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Radical Equations: Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  316 ratings  ·  40 reviews
At a time when popular solutions to the educational plight of poor children of color are imposed from the outside-national standards, high-stakes tests, charismatic individual saviors-the acclaimed Algebra Project and its founder, Robert Moses, offer a vision of school reform based in the power of communities. Begun in 1982, the Algebra Project is transforming math educati ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published February 1st 2002 by Beacon Press (first published 2001)
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Start your review of Radical Equations: Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project
The Algebra Project is a noble and worthy enterprise, even if it hasn't led to the radical transformation in education that was still hoped for at the publication of the book.

First, however, even with no math content or research into pedagogy, this is also simply a good report of the author's experiences in the struggle for civil rights.

That he turned that experience into a revolutionary attack on the structural racism embodied in the U.S. school system is what drove this book, though, and on th
Jenny GB
Aug 13, 2012 rated it it was ok
My rating for this book isn't a rating of the Algebra Project itself. I think what Robert Moses did during the civil rights and has done for education is courageous, inspirational, necessary, and yes radical. He is doing very important work that is now really being brought forward by Common Core Standards. However, this book was a tough read. I had a lot of trouble with the asides from various other people throughout all the chapters. First, it wasn't clear sometimes who was commenting and it re ...more
Craig Werner
Jun 17, 2015 rated it liked it
One of the most important figures of the African American Freedom Movement during the 1960s, Bob Moses redirected his energy to the battle for mathematical literacy, especially among black children, raising all kinds of puzzled responses. Radical Equations is a clear chronicle of the logic linking the two parts of his life and a useful resource on the part of the Movement--the most important part--that focused on ordinary people organizing themselves, and often becoming local leaders in the proc ...more
Oct 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Is being, what I deem, "mathematically literate," the next civil rights issue in education?

Perhaps that is taking it a bit far. I would put math literacy on a similar plane as civic engagement (read: lack thereof) especially stemming form a poor understanding of history (U.S. and world), student disability discrimination, and on and on.

Sadly, between other articles and books, this book took nearly three months for me to finish and I will read this again in due time; I feel I owe it to myself to
Aug 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book took me a very long time to read, often times because it was too hard. Reading about the struggle to bring the black vote to Mississippi was difficult. People were dying, ending up dead on roadsides as retaliation for trying to permanently change the status quo. It was a lot to take in. I'd still recommend this book. It's important to read about some of the lesser known names in the civil rights struggle: Ella Baker and Amzie Moore, specifically.

I mistakenly picked up this book thinki
Oct 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Incredible and so inspiring to learn about the Algebra Project and its immense impact on black students and their education. The AP is a grassroots mathematics based movement, using strategies of the civil rights movement with emphasis on creating demand of young people on each other and themselves.

Bob Moses writes a powerful memoir of the southern civil rights movement and his work behind it, as well as his role as an educator in the development of the Algebra Project–promoting math literacy,
Sean Kottke
Aug 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, professional
"There are a lot of well- trained curriculum experts and others who know a great deal about math, but, I began to tell myself, what is missing from their work is insight into the minds of the young people they are trying to reach. We do not have enough people with a solid enough mastery of math who are so guided by their insights into the students’ ways of thinking they can reconceptualize the math in terms that allow their students to connect." (p. 102)

Recommended by my boss's boss's boss, the
Not quite what I was expecting. I appreciated to first half of the book which chronicled Moses' involvement in the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s and understand the desire to give a nod to everyone who took part. However, the sheer number of names that piled up made it difficult to follow the narrative. This situation was even more evident in the second half of the book dealing with the Algebra Project. I was also hoping for an emphasis on the math, rather than on the administrative history of ...more
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
The entire book was well done. Linking the civil rights movement and the Algebra Project made a powerful case for a math literacy movement on the same level. The break down of the civil rights movement, mentioning people who have been lost in history classes was fascinating. I slowed down a bit when Moses started talking about the history and application of the Algebra Project, but the discussion of how it inspired students to speak out for themselves was engaging.
Erica Warren
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
I liked the story and the history. some parts are difficult to read through due to word choice. My biggest issue, however, is that I wanted to know more about the algebra project pedagogy and the discussion is reserved to the appendix. As a middle school math teacher I really wanted more information on how he actually teaches these concepts.
Mark Fuller
Nov 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating take on grassroots mathematics education by peers, informed by the tactics of the civil rights movement. It reveals the junctures where we need to open up education and allow for multiple approaches and buy-in by the community. There is also a lot of history personally experienced by the author during the civil rights movement.
Shantel VanderGalien
Jan 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I teach ELA but in expanding my coaching responsibilities I needed to read up on what’s going on in schools when it comes to math. This book was a perfect blend of memoir and math. I highly recommend it.
May 07, 2012 rated it liked it
I came to this book as part of research on the contribution of Ms Ella Baker to the civil rights movement as well as the role of radical pedagogy in the struggle. As a lead organizer in the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, Moses occupies a special in telling the story of the Mississippi campaign. This book intriguingly weaves together Moses's remembrances of that time along with a thorough introduction into the history, ideas, and practices of the Algebra Project. Published in 2001, t ...more
Jun 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Many people talk about education as a civil rights issue, but before I read Radical Equations I had never seen anyone apply the strategies of the civil rights movement to education. Civil rights leader Bob Moses reflects on his experience organizing African Americans in Mississippi to register to vote in the 1960s and applies the lessons he learned to his work increasing math literacy among students of color. Moses is convinced that approaching education reform from the perspective of a communit ...more
Rob Root
Nov 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
I've read this book many times now, but this was the first time in four years. Moses's recounting of his contributions to the 1960s civil rights movement is characteristically understated, and profoundly moving. His work helping contemporary students demand college-preparatory mathematics inspiring. I think the only real weakness of this book is that it doesn't offer a robust enough defense for the importance of math education in the 21st century. He is right that math opens doors and enables en ...more
Jul 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
I love Bob Moses! This year the class I taught was named for him and so I figured I should actually read his book instead of just reading about him. It did not disappoint. He describes his experiences doing voter registration during the Civil Rights Movement, which in and of itself is fascinating to read. Then he goes on to connect this to his current work, the Algebra Project. His theory is that math literacy is the civil rights issue that will make the difference nowadays and is an access issu ...more
Jul 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Access to algebra as a civil rights issue. A good reminder of the inequity of education in this country.

I enjoyed both the civil rights portion and the Algebra Project portions of the book. Somehow, the civil rights memoir was from a perspective I have not read before~ someone on the ground in MS in 1962, but not someone whose story has been mythologized beyond humanness. This perspective made the events more real and more personal.

Then, the mathematics part ~ very inspiring. What the Algebra P
Liz Murray
Feb 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It's hard to rate this with a five star system as it's one thing to rate the style and another to rate the content. I rate this as high as I did because the work Bob Moses has done with the Algebra Project, and the work he has inspired, needs to find a place in every educator's bookshelf. The first half of the book discusses his work in the South as a voting rights activist. He is inspired by the work of Ella Baker, and his story follows hers in that neither Bob nor Ella have the national profil ...more
Izetta Autumn
Jul 14, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: education
Bob Moses sets forth the theory that math literacy is the Civil Rights issue of the 21st Century. One of the things I really loved about this book, is how Moses grounds education, and constantly references Ella Baker. It's clear how much he respected, admired, and learned from her. As someone who also admires Ella Baker immensely, I feel so happy and proud to see her appreciated by others - especially leaders in the movement.

Moses makes a good point, that math literacy is an access issue. Not ha
Kevin Burns
Feb 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Bob Moses has brilliant ideas of how to improve the school systems: his Algebra project. School curriculum must change with the times and the study of math needs to be addressed. In his book it seemed like no one liked math, the school board, the principles, teachers, parents or students but everyone recognized the importance of its place in academia. As I am working with students who struggle with math I will use his ideas to teach them difficult mathematical concepts. Overall Bob Moses' work i ...more
Aug 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is a MUST READ for any educator, parent or anyone concerned about civil rights and education. This book explores the relationship between math literacy and access to full participation in civic life and the understanding of how to manage one's own. He makes a compelling argument for Algebra being a "gatekeeper" subject and math literacy being the civil rights issue of the 21st century. He draws on this own experiences as a community organizer in Mississippi in the 1960's and his work on the ...more
Wiebke Kuhn
May 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Moses makes a compelling case to parallel the dangerous fight for voter registration in the 1960s South of the US and the its call for political literacy and cultural awareness to the need to improve Math education in very much the same geographic areas. Education is the key to better jobs, and history is rather painfully repeating itself with a system that denies students access to good education. I am looking forward to learning more about the Algebra Project - it strikes me as a necessary mov ...more
Oct 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
I had some trouble staying engaged through the details of the civil rights movement in the first few chapters, but once I got to chapter 4 where he started talking about the algebra project I really enjoyed it. As a teacher it was encouraging to see the grassroots work that has begun regarding understanding and making connections to algebra. I recommend this for any educator or parent who is struggling to teach algebra it will inspire and motivate you to teach.
Oct 31, 2010 marked it as to-read
Civil rights pioneer wrote this book illustrating his journey from civil rights activist to math activist. He sees the disinterest in math education as creating a new generation of "sharecroppers" and has founded the Algebra Project to combat this.

The book spends a lot of time in Mississippi talking about Moses' civil rights days. I was looking for more information about the Algebra Project and lost interest in the book. I might pick it up again later.
Nov 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, math, education
i had to read this book four times before i finally understood it, but now i think i do.
Bob Moses is my hero, for the work he did in the Civil Rights Movement (he was behind Mississippi freedom summer) as well as the work he is doing now with math literacy in inner-city schools.
The book is broken up in two parts, which tell the story of those two aspects of his life.
Apr 20, 2012 rated it liked it
I liked the book because of the content. Some nice background history from an inside source on the civil rights movement, and a pretty interesting story about the growth of the algebra project. I wish the author had gone deeper into the project, he seemed more interested in the big picture rather than the details.
Aug 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
I read this book as part of an Equity Reading group. Not one of my favorite subjects (mathematics) as a school leader I needed to broaden my understanding of Algebra as a "gatekeeper" for college and career readiness. Especially as it pertains to students of color. I was enlightened and given a better base for a belief in Algebra for all at the middle school level. ...more
Jun 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Such a cool project! This is the book that first got me thinking about teaching math. Baltimore has a chapter of the algebra project and I am trying to convince my school to get the project going in our school.
Alex Templeton
Jun 24, 2008 rated it it was ok
Read for a class. Good points, but IMHO would have made a much better journal/magazine article than book. Still, if you're interested in knowing the ins-and-outs-and-hows of civil rights organizing in the 1960's, you might be interested in the first three chapters. ...more
Abby Jean
Nov 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: phd-yr-1, 2013
fascinating paralells between the civil rights movement and current access to education that will allow people to participate in the economy as knowledge workers. a bit more about process of building the program than content, but still quite interesting.
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