Designing for Ethical Reasoning in Mathematics [and STEM] Education

Main Article Content

Jordan Trombly Register
Premkumar Pugalenthi
Michelle Stephan


Several mathematicians, social scientists, and psychologists have written about the role that mathematics has played in disenfranchising traditionally marginalized groups. Mathematics educators who are concerned with equity and inclusion have been calling for mathematics curricula that place social justice at the center of mathematics teaching and learning. Existing studies typically focus on using local community contexts to engage students in using mathematics to “read and re-write” their world. Few studies have investigated the role of ethics in the mathematics classroom or how students might develop a morally grounded mathematical disposition. This article begins with a discussion of the ethical considerations that emerged during a Classroom Design Research study of 7th grade students’ integrated STEM reasoning. These unexpected findings serve as the inspiration for the succeeding literature review on students’ perceptions of mathematics as useful, the potential dangers of mathematical (STEM) illiteracy for society, and the current role of ethics in mathematics (and STEM) classrooms. Finally, it introduces Critical STEM Consciousness as a new and essential construct in mathematics [STEM] education. Recommendations for praxis and research aimed at promoting Critical STEM Consciousness are provided.

Article Details

Research / Empirical
Author Biographies

Jordan Trombly Register, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Jordan is a first year PhD student in the Curriculum and Instruction, Mathematics Education program at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She taught Math 2 for four years and received her Master’s degree in Secondary Mathematics Education from UNC Charlotte in May of 2019. She currently works as the STEM Specialist for the UNC Charlotte Center for STEM Education and as the teaching assistant for the CResT, Culturally Responsive Teaching, Program. Additionally, she serves as a Doctoral Fellow in the Urban Education Collaborative at UNC Charlotte. As a teacher, Jordan was a practitioner and advocate of inquiry learning, Standards Based Grading, restorative, and culturally responsive teaching. Her research interests are focused on promoting equity in the mathematics classroom for widespread quantitative literacy, and critical STEM consciousness for the responsible use of mathematics.

Premkumar Pugalenthi, Palisades Episcopal School

Dr. Premkumar Pugalenthi received his Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering in December, 2012 and his Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction in Mathematics Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in December, 2019. While completing his degree, he worked as the STEM Education specialist in the UNC Charlotte Center for STEM Education and contributed in designing and developing Engineering and Technology integrated curricula for K-12 classrooms, providing professional development for in-service and pre-service teachers, and conducting research to better understand STEM integration. His research work
has been presented in international and national conferences around the world and is published at reputed journals. Currently Dr. Pugalenthi is a middle school mathematics teacher and leader at Palisades Episcopal School in Charlotte, NC where he is able to implement his research findings at the classroom level. 

Michelle Stephan, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Dr. Michelle Stephan is an Associate Professor of Mathematics Education. She has a joint appointment in the Department of Middle/Secondary Mathematics and the Mathematics Department at UNC Charlotte. She taught middle school mathematics in Florida for seven years before joining the College of Education. She teaches middle and secondary mathematics methods classes and provides extensive professional development to teachers in Cabarrus and Kannapolis County. Her research interests include design research methodology, mathematics for the 21st century, lesson imaging for inquiry STEM, and supporting students with special needs in mathematics.