Mathematical Inqueery: Queering the Theory, Praxis, and Politics of Mathematics Pedagogy

  • Kai Rands
Part of the Critical Studies of Education book series (CSOE, volume 11)


While mathematics education has experienced a “social turn” among critical mathematics educators who have developed social justice perspectives, queer perspectives have only recently emerged in this discussion. This chapter elaborates on “mathematical inqueery” as a perspective on mathematics and mathematics education informed by queer theory. The chapter makes several contributions in terms of theory. The argument is put forth that mathematics is a “pretty queer thing.” Parallels are drawn between the ways in which queer theory challenges common sense assumptions and the ways in which the modern process of proof does so. Two tensions inhering in queer theory and queer pedagogy are examined. The first is a tension between a critique of heteronormativity and a critique of normativity more broadly. Second is a tension between identitarian subjectivity and a critique of such a view. These two tensions shape the way in which mathematics pedagogy and queer theory interact in mathematical inqueery. In addition to addressing theory, the chapter delves into the praxis and politics in relation to queering family, citizenship, and financial literacy. A typical financial literacy story is read and critiqued through a queer economics lens and an alternative is explored. Finally, the argument that context and math are inseparable is put forward using the example of exponential financial formulas for interest.


  1. Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Mathematicians. (2012). About our group. Retrieved February 26, 2012, from
  2. Barker, D., & Feiner, S. (Eds.). (2004). Liberating economics: Feminist perspectives on families, work, and globalization. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  3. Berberet, H. M. (2006). Putting the pieces together for queer youth: A model of integrated assessment of need and program planning. Child Welfare, 85(2), 361–384. Retrieved from
  4. Butler, J. (1990). Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Butler, J. (1993). Critically queer. In Bodies that matter: On the discursive limits of “sex” (pp. 223–242). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Calvin, J. (1960). Calvin: Institutes of the Christian religion (J. T. McNeill & F. L. Battles, Trans.). Philadelphia: Westminster Press. (Originally published in 1536)Google Scholar
  7. Choi, S. K., Wilson, B. D., Shelton, J., & Gates, G. (2015). Serving our youth 2015: The needs and experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth experiencing homelessness. Los Angeles: The Williams Institute with True Colors Fund. Retrieved from
  8. Cochran, B. N., Stewart, A. J., Ginzler, J. A., & Cauce, A. M. (2002). Challenges faced by homeless sexual minorities: Comparison of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender homeless adolescents with their heterosexual counterparts. American Journal of Public Health, 92(5), 773–777.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Common Core State Standards Initiative. (n.d.-a) Common core standards for English language arts, and literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. Retrieved from
  10. Common Core State Standards Initiative. (n.d.-b). Common core standards for mathematics. Retrieved from
  11. Common Core State Standards Initiative. (n.d.-c). Standards in your state. Preparing America’s students for success. Retrieved July 2, 2011 and November 20, 2018 from
  12. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (2016). Building blocks to help youth achieve financial capability: A new model and recommendations. Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  13. Council of Economic Education. (n.d.). Every penny counts. Retrieved July 2, 2011 from
  14. Curnutt, L. (n.d.). Sonya Kovalevsky. Retrieved February 26, 2012, from
  15. Curran, G. (2006). Responding to students’ normative questions about gays: Putting queer theory into practice in an Australian ESL class. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 5(1), 85–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. D’Ambrosio, U. (1999). Ethnomathematics: The art or technique of explaining and knowing & history of mathematics in the periphery: The basin metaphor. Preprint 116. Berlin: Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte.Google Scholar
  17. D’Emilio, J. (1993). Capitalism and gay identity. In H. Abelove, M. A. Barale, & D. M. Halperin (Eds.), Lesbian and gay studies reader (pp. 467–476). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  18. De Corte, E., Greer, B., & Verschaffel, L. (1996). Mathematics teaching and learning. In D. Berliner & R. Calfee (Eds.), Handbook of educational psychology (pp. 491–549). New York: Simon and Schuster Macmillan.Google Scholar
  19. Dubbs, C. (2016). A queer turn in mathematics education research: Centering the experience of marginalized queer students. In M. B. Wood, E. E. Turner, M. Civil, & J. A. Eli (Eds.), Proceedings of the 38th Annual Meeting of the North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (pp. 1041–1048). Tucson: The University of Arizona.Google Scholar
  20. Duggan, L. (2003). The twilight of equality? Neoliberalism, cultural politics, and the attack on democracy. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  21. Durso, L. E., & Gates, G. J. (2012). Serving our youth: Findings from a national survey of service providers working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Los Angeles: The Williams Institute with True Colors Fund and the Palatte Fund. Retrieved from
  22. Empowering Consumers. (2010). Can financial literacy education prevent another financial crisis?: Hearings before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation, of the House Committee on Financial Services, 111th U. S. Congress (testimony of Gayle Voyles).Google Scholar
  23. Eng, D., Halberstam, J., & Muñoz, J. (2005). Introduction: What’s queer about queer studies now? Social Text, 84–85(3–4), 1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Esmonde, I. (2010). Snips and snails and puppy dogs’ tails: Equity and boy-centered mathematics education. In Congress 2010—Canadian Society for the Study of Education. Retrieved from
  25. Esmonde, I. (2011). Snips and snails and puppy dogs’ tails: Genderism and mathematics education. For the Learning of Mathematics, 31(2), 27–31. Retrieved from
  26. Fischer, D. J. (2013). The intersection of queer identity and mathematical identity (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from
  27. Folina, J. (2010, June). Axioms, evidence, and truth. Paper presented at the Eighth International Congress of the International Society of the History of Philosophy of Science (HOPOS), Budapest, HungaryGoogle Scholar
  28. Forge, N., Hartinger-Saunders, R., Wright, E., & Ruel, E. (2018). Out of the system and onto the streets: LGBTQ-identified youth experiencing homelessness with past child welfare system involvement. Child Welfare, 96(2), 47–74.Google Scholar
  29. Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. New York: Pantheon Books.Google Scholar
  30. Foucault, M. (1978). The history of sexuality volume 1: An introduction. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  31. Frank, M. (1990). What myths about mathematics are held and conveyed by teachers? Arithmetic Teacher, 37(5), 10–12.Google Scholar
  32. Gardner, D. P., et al. (1983). A nation at risk: The imperative for educational reform. Washington, DC: National Commission on Excellence in Education.Google Scholar
  33. Gutiérrez, R. (2002). Enabling the practices of mathematics teachers in context: Toward a new equity research agenda. Mathematical Thinking and Learning, 42(2&3), 145–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Gutstein, E., & Peterson, B. (2013). Rethinking mathematics: Teaching social justice by the numbers (2nd ed.). Milwaukee: Rethinking Schools.Google Scholar
  35. Hoad, N. (1994). Response in forum: On the political implications of using the term “queer,” as in “queer politics,” “queer studies,” and “queer pedagogy”. Radical Teacher, 45, 52–57.Google Scholar
  36. Holmes, M. (1994). Response in forum: On the political implications of using the term “queer,” as in “queer politics,” “queer studies,” and “queer pedagogy”. Radical Teacher, 45, 52–57.Google Scholar
  37. Jakobsen, J. (2012). Perverse justice. GLQ: The Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, 18(1), 19–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kersey, E. (2018). Refracting gender: Experiences of transgender students in postsecondary STEM education (Doctoral dissertation).Google Scholar
  39. Kogelman, S., & Warren, J. (1978). Mind over math. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  40. Luhmann, S. (1998). Queering/querying pedagogy? Or, pedagogy is a pretty queer thing. In W. Pinar (Ed.), Queer theory in education (pp. 141–155). Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  41. McCoy, L. (2008). Poverty: Teaching mathematics and social justice. Mathematics Teacher, 101(6), 456–461.Google Scholar
  42. Mendick, H. (2006a). An encounter between queer theory and mathematics education. International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education, 300. Retrieved from
  43. Mendick, H. (2006b). Masculinities in mathematics. London: McGraw-Hill Education.Google Scholar
  44. Milson, R., & Tressler, E. (2004). Axiom. Retrieved February 26, 2012, from
  45. Mtetwa, D., & Garofalo, J. (1989). Beliefs about mathematics: An overlooked aspect of student difficulties. Academic Therapy, 24(5), 611–618.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. National Center for Education and the Economy. (n.d.). Josh has many wants. Retrieved from
  47. National Governors’ Association & the Council of Chief State School Officers. (n.d.). Common core state standards initiative standards: Setting the criteria. Retrieved from
  48. Nelson, C. (1999). Sexual identities in ESL: Queer theory and classroom inquiry. TESOL Quarterly, 33, 371–391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Parker, A. (1994). Response in forum: On the political implications of using the term “queer,” as in “queer politics,” “queer studies,” and “queer pedagogy”. Radical Teacher, 45, 52–57.Google Scholar
  50. Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21). (2011). A framework for 21st century learning. Retrieved April 1, 2011 from
  51. Paulos, J. (1992). Mathematics-moron myths. Mathematics Teacher, 85(5), 335.Google Scholar
  52. Pennell, S. M. (2016). Queering the curriculum: Critical literacy and numeracy for social justice (Ph.D.). The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, United States—North Carolina. Retrieved from
  53. Phillips, D. (1994). Pedagogy, theory, and the scene of resistance. Radical Teacher, 45, 38–41.Google Scholar
  54. Poirier, J. M., Wilkie, S., Sepulveda, K., & Uruchima, T. (2018). Jim Casey youth opportunities initiative: Experiences and outcomes of youth who are LGBTQ. Child Welfare, 96(1), 1–26.Google Scholar
  55. Quinn, F. (2012). A revolution in mathematics? What really happened a century ago and why it matters today. Notices of the AMS [American Mathematical Society], 59(1), 31–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Quintana, S. N., Rosenthal, J., & Kehely, J. (2010). On the streets: The federal response to gay and transgender homeless youth. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress. Retrieved from
  57. Rands, K. (2009). Mathematical inqu[ee]ry: Beyond “add-queers-and-stir” elementary mathematics education. Sex Education, 9(2), 181–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Rands, K. (2013). Supporting transgender and gender-nonconforming youth through teaching mathematics for social justice. Journal of LGBT Youth, 10(1–2), 106–126. Scholar
  59. Rands, K. (2016). Mathematical inqueery. In N. M. Rodriguez, W. J. Martino, J. C. Ingrey, & E. Brockenbrough (Eds.), Critical concepts in queer studies and education: An international guide for the twenty-first century (pp. 183–192). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Scholar
  60. Rosenberg, J., & Villarejo, A. (2012). Introduction: Queer, norms, utopia. GLQ: The Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, 10(1), 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Rubel, L. H. (2016). Speaking up and speaking out about gender in mathematics. The Mathematics Teacher, 109(6), 434–439. Scholar
  62. Rubin, G. (1975). The traffic in women: Notes on the “political economy” of sex. In R. R. Reiter (Ed.), Toward an anthropology of women (pp. 157–210). New York: Monthly Review Press.Google Scholar
  63. Sam, L. (1999). Public images of mathematics (Doctoral dissertation). University of Exeter, Exeter, UKGoogle Scholar
  64. Sedgwick, E. (1990). Epistemology of the closet. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  65. Sedgwick, E. (1993). Tendencies. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Sheldon, J. (2016). Versatility. In N. M. Rodriguez, W. J. Martino, J. C. Ingrey, & E. Brockenbrough (Eds.), Critical concepts in queer studies and education: An international guide for the twenty-first century (pp. 445–452). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Sheldon, J. (2017). The pedagogy of the student: Reclaiming agency in receptive subject-positions. Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, 32(1), 91–103.Google Scholar
  68. Sheldon, J. (2019). Towards a queer curriculum of infinity: What's the biggest number you can think of? In W. Letts & S. Fifield (Eds.), STEM of desire: Queer theories and science education. Leiden: Brill Publishers.Google Scholar
  69. Sheldon, J., & Courey, S. (2016). Mathematical and queer identity in schools: Educational disparities and lost opportunities. Presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Curriculum Studies Sixteenth Meeting, University of Texas at San Antonio.Google Scholar
  70. Sheldon, J. R., & Rands, K. (2013). Queering, trans-forming, and en-gendering mathematics and mathematics education. Retrieved from
  71. Shepard, T. (1994). Response in forum: On the political implications of using the term “queer,” as in “queer politics,” “queer studies,” and “queer pedagogy”. Radical Teacher, 45, 52–57.Google Scholar
  72. Sillanpoa, W. (1994). Response in forum: On the political implications of using the term “queer,” as in “queer politics,” “queer studies,” and “queer pedagogy”. Radical Teacher, 45, 52–57.Google Scholar
  73. Skovsmose, O. (2009). In doubt: About language, mathematics, knowledge and life-worlds. Rotterdam: Sense.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Stemhagen, K. (2006). Social justice and mathematics: Rethinking the nature and purposes of school mathematics. Philosophy of Mathematics Education Journal, 19. Retrieved from
  75. Sumara, D., & Davis, B. (1998). Telling tales of surprise. In W. Pinar (Ed.), Queer theory in education (pp. 213–219). Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  76. Talburt, S., & Steinberg, S. (Eds.). (2000). Thinking queer: Sexuality, culture, and education. New York: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  77. Valero, P., & Zevenbergen, R. (Eds.). (2004). Researching the socio-political dimensions of mathematics education: Issues of power in theory and methodology. Boston: Kluwer Academic.Google Scholar
  78. Van Houtte, B., & Jarvis, P. (1995). The role of pets in preadolescent psychosocial development. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 16(3), 463–479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Van Leeuwen, J. M., Boyle, S., Salomonsen-Sautel, S., Baker, D. N., Garcia, J. T., Hoffman, A., & Hopfer, C. J. (2006). Lesbian, gay, and bisexual homeless youth: An eight-city public health perspective. Child Welfare, 85(2), 151–170.Google Scholar
  80. Warner, M. (Ed.). (1993). Fear of a queer planet: Queer politics and social theory. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  81. Warner, M. (1999). The trouble with normal: Sex, politics, and the ethics of queer life. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  82. Woodhouse, R. (1994). Response in forum: On the political implications of using the term “queer,” as in “queer politics,” “queer studies,” and “queer pedagogy”. Radical Teacher, 45, 52–57.Google Scholar
  83. Wright, E., Ruel, E, Justice Fuoco, M., Trouteaud, A., Sanchez, T., LaBoy, A., Myers, H., Tsukerman, K., Vidmarm, C., Gayman, M., Forge, N., Smalls-Glover, C., Anderson, C., & Hartinger-Saunders, R. (2016). Atlanta youth count! Final report. Atlanta: Georgia State University. Retrieved from

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kai Rands
    • 1
  1. 1.Independent ScholarChapel HillUSA

Personalised recommendations