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President's Message, April 2019

The importance of students knowing they are cared about, valued, and seen as capable mathematicians resonated with me as I attended the 2019 NCTM Annual Conference. The conference theme “Empowering the Mathematics Community” was especially interesting to me since the theme of the 60th Annual Georgia Mathematics Conference is “Acquiring the Keys to Access and Equity.”

From the opening keynote to the closing session, mathematics educators from the United States and other countries were reminded of the importance of showing students care and love and working for equity and justice. Gloria Ladson-Billings reminded us that we need to attend to context, culture, and teacher competence. José Vilson asked us to “imagine how kids feel when they have to exist in an environment where they are not welcome.” He stated, “All students need to know they have a spectrum of people of color who care for them.” And Talithia Williams commented, “It is hard to understand privilege when you've lived it all your life.” Talithia, a Georgia native who is now a mathematician at Harvey Mudd College in California, said we need to see all students as mathematicians and tell students they are mathematicians. She was the first black woman to achieve tenure at Harvey Mudd College.

Multiple break-out sessions addressed the theme of access and equity. Many included the importance of knowing the culture of our students and getting to know the students themselves. Rather than making assumptions about our students and their lives, teachers need to get to know the lived experiences of their students. Learning experiences that engage students in mathematics from their world and include their stories should be a regular part of the mathematics classroom. All students need to see mathematicians who look like them.

We need to see each of our students the way Steve Wyborney describes students, “incredible, phenomenal, amazing; their potential is without boundaries.” How can we help our students see themselves in this way?

I look forward to the 60th Annual Georgia Mathematics Conference and hearing the incredible keynote and featured speakers address the theme “Acquiring the Keys to Access and Equity.” More information about the conference can be found on the tab GMC at Rock Eagle. I hope to see you there.

Denise Huddlestun