Maria Zavala

Maria Zavala

( She/Her/Hers )
Associate Professor
Elementary Education (EED)
Phone: (415) 405-0465

Dr. Zavala is an associate professor of Elementary Education at San Francisco State University and an educational consultant. She is the first-born daughter of Peruvian immigrants, and a mother of two children. In her role as a faculty member, she teaches future and current elementary school teachers, and those continuing on for their MA in Curriculum & Instruction. Some of the classes she specializes in are Curriculum & Instruction in Mathematics, Teacher Research, and the Learning Theories in Mathematics and Science course for the SFSU Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership. She brings a variety of teaching experiences in mathematics and literacy from across the K-college pipeline to her work. She has been an educator for over 20 years, and working in professional learning roles for much of that time.  

Her research focuses on equity issues in mathematics education for Latiné communities and other historically marginalized populations by focusing on identity development and culturally responsive practices. Her work has appeared in peer reviewed journals such as The Journal for Urban Mathematics Education, Teaching for Excellence and Equity in Mathematics, and Mathematics Teacher Educator. She is the co-author of Cultivating Mathematical Hearts: Culturally Responsive Teaching in Elementary Classrooms (Corwin, 2024) with Julia Aguirre; co-editor of the book Early Elementary Mathematics Lessons to Explore, Understand, and Respond to Social Injustice with Courtney Koestler, Jennifer Ward, and Tonya Bartell; and lead author on the new young adult fiction book in the Powerful Mathematician’s series entitled What We Do When Fairness Fails Us, featuring the real-life mathematician Federico Ardila accompanying the characters in the book as they grapple with an unfair situation and how mathematics can help (co-authored with Toya Jones Frank and Zandra de Araujo, series editor Christa Jackson). 

Her professional work starts from the assumption that all people are mathematical. She believes firmly in the power of community and collaboration. She sees mathematics instruction as a vehicle for human joy and justice.

Selected Publications

Zavala, M. (2014). Latina/o youth’s perspectives on race, language, and learning mathematics. Journal of Urban Mathematics Education, 7(1), 55-87.

Zavala, M. (2017). Bilingual Pre-Service Teachers Grapple with the Academic and Social Role of Language in Mathematics Discussions. Issues in Teacher Education, 26(2), pp. 49-66.

Koestler, C., Ward, J., Zavala, M., & Bartell, T. (2023). Early Elementary Mathematics Lessons to Explore, Understand, and Respond to Social Injustice. Corwin.

Zavala, M. & Simic-Muller, K. (2022/2023). Special Issue on Antiracism in Mathematics Education, Parts 1 & 2. Teaching for Excellence and Equity in Mathematics. Guest Editor.

Zavala, M. & Aguirre, J.M. (2024). Cultivating Mathematical Hearts: Culturally Responsive Mathematics Teaching in Elementary Classrooms. Corwin.