Vanderbilt professor says math education is too 'white, cisheteropatriarchal'


A Tennessee university professor recently made the case that undergraduate mathematics education is discriminatory against queer and transgender students of color.

Luis Leyva, assistant professor of mathematics education at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, described it as a "white, cisheteropatriarchal space" during a lecture at the Joint Mathematics Meetings 2023, the "largest mathematics gathering in the world," in Boston on Jan. 4.

The lecture, delivered by Leyva in two parts, was titled "Undergraduate Mathematics Education as a White, Cisheteropatriarchal Space and Opportunities for Structural Disruption to Advance Queer of Color Justice."

Leyva based his argument on research that examined the educational experiences of 39 undergraduate students of color majoring in STEM fields who identify as queer or transgender (QT).

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He discussed in the first part of the lecture how "Black, Latin*, and Asian QT students’ narratives of experience reflect forms of intersectionality, or instances of oppression and resistance at intersecting systems of white supremacy and cisheteropatriarchy (or white cisheteropatriarchy)."

He also explained how he used his analytical framework, "STEM Education as a White, Cisheteropatriarchal Space,” to show how intersectional oppression among undergraduate QT students of color "unfolds across three interconnected levels of influence in undergraduate STEM: ideological, institutional, and relational."

The second part of the lecture focused on applying Leva's framework and research findings to contend that undergraduate mathematics education "operates as a white, cisheteropatriarchal space that limits learning opportunities affirming of queer of color identities and experiences."

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He ended his lecture by "re-imagining" a type of undergraduate mathematics education that would increase support for "learners marginalized across intersections of race, gender, and sexuality."

Leyva, who advocates creating "culturally and socially relevant environments in STEM," is part of Vanderbilt University’s Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies.

According to his university bio, he conducts studies on “narratives of oppression and agency across historically marginalized groups’ educational experiences to uncover interlocking functions of racism and cisheteropatriarchy in undergraduate STEM."

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