Maths has traditionally been one of the most difficult areas of the curriculum: no matter how hard they try, some kids just don’t get it. In consequence, any number of innovative compensatory strategies have been employed by educators down the years, from playing fun number-games with toddlers to letting teens use calculators – and, now, even trying to facilitate inter-species communication with numerate cauliflowers in the classroom.
This unique method is today recommended by Rochelle Gutiérrez, a leading U.S. Professor of Education at the University of Illinois, who has helped write official guidelines and standards for the training of America’s future maths teachers. Despite having no actual qualifications in maths – her degree is in biology, which is even more frightening when you consider her opinions about sentient vegetables – Gutiérrez has still found fame as the inventor of a new sub-field of the discipline named mathematx (pronounced ‘math-e-ma-tesh’).
This is a new, even more extreme form of so-called ‘Ethnomathematics’, a politically motivated non-subject which pushes the identitarian lie that children of different races possess innately different ‘mathematics identities’ to such a degree that it is actually possible for white kids and black kids to legitimately end up calculating different answers to the precise same sums, as their brains and souls are wired so differently from one another, numerically-speaking.
Gutiérrez herself goes even further than this, though, hoping to, as one sceptical 2018 American headline put it, use her concept of mathematx to “fix pro-human bias in math” – even to the extent of getting plant-life involved.
Cabbage Learns From Cauliflower
Gutiérrez lays out her curious ideas about Brassica oleracea var. botrytis, the Romanesco cauliflower, in a 2017 plenary paper published online by the actual U.S. Department of Education, named ‘Living Mathematx: Towards a Vision for the Future’ – and what a vision it is, too!
The Romanesco cauliflower enjoys a distinctive and striking fractal leaf-structure, so could actually be used as a valid classroom teaching-aid, illustrating things like Mandelbrot Sets and Fibonacci Sequences. Yet, in her native wisdom, Mx Gutiérrez does so much more. Rochelle ostentatiously self-identifies as ‘Latinx’, thus lending her an indigenous background of some kind, perhaps being part-descended from the original South American Indians who populated the New World prior to Spanish colonisation.
Gutiérrez clearly views Latinx people as being inherently in touch with the forces of Nature around them – or “other-than-human-persons”, as she prefers to call them. Apparently, “Indigenous knowledges recognise that we are part of a system of intelligent and sentient beings, also known as persons, with interconnected spirits, including rocks and bodies of water. Plants, for example, have lived on this planet for millions of years before humans … [and are] our older brothers/sisters.”
In order to “decentre the field’s overreliance on Whitestream views”, Gutiérrez seeks to both “reconceptualise what counts as mathematics in the first place” and also who gets to be a mathematician at all. The classic idea of a human being sitting down and performing calculations is just a white, Western stereotype – indeed, it is just an anthropocentric human stereotype, which must perforce be dismantled.
“On many levels, mathematics [as opposed to mathematx] operates as whiteness,” she infamously opined back in 2017. As mathematics therefore necessarily becomes redefined as mathematx in the name of decolonising the racist old curriculum, we also have the opportunity to redefine the mathematxn too – as our esteemed “older brother/sister” the cauliflower, for example.
What a Performance!
Being well-versed in Critical Theory (she’s an American academic, remember), Gutiérrez is enamoured of the work of the leading Gender/Queer Studies luminary Judith Butler, who famously argued gender and sex were purely performative in nature – hence it allegedly being possible for a man to suddenly magically ‘become’ a woman simply by donning a dress and some lipstick, Eddie Izzard-style. Women ‘perform’ their womanhood by dressing up as women, ergo a man can ‘perform’ himself into being a woman too, just by adopting the correct costume, attitudes and mannerisms.
Might it be possible, then, to likewise apply Butler’s idea towards numbers, and say maths is itself also a form of ‘performance’? Old-fashioned mathematics “tends to be thought of as a noun”. However, Gutiérrez’s mathematx “is performance, and therefore a verb”. It is in fact “an intervention-in-reality (action)”, not “a representation-in-reality (explanation)”.
Simply by existing, all persons (human and otherwise), are performing maths, as with the fractal-like structure of the Romanesco cauliflower. So, kids of different races may naturally ‘perform’ maths in different ways – the boring old traditional method of performing calculations in a logical, rational and systematic fashion is really just the way white, straight, males have long performed the subject. Teaching children this is the only way to ‘perform’ maths in schools is just another way white men have tried to colonise the very minds and souls of all other races.
Henceforth, children should be taught other means of ‘performing’ maths too, drawn from other races both human and non-human. Latinx kids, for example, may be more naturally in tune with Nature, and thus better able to learn the valuable lessons of the cauliflower: “There may be things we cannot yet access or understand because we are a young species. Other [older] persons [e.g. cauliflowers] may have ways of accessing information that can be helpful for us.”
Planting the Seeds of Ignorance
Gutiérrez doesn’t specifically say how Latinx-brained pupils are supposed to engage in contact with the cauliflowers, perhaps because this is not in any way actually possible. However, as many plants contain male and female sex-organs simultaneously, they are considered by Gutiérrez to be somewhat ‘queer’ (she should work at Kew Gardens these days), thus breaking down the traditional male-female binary allegedly imposed on humanity by bigoted white colonialism.
By considering plants, rocks and water as people, the ‘human/non-human binary’ is also deconstructed, which will facilitate the breaking down of mental barriers between the human and non-human worlds, and allow us to “consider the shared consciousness between all living beings, the greater unity to which we belong”. This will allow for “a kind of multi-science teaching, seeing from multiple views”, or “epistemic plurality”, if you prefer. Hence, maths questions no longer necessarily need enjoy a single correct answer to them, it would appear: “The value of Nepantla [An Aztec term for the supposed innate Latinx ability to perceive the interstitial space between two worlds] is reminding us to seek multiple realities and to hold those in view because they help us generate new knowledge.”
Henceforth, what really counts is not that they can successfully work out that 2+2=4, but that a budding young junior mathematxn enjoys doing their own personal form of maths, and finds it beautiful in some way, as the humble Brassica oleracea var. botrytis surely does when flowering out in joyous fractal fashion: “Mathematx is an activity that cannot be extracted from the living being(s) in the process of solving problems and/or experiencing joy – the mathematxn.”
Future Marxist Mathx cannot be separated from the mathematxn any more than poetry can from the poet or a song from the singer. And nobody expects any two given poets to produce the exact same verse, do they? That would be plagiarism. This is why Latinx-loving Gutiérrez so loves adding the letter ‘x’ in words – it represents the unknown variable, and could be literally anything, a truly revolutionary concept. She even name-checks a well-known black nationalist revolutionary in support of this idea – that’s right, ‘Malcolm X’ was actually ‘Malcolm Algebra’.
“Current versions of what count as ‘beautiful’ in mathematics tend not to reflect the diversity in our world. Instead, they tend to relate to truth… implying universals rather than uniqueness/expression that would align with performance or a plurality of epistemologies.” Just imagine a world in which every kid in the class gives a different answer to the same sum, and this no longer means they have been ineptly taught by a far-Left lunatic, but is instead joyously embraced as an example of mathemtxcal diversity in action! Is this really what Gutiérrez means by all this? It is hard to say, as her essay is written in fluent woke academese, which is to say, unparsable quasi-Marxist gibberish.
Either way, if the malign legacy of white colonialism could only stop suppressing their unique forms of Ethnomathematx, who knows what numerical wonders newly-liberated non-white students could achieve, “in this universe or in others”?
A Revolution in Learning
“For me, mathematx is a political statement about reclaiming the persons who have been lost when humans remain at the centre,” says Gutiérrez. It will teach pupils to “recognise the violence that is justified when some are viewed to be more human than others.” Does this mean a vegetable, cereal, or fruit-based world-revolution may one day occur, then? Will today’s sickeningly human-dominated Earth one day instead become the Planet of the Grapes?
Not necessarily, but teaching impressionable youngsters that cabbages can ‘perform’ fractals might help foster political revolution of a different, altogether more humanly Left-wing kind, as it will aid a demented political parallel being drawn by activist teachers between the colonialist exploitation of crops and of non-white indigenous humans alike: “like American Indians who were stripped of their lands and communities and forced to live in boarding schools, plants are yanked from their families and forced to assimilate into Western ways of doing things (e.g, to become suburban gardens).” Yes, this womxn really should work at Kew these days.
Just like every other subject in our increasingly over-politicised Western curricula, maths too is now evidently due to be subverted into yet another vehicle for Leftist agitprop.
One of the most influential ideas of Judith Butler, the Gender Studies theorist whose work helped inspire Rochelle Gutiérrez in the first place, was that of ‘the politics of parody’, in which an entire existing concept or social institution is forcibly deconstructed by virtue of making a sort of parodic joke out of it, much as the notion of a ‘woman’ can be successfully parodied through the cartoonish figure of a drag-queen – and that is certainly what Butler’s 21st century Latinx disciple has helped develop here, a mere parody of the concept of maths.
The final section of Gutiérrez’s 2017 paper specifically suggests children be ‘un-taught’ any actual maths they might come to school already knowing, or as she prefers to frame it, “students would have opportunities to unlearn their epistemological arrogance” in class. And kids who can’t add up should never be chided, as “ignorance might not just be a lack of knowledge but an active refusal to know because it disrupts one’s previous beliefs. If we start early with young learners, it may be easier to disrupt what humans have come to consider normal in the practice of mathematics” – the ability to actually perform it properly in the first place, for instance.
In our species’ strange forthcoming mathematxl future, why do I gain the distinct impression that the correct answer to every sum will ultimately end up being ‘1984’?
Steven Tucker is a journalist and the author of over 10 books, the latest being Hitler’s and Stalin’s Misuse of Science: When Science Fiction Was Turned Into Science Fact by the Nazis and the Soviets, which is out now.