Radical Algebra: Who Figures in Equations?

Radical Algebra: Who Figures in Equations?

Radical Equations: Math Literacy and Civil Rights
by Robert P. Moses with Charles E. Cobb, Jr.
Beacon Press, 2001, 192 pp., $21

 

Is math education today’s civil rights struggle? Are children in inner-city and poor rural schools the dispossessed sharecroppers of our age? Does a student who learns algebra in the middle school years, like a sharecropper who registered to vote for the first time in the 1960s, then possess the means to reach the “promised land” of full citizenship? In Radical Equations, Bob Moses, the legendary organizer of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee’s (SNCC) Mississippi Freedom Summer and voter registration drives, joins with a former SNCC colleague, Charles Cobb, to raise these questions and to make a powerful argument that the answer is yes.

Radical Equations consists of two distinct, but related, narratives. The first is the story of Moses’s participation in the  civil rights movement and the second is the tale of how he organized the Algebra Project, employing the lessons he had drawn from his civil rights movement experiences. The account of the civil rights movement highlights Moses’s vision of grassroots organizing, a process in which ordinary men and women engage the issues that are important to their community and, in so doing, empower themselves, developing into leaders of a de...