Inclusive Math Environments

A Recipe for the Success of All Students!

What is an Inclusive Math Environment?

As educators, one of the greatest challenges and opportunities we encounter is creating the ideal classroom environment that both nurtures and engages all students in learning. A safe, supportive and inclusive classroom environment is one in which there is a belief that all students can succeed, and a belief that “students learn best when instruction, resources and the learning environment are well‐suited to individual interests, strengths, needs and readiness” (Learning For All, K‐12). In such inclusive learning communities, learning is accessible for all students, individual student strengths are celebrated and individual student needs are met in a variety of ways.

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A Lens of Equity (your first ingredient)

Fairness is not Sameness

An equitable, inclusive education environment is fundamental to the success of all learners.

“Equity and excellence go hand in hand. … In a truly equitable system, factors such as race, gender, and socioeconomic status do not prevent students from achieving ambitious outcomes. Our experience shows that barriers can be removed when all education partners create the conditions needed for success.” - pg.8 Reach Every Student: Energizing Ontario Education (Ontario Ministry of Education)

Diversity: The presence of a wide range of human qualities and attributes within a group, organization, or society. The dimensions of diversity include, but are not limited to, ancestry, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, gender expression, language, physical and intellectual ability, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status.

Equity: A condition or state of fair, inclusive, and respectful treatment of all people. Equity does not mean treating people the same without regard for individual differences.

Inclusive Education: Education that is based on the principles of acceptance and inclusion of all students. Students see themselves reflected in their curriculum, their physical surroundings, and the broader environment, in which diversity is honoured and all individuals are respected

For more information about the definitions above or image below check out:


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Equity, Diversity and Inclusive Education are broad terms for deep topics. The meaningful translation of these terms into practice can not be boiled down to a list, however the link Tips on Supporting All Students below can be used as a starting point for conversation and reflection.

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Florence Glanfield: Respect Diversity
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(Then add) High Expectations

What are your expectations for students in math?

Holding high expectations begins with the belief that all students can learn and should be given rich and challenging opportunities to do so.

Holding high expectations means assuming that all students are able to handle complexity and engage in mathematical reasoning and problem solving. It is through opportunities that challenge students to stretch and develop their reasoning and problem-solving skills that they grow and learn more.

Here are 10 must haves for every learner!

10 Expectations

Positive Norms to Encourage in Math Class (Jo Boaler)

When it comes to success in mathematics, mindset is a critical internal attitude for both teachers and students. Teachers' positive, growth-oriented mind sets about mathematics can help compensate for students' fixed mindsets. We can communicate to students that their cognitive capacity for math is not fixed. A great place to start is with positive classroom norms.

Positive Norms Classroom Poster

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(and don't forget) - A Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

Knowing who your students are as individuals and as a group is essential when creating an inclusive math environment. When developing student learning profiles it is important to capture multiple dimensions of the learner including biological traits, cultural and societal factors, emotional and social influences, and learning preferences.

Here's a fun activity you might want to try!


On a piece of paper students respond in writing to three or four questions such as:

What is your nationality.

What languages do you speak?

What is the best thing about your culture?

How do you feel about being here today?

They then crumple up their piece of paper and toss it into the center of the classroom. Each student retrieves another "snowball" and tosses it again. After two or three tosses, each student retrieves a paper "snowball" and introduces the author to the class

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Supporting Aboriginal Students

Students come to the classroom with histories and world views that are unique. How students see the world also defines how they reason about the world and this includes reasoning about mathematical concepts. Dr. Lisa Lunney Borden has does a great deal of research in this area and she emphasizes the importance understanding language to help students make meaningful and personal connections to mathematics. She argues that when we learn about the ways of thinking embedded in Indigenous languages, we gain insight into new ways to think about teaching mathematics. Here more from Dr. Lisa Lunney Borden below

Mi'kmaq Language in the Classroom

Supporting Children and Youth in Care

Children and youth in care are often misinterpreted and misunderstood. They may have experienced trauma, neglect. loss and high levels of stress. We must never underestimate the level and intensity of emotional pain these students carry with them.

To support these students in an inclusive math environment we can:

*Identify one or more caring adults in the school who can commit to touching base

*Regularly with students and help them focus on their strengths and abilities.

*Maintain high expectations for these students

*Become trauma informed educators and create a safe environment

*Ensure that students are involved in their educational plans, envisioning short- and long-term goals, and identifying strengths and needs

*Talk with students and help them connect to activities that interest them

Below: Dr.Jean Clinton and teaching strategies that address trauma and resilience.

Dr. Jean Clinton - Teaching Strategies that Address Trauma and Resilience
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And Finish With Some Reflection

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Questions to ponder

The following are some questions for you to ponder:

(adapted from Ontario Ministry of Ed. Capacity Building Series - Culturally Responsive Pedagogy)

How would we start a staff discussion on moving towards cultural responsiveness in mathematics in a more intentional way?

How might we integrate specific life experiences of our students into daily math instruction and learning processes?

How do we define relevant and authentic math learning opportunities in the context of our school?

How might we support students in making decisions about their math learning that integrates who they are and what they already know with their home and community experiences?

How can we lessen dominant perspectives in the math curriculum so that contributions from different backgrounds can be better understood and integrated into learning?