IFL Recommends 1/25

This week’s recommendation comes from:

Courtney Francis smiling for the camera

Courtney Francis

Director of Online Learning and Product Development

Courtney says, “Pandemic learning has been so chaotic that we need to observe and center student experiences and needs even more intentionally than we have before. Columbia University professor and best-selling author Christopher Emdin builds a three-dimensional picture of students using ‘the rights of the body,’ tenants of Buddhist tradition which he situates with an analysis of “low brow” culture in a new book. He describes these rights as fundamental to learning and they align with many of the Principles of Learning developed by the IFL, including Accountable Talk® practices.”

Seven Ways to Ensure Students Bring Their Whole Selves into the Classroom

Nimah Gobir

“Being ratchetdemic is choosing to no longer be agreeable with your discomfort or the oppression of children through pedagogies that rob them of their genius, even in its most raw and unpolished forms. Most importantly, it is the restoration of the rights of the body to those who have been positioned as undeserving of them.” – Christopher Emdin, professor and author

This article is an excerpt from Christopher Emdin’s book Ratchetdemic: Reimagining Academic Success, an educational model that can empower students to embrace themselves, their backgrounds, and their education without sacrificing their identities. Emdin explains what being rachetdemic means and breaks down the seven “rights of the body” (based on Buddhist tradition) and how they can serve as a guide to teaching and learning.

Combatting Anti-Asian Hate: An Interview with Dr. Virginia Loh-Hagan

Interviewed by Dr. Lindsay Clare Matsumura 

Institute for Learning

Hate crimes against Asian Americans have significantly increased. We reached out to Dr. Virginia Loh-Hagan, university administrator, a former elementary school teacher, and author of over 350 children’s books—many of which draw on her Chinese-American heritage. We talked to her about what educators can do to raise awareness of and combat anti-Asian hate. 

Before reading her interview, you can listen to Dr. Loh-Hagan share information about the origin of the term Asian American and the inclusive acronym APIDA, which stands for Asian, Pacific Islander, Desi, Americans.

Dr. Virginia Loh-Hagan
Q: Help us understand the historical context of anti-Asian hate.

Asians started immigrating to the U.S. in large numbers in the 1800s.
Since then, they have been the victims of anti-Asian hate. It’s important to understand that anti-Asian hate is an American tradition. It is not new.
It is a part of our history. It can be seen in the law books and on the streets. For example, the Page Act of 1875 and the Chinese Exclusion Acts of 1882 were laws that sought to prevent Asians from immigrating, these laws specifically targeted Asians. In its worst form, anti-Asian hate has
manifested as hate crimes.

Asian American history is not effectively taught in our public schools. This is another form of racism; by erasing, minimalizing, and/or marginalizing Asian American history.

Again, such crimes have been happening since the 1800s. In the Chinese Massacre of 1871, seventeen Chinese people were hanged. During World War II, over 127,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated. In the 1970s, the KKK set fire to the boats of Vietnamese shrimpers living in Texas. In 1982, Vincent Chin was killed in broad daylight. In 1999, a white supremist shot and killed Joseph Ileto, a Filipino American postal worker. After September 11, South Asians faced discrimination and violence. In 2021, a shooter killed six Asian American women in Atlanta. Unfortunately, I could name more examples. I’m going to bet that the majority of our U.S. population can’t name these or other incidents—Asian American history is not effectively taught in our public schools. This is another form of racism; by erasing, minimalizing, and/or marginalizing Asian American history, we are failing to create an informed and educated citizenry, one that is committed to racial and social justice.

Q: What conditions exist that may be contributing to anti-Asian hate movement? 

This recent escalation of anti-Asian hate can be traced back to comments referring to COVID-19 as the “China Virus” and “Kung Flu”. Not only are such comments inaccurate, but they are also racist, causing unconscious or conscious biases. Research from Stop AAPI Hate (AAPI Asian American Pacific Islander) suggests that APIDA people are more scared of anti-Asian hate than of COVID-19. APIDA people have been pushed, beaten, kicked, spit on, called slurs, etc. Their homes and businesses have been vandalized and/or collapsed. The root causes of anti-Asian hate are related to yellow peril, the perpetual foreigner stereotype, the model minority theory, exoticized stereotypes, lack of representation, etc. Seeing APIDA folks as “foreigners” or “outsiders” allows white supremacy to exploit and oppress them. Throughout history and even today, APIDA people have been the victims of scapegoating—they have been blamed for economic insecurity, for national insecurity, for public health crises, and more. It’s also important to recognize the lasting impacts of the colonization of Asians and Pacific Islanders. 

Q: What are some practical things that educators can do to raise awareness of and/or counter anti-Asian hate?

Teaching is a superpower; use your power for good. Education is the key to justice. First, educators need to do the necessary intellectual work to learn more about the history and heritages of communities of color. Then, they can include APIDA narratives and perspectives in their curriculum (for ideas see the Asian American Education Project). Second, educators can teach critical literacy. Hate is commonly fueled by propaganda, fake news, etc. Teaching students how to critically read/think is a valuable skill. It’s vital to be able to see the issues of power and privilege at play. Third, step up—if you see something, say something. Do not let hate win. Together, we can be better.

IFL Recommends 1/18

This week’s recommendation comes from:

Carol Chestnut

Carol Chestnut 

IFL Math Content Developer

Carol says, “Having 20+ years of training development and implementation experience, I continue to question how training and life experiences transform our thinking, our choices, and our professional effectiveness as we continue to improve our practices as teachers/influencers of others’ learning. Percy Canales’ journey of discovery and transformation speaks eloquently to a process of personal and professional growth that ultimately led to a significant change in how he taught mathematics.”

Transformative Professional Development Through Integrated STEM

Percy Canales and Katey Shirey

“I’ve found that when the mathematical application has more personal meaning, students forge stronger connections back to the concepts embedded in the challenge and their new math content knowledge.”– Percy Canale, high school math teacher and Kaleidoscope author

This article reflects on one math teacher’s journey and his “transformative professional experience” as he worked with an integrated team to implement a STEM Challenges Program. Percy Canale started his exploration because he was frustrated with the professional development training he typically received and the trials he faced to implement it. Ultimately, he strove to apply his learning to teaching mathematics that is immediately relevant. His journey parallels the challenges and experiences of many teachers who take up the work to provide a richer learning experience for students in their classrooms.

IFL Recommends 1/11

This week’s recommendation comes from:

Lindsay Clare Matsumura

Lindsay Clare Matsumura 

Senior Scientist, Learning Research & Development Center
Professor, Learning Sciences and Policy Program, School of Education
Former Co-Director, Institute for Learning

Lindsay says, “I think that this clip is really powerful. Virginia says so many important things in a short space of time, and I think that can be educative for many of us in the field of education.”

Model Minority Myth

Dr. Virginia Loh-Hagan


“Model minority may sound good, but it’s not. And that’s one of the reasons why we can deconstruct it, to think about the origins.” – Virginia Loh-Hagan

Dr. Virginia Loh-Hagan, university administrator, a former elementary school teacher, and children’s book author, discusses the destructiveness of the “Model Minority” myth for APIDA (Asian Pacific Islander Desi American) students. Loh-Hagan provides some historical context for this myth, explains how it upholds white supremacy, and shares some challenges that APIDA students face.

Are You “Wishing” Math Content Knowledge Into Your Students? 6 Questions to Ask Yourself to Find Out

By Laurie Speranzo

IFL Math Fellow, inspired by Sally Fisher, math teacher, Syracuse City School District

As teachers, especially those of us who specialize in a content area, we are considered content experts. So where is the line between asking students to acquire our content knowledge and orchestrating opportunities for them build their own? Take the quiz and then read about the practices to distinguish between those that wish content knowledge into students from those that support their construction of it!

1. Do you ask students “What is the first step you need to take to solve this problem?”
2. Do you look for a student-created diagram that matches the equation a student writes?
3. Have you considered if the rule you are teaching expires?
4. Do you frontload vocabulary for a math unit?
5. Are there students you continually go to because they will have the right answer?
6. Do you call on students until you get the answer you had in mind?

1. Do you ask students “What is the first step you need to take to solve this problem?”

If you ask this question and have one correct first step in mind, you may be wishing your content knowledge into students. By making the task about a series of steps, not only does it proceduralize the math, but it also implies that there is only one way to start thinking about the problem.

What is “the correct” first step to solve this equation?

Is it to subtract 10 from each side?

Is it to subtract 1/4x from each side?

Is it to multiply every term by 4 to eliminate the fractions?

Yes, each of these options is viable! To say one is “correct” means that we are not allowing students to make choices and justify them.

2. Do you look for a student-created diagram that matches the equation a student writes?

If you answered “yes”, congratulations! You are looking to center student thinking and reasoning at the heart of the mathematics, rather than what the book or your own experiences suggests is the diagram to use. Focusing on the five representations of mathematical thinking and how they connect is a way to surface true mathematical reasoning and highlight mathematical structures.

Mathematical structure is not just how you organize your thinking, but it is seeing relationships and patterns! It leads to understanding of mathematics in the greater picture.

Mathematically proficient students look closely to discern a pattern or structure. Young students, for example, might notice that three and seven more is the same amount as seven and three more, or they may sort a collection of shapes according to how many sides the shapes have. Later, students will see 7 × 8 equals the well-remembered 7 × 5 + 7 × 3, in preparation for learning about the distributive property. In the expression x2 + 9x + 14, older students can see the 14 as 2 × 7 and the 9 as 2 + 7. They recognize the significance of an existing line in a geometric figure and can use the strategy of drawing an auxiliary line for solving problems.They also can step back for an overview and shift perspective. They can see complicated things, such as some algebraic expressions, as single objects or as being composed of several objects. For example, they can see 5 – 3(x – y)2 as 5 minus a positive number times a square and use that to realize that its value cannot be more than 5 for any real numbers x and y. (NGA Center and CCSSO, 2014)

Research shows that stronger mathematicians have access to various mathematical representations and multiple arrows that connect the different representations (NCTM, 2014). By encouraging students to work from a diagram that they or a peer has created and make connections to other representations, there is a greater chance that they will be able to identify the mathematical structure they are studying. For more information on the use and connection of representations, check out Mathematical Representations: A Window into Student Thinking.

3. Have you considered if the rule you are teaching expires?

Some rules expire, and if you have considered this, you probably are not wishing content knowledge into students. Rules that expire can be reinforced—sometime inadvertently or unintentionally—which leads students to false and unreliable conclusions.

The following “rules” are often reinforced by words and examples, but they expire.

“When you multiply, the answer always gets bigger…”

– until multiplying by values between 0 and 1 or multiplying with an odd number of negative  factors.

“The answer to a subtraction problem always gets smaller…”

– unless it involves subtracting a negative number.

“We never subtract the larger number from the smaller number…”

– except for when the situations indicate that that this is what has to happen.

The key here is to challenge absolutes. When framed as “always” or “never,” look for contradictory examples. Often when we change the type of number with which we are working, the rule no longer applies, making it a rule that expires.

4. Do you frontload academic math vocabulary for a unit?

A “yes” to this question may suggest a wishing of definitions and the mathematical knowledge embedded with them into students. Without context, giving definitions and frontloading academic math vocabulary is unlikely to help a mathematician develop their thinking. A recent NCTM publication reads:

“…we do not learn language through “osmosis” or by solely interacting with fluent or native-like speakers; teachers must explicitly teach it (de Jong & Harper, 2005; de Jong, Harper, & Coady, 2013). However, this does not mean that teachers should focus solely on teaching particular words or phrases in isolation, as this is unproductive for student learning and an inefficient use of instructional time (Gibbons, 2015).

In other words, isolated and frontloaded vocabulary practice may lead to rote recall of definitions, but it does not offer a rich, conceptually driven understanding of the words in real-world or even mathematical contexts. This applies to frontloading of vocabulary for all learners regardless of the languages they speak because all learners are acquiring academic language.

5. Are there students you continually go to because they will have the right answer?

If you have a few students that you call on because they always have an accurate answer, you may be having them wish their answer into the other students.

Try calling on students who have divergent strategies or models to share, creating space for more than one “approved” solution path. To help with this, consider planning lessons by thinking about several possible solution paths. The Thinking Through a Lesson Protocol (Smith, et al, 2008) prompts us to consider all the ways the task can be solved: methods students will use, misconceptions, and errors.

By raising multiple paths, not just the one that is expected (by you or the book), a range of student thinking is validated while also creating opportunities to address misconceptions and errors.

6. Do you call on students until you get the answer you were looking for?

If you answered “yes”, you are probably wishing your way of thinking into all students. When planning lessons, we absolutely should be planning questions that elicit student thinking and reasoning. But if we only have one answer in our heads, the entirety of the math is that one pathway, our pathway, rather than the multiple pathways that offer an opportunity for reasoning!

Every student should have access to the mathematics in our math classrooms, but access does not mean trying to get every student to think the way you do or do it the way the book does it. Nor does it mean that every student will solve the problem the same way. Forcing conventions and procedures before reasoning results in missed opportunity for students to construct their own knowledge. This also limits the opportunities for student to see themselves and their unique assets as vital contributions to the mathematical community in their classroom.


Chval, K.B., E. Smith, L Trigos-Carrillo, R.J. Pinnow (2021). Teaching Math to Multilingual Students: Positioning English Learners for Success. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Publishing.

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). (2014). Principles to Actions: Ensuring mathematical success for all. Reston, VA: NCTM.

National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). (2014). Mathematics. Common core state standards for mathematics. Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Practice

Smith, M.S., Bill, V., & Hughes, E.K. (2008). Thinking through a lesson: Successfully implementing high-level tasks. Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, 14(2), 132-138.