Cover image for Radical equations : math literacy and civil rights
Radical equations : math literacy and civil rights
Moses, Robert P.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Beacon Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xv, 233 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E184.A1 M7 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Bob Moses's work to organize black voters in Mississippi famously transformed the political power of entire communities. Nearly forty years later, Moses is organizing again, this time as teacher and founder of the national math literacy program called the Algebra Project.

Moses argues for a crisis in math literacy in poor communities as urgent as the crisis of political access in Mississippi in 1961. Through personal narrative and impassioned argument, he shows the lessons of the civil rights movement at work in a remarkable educational movement today.

Author Notes

Robert P. Moses is the winner of many awards including a MacArthur "genius" fellowship and a Heinz Award in the Human Condition
Charles E. Cobb, Jr., a SNCC field secretary in Mississippi from 1962 to 1967, is senior writer for the online news and information agency, in Washington, D.C.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

They seem like unrelated concepts: civil rights and math literacy; Freedom Summer and the Algebra Project. When the individual who links them is Bob Moses, however, the unanticipated connections are worth exploring. Moses was a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee organizer in Mississippi in the 1960s. In part 1, he discusses the lessons of that experience, particularly involving the entire community and defining a goal (in Mississippi, voting rights) that empowers the community to address its other needs. In the twenty-first century, Moses argues, "the most urgent social issue affecting poor people and people of color is economic access . . . [and] economic access and full citizenship depend crucially on math and science literacy." For two decades, Moses and his associates have been developing an approach to middle-school math aimed at preparing every child for high-school and then college mathematics. Part 2 of Radical Equations traces that effort, its experiential pedagogy, and its application in urban and rural school districts. A surprising study of continuity and change in the struggle to reduce inequality and empower communities. --Mary Carroll

Publisher's Weekly Review

"The ongoing struggle for citizenship and equality for minority people is now linked to an issue of math and science literacy," argue Moses, an educator and civil rights activist, and Cobb, a cofounder of the National Association of Black Journalists. Moses's Algebra Project, which he initiated in McComb County, Miss., in 1982, is not a traditional program of school reform. It aims to nurture collaboration between parents, teachers and students in order to teach middle-school kids algebraDa course that Moses believes is a crucial stepping-stone to college level math and, thus, lifelong economic opportunity. Drawing its inspiration from the civil rights movement's organizing tactics, the first part of this book is devoted to detailing how black Americans undid the white choke hold on Southern politics. In part two, Moses shows how the same grassroots organizing can be applied to make change in the classroom. He also explains why the project's success rate is so much higher than that of traditional math programs. Peppered with anecdotes and quotations from participants, this dense book is surprisingly captivating. Moses's main argument should resonate with concerned parents and community leaders as well as educators. An important step forward in math pedagogy and a provocative field manual, this book is a radical equation indeed. (Feb.) Forecast: Moses's status as a legendary civil rights activist, a MacArthur Award recipient and a dynamic voice in education should help garner an enthusiastic reception for this book, particularly in cities like Boston and Los Angeles, where he has established divisions of the Algebra Project and where an author tour is planned. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

David Dennis
Forewordp. vii
Part 1 In the Spirit of Ella: The Algebra Project and the Organizing Tradition of the Civil Rights Movement
1 Algebra and Civil Rights?p. 3
2 Learning from Ella: Lessons from Mississippi, ca. 1961p. 23
3 Standin' at the Crossroads: From Voter Registration to Political Partyp. 58
Part 2 Radical Equations: The Story of a Grassroots Education Movement
4 Bouncing a Ball: The Early Days of the Algebra Projectp. 91
5 Pedagogy: The Experience of Teachers and Studentsp. 114
6 South Againp. 134
7 Weldon, North Carolina: The Spirit of Ella Bakerp. 152
8 Shaping Demand: The Young People's Projectp. 169
Appendix The Mathematics of Tripsp. 195
Acknowledgmentsp. 221
Indexp. 227