“Excluded from History” No More: Inclusive Inquiry to Support Both Research and Teaching

By Natalie Pemberton posted 06-20-2024 10:30 AM


“Excluded from History” No More: Inclusive Inquiry to Support Both Research and Teaching

By Jenny Cox

Jenny Cox wrote the article “Advancing Equitable and Responsible Research Involving Gender and Sexuality within Mathematics Education” in the latest quarterly issue of The Educational Forum. The article is available free in the month of  June.

In a recent article, Helen Forgasz (2021) included a refreshingly honest anecdote about “listwise deleting” students who had failed to respond to the “Are you male or female?” survey item in her early 1990s doctoral study. Terminology related to gender and sexuality has certainly changed in the last thirty years, and as researchers, it can often feel like we have missed the mark. Have we truly encompassed our participants’ identities? Can the unique ways that our participants identify create layers of nuance and increased understanding to our research? Forgasz knew that eliminating people from her research just because they felt unable to respond to a question was not ideal; however, in the early 1990s, most researchers likely did not have the correct terminology––or even knowledge––to accurately describe their participants, let alone use these descriptions to advance their work. Put plainly, subsets of a greater population were completely removed from research because we did not know a better way, and this has been happening for far too many years.

In our article entitled “Advancing Equitable and Responsible Research Involving Gender and Sexuality within Mathematics Education,” in this special issue of The Educational Forum, we describe two doctoral dissertation studies, both of which incorporated a responsible and equitable way to include Queer students (Ataide Pinheiro, 2022; Cox, 2022). In this paper, we include a helpful “roadmap” for both qualitative and quantitative work, finding that the inclusion of Queer students made our work stronger. Additionally, our participants were grateful for this work. For instance, in my dissertation study (Cox, 2022), I met Emmaline, a high school senior from a rural school in the Midwest whose sex assigned at birth was male but hoped to identify as a woman in college. Emmaline shared that most people in her daily life did not know her true self, except for one special teacher and a few friends that she found through online games. After our interview, I received a lovely email from Emmaline, thanking me for referring to her with her preferred name, one that no other people used in her day-to-day life. This simple act made Emmaline feel like things might get better when she left her rural area and went to college in the coming months. 

Relatedly, conversations surrounding gender and sexuality are virtually non-existent in today’s classrooms. A student in my co-author’s dissertation study (Ataide Pinheiro, 2022) mentioned feeling “excluded from history” when they never saw themselves reflected in the curriculum. In his study, he engaged students in a mathematical lesson about bullying and harassment that Queer students have experienced in the United States. Not only did this activity provide a safe space for Queer students to share their experiences, but it made the lesson on matrices engaging and relevant to them. In interviews after the lesson, students stated that the bulk of the knowledge they acquired about their identities came from social media or other online sources, which some acknowledged were not always safe, opened them up to bullying, or made them feel abnormal. One student mentioned how valuable lessons like this might be, saying, “It would make schools safer, because more people would realize that LGBTQ people are not insane or bad or crazy.” 

In each of our original studies, participants repeatedly mentioned a desire to simply “exist” and no longer be “ignored” (or worse, bullied and ridiculed). They wanted their peers to realized that being Queer is “normal.” The research practices described in this paper provide us all with a better way––a way that allows Queer participants to exist in our research and our classrooms, to not be listwise removed or ignored, and to normalize their identities. While we cannot fully remedy errors in the past, we are hopeful that our “inclusive inquiry” practices help support research in the future.



Ataide Pinheiro, W. (2022). At the intersections: Queer high school students’ experiences with the teaching of mathematics for social justice [Doctoral dissertation]. Indiana University.

Cox, J. (2022). Compliance, competitiveness, and confidence: Investigating patterns in mathematics anxiety using a nuanced view of gender [Doctoral dissertation]. Indiana University.

Forgasz, H. (2021). Gender: A dilemma for large-scale studies in mathematics education. Mathematics Education Research Journal, 33(4), 631–640.


Jenny Cox has shared her love of mathematics with secondary and undergraduate students for the last 20 years. She and her co-author, Weverton Ataide Pinheiro, completed their doctoral degrees in Curriculum and Instruction – Mathematics Education at Indiana University in 2022. Jenny’s current research includes reducing mathematics anxiety, equitable practices surrounding high-stakes assessments, inclusive inquiry practices, and supporting women in STEM.