Written by Amy Choi, Humanities 9
Embodying the Mount Vernon mindset of empathy and collaboration, Upper School ninth graders are in the midst of a real-world journey into social justice that marries the two disciplines of Mathematics and the Humanities.
Students in Ms. Deairra Hobson’s Algebra 1 class are currently studying algebraic analysis. Instead of just working through question sets, however, Ms. Hobson has asked her students to take on the American prison system, with the driving question of: How might we use algebraic analysis to create a proposal to make the prison system more effective and socially just? Students are tracking the rate and trend of incarceration among persons from a specific gender/race group over a thirty year period and comparing them against each other. Ms. Hobson has also brought on Ms. Amy Choi, an Upper School Humanities teacher, to provide a global context for their research, giving insight into prison systems in other countries. Students will compare both and then use all of their gathered research to come to their own conclusion if there are social injustices in the American system. According to their evaluation, students will then pinpoint one specific statistic from their research and create a proposal for improvement.
Along the way, Ms. Hobson has asked the students to reflect on their learning. Students are reflecting about the racial and gender biases that they have uncovered in their research, with one student writing, “These stats are actually quite concerning, and I’ve noticed extreme bias towards or against certain races and genders. I’m expecting that this won’t change, which is one of the reasons this project is in play.” Students are excited to continue their research, with one writing in their entry, “I hope that as we continue to research, we can uncover significant events that occurred during the times that these numbers either dropped or increased. Also, I would like to identify a relationship between these values.”
Providing a real world application for their project, Ms. Choi has connected with Sarah Higinbotham, from an nonprofit called Common Good Atlanta, which teaches college courses at a local prison, to provide authentic feedback to the students on their final proposal.