disrupt Racial Inequities: The Fundamental Praxis of Becoming a Change Agent,” on April 24 at NCSM’s annual conference in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Badertscher is a senior research scientist at Education Development Center, Inc., a Massachusetts-based global nonprofit that advances lasting solutions to improve education, promote health, and expand economic opportunity. She also serves as the co-principal investigator and project director of two National Science Foundation projects: 1) Designing for Equity by Thinking in and about Mathematics (DEbT-M)—aimed at addressing racially-based opportunity gaps in US secondary mathematics education—which, over two years, supports educator participants to build understandings of opportunity gaps and inequitable cultural and teaching practices; and 2) Building on Strengths (BoS)—aimed at building and supporting a network of mathematicians of color dedicated to working with teachers and their students of color in the 6-12 setting.
Before working at EDC, she worked as a teacher in Howard County, Maryland, and as the mathematics supervisor in Pittsburgh Public Schools. As a graduate student, Dr. Badertscher was a research assistant for projects in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties in Maryland; at a post-doctoral fellowship, she collaborated on the development of a master’s program for Prince George’s County teachers to enhance instruction by addressing needs related to special education, culturally relevant teaching, and English language learners.
“At my very core, I believe mathematics is a human activity,” Dr. Badertscher said. “It’s natural to who we are as humans.”
For Dr. Badertscher, the key to addressing math and science achievement gaps among girls and students of color is to change the narrative about who can succeed in these fields. A key step in doing this is to encourage creativity and play around mathematical concepts, showing students how mathematical skills are connected to their own lives and interests.
“Because [mathematics] is seemingly removed from who we are, there’s less interest. It appears less relevant, is less accessible, and because of the narrative about who can and can’t do math, this gets exacerbated,” she said.
The DEbT-M program also seeks to prepare teachers to tackle equity issues in the classroom and make positive changes by going over policy and issues, lesson planning and more. In particular another key approach is surfacing and tackling head-on the narratives that undermine equitable engagement across race and gender.
“Teaching as a field can be disempowering,” she said. “We have to help teachers recognize their power, take their power and do something with it,” she said.
Dr. Badertscher faced her own challenges pursuing mathematical studies: although she excelled in math growing up and set her sights on becoming a scientist when she started college, she felt discouraged as one of the few women at her school in her chosen field and ultimately stopped taking math and science courses. After graduating, she found that she missed studying those subjects. Eventually, she enrolled in an undergraduate-level math course and later enrolled in the College of Education’s Master’s Certification Program (MCERT) in math.
She stayed on at UMD for her doctorate, and over the course of her time at the university, worked with professors like advisor Daniel Chazan, who also directs the Center for Mathematics Education and co-directs Terrapin Teachers, and Jim Fey, a professor emeritus of mathematics education.
“Eden brings together sophistication in mathematics, with practical teaching and administrative experience in schools and universities, research experience and an inquiring mind, and a deep commitment to issues of equity in our society. It is really quite a combination,” Dr. Chazan said.