Social Justice Math Class Returns for 2nd Year


Sam Peters

Mr. Groess teaches Social Justice Algebra II, which combines real world scenarios with math problems

A common question students ask in math when their test score comes back marked up in red pen, is: “When are we ever going to use this in the real world?”

A recent addition to the math department at Benilde-St. Margaret’s is Social Justice Algebra II. In this class, math teacher Mr. John Groess seeks to help students answer this question, and find a way to help apply their studies into a real world scenario.

Groess first came up with the idea for connecting the two on a retreat in the midst of the COVID-19 years. “I kind of came up with it in the woods, by myself when I was reading stories and news and I saw all the numbers and figures that were being put in the news about COVID cases and about the kind of things that were going on with racial equity in our society. And I thought I wanted to do a better job of having students kind of tackle those things from a math point of view and be able to interact with the math of them,” Groess said.

Being brought up in the Catholic faith, Groess has spent most of his life as an advocate for service. “I went to Cretin Derham Hall which is a Catholic school and very much about service,” Groess said.

There Groess found a passion for service, which has expanded into a love and ability to apply it today. “One of the big charisms of the Catholic Church’s social justice has always piqued my interest in that and… loving our dear neighbor without distinction,” Groess said.

Seeing that BSM is a Catholic school, Groess sees it is important to instill these values in the youth. Especially at a time when younger students’ eyes are opened to the realities of the world and social justice topics. “I hope as they become adults or as they interact with math in the world, and as they see things on social media, they see things in the newspaper, they see things in the news, they can be more critical thinkers around how they examine those,” Groess said.

So far, students have already made connections to real world examples, just as Groess idealized. “So far, I’ve learned the minimum wage is not high enough for living,” junior Sarah Humphrey said.

Social Justice Algebra II students have also picked up the concepts well and enjoyed the class so far, especially the real life project application over tests approach. They find Groess to be a major help in the matter. “I would say that he’s been very supportive. It’s more projects. I’m trying to be more open minded with the real world experiences,” senior Steven Tangney said.