Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The relevance of racism to the mathematics experiences of African American students in an intensely segregated low income school
by Caref, Carol, Ph.D., Illinois Institute of Technology, 2010, 232; 3417950
Abstract (Summary)

Society's failure to educate proportionate numbers of African American students in mathematics is an ongoing problem. The roots of this problem lie in systemic racism and segregated schools. The overwhelming majority of economically disadvantaged African American high school students at segregated schools receive substandard mathematics education.

One part of this study consists of analysis of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) data, showing vast inequities in the education delivered to the 72% of African American CPS students who attend segregated schools. Data from interviews of 24 freshmen in low-level algebra classes at one such CPS school support the major part of this study. The interviewees answer questions about their experiences as mathematics students and as African Americans.

Results of this study found students to be teacher dependent, to approach math lessons as unconnected to previous knowledge, and to take a narrow view towards the value of mathematics. Students had not encountered autonomous learning in mathematics, learned to approach difficult problems with confidence and perseverance nor experienced the joy of solving a challenging problem.

While students are aware of racism's existence, they are unclear about how it affects them directly. Students do not recognize that the segregated schools and neighborhoods of their lives are a result of racism. They accept their substandard education as normal and are uncritical of their schools. Students repeat anti-Black stereotypes about fellow students in relation to violence, interest in education, and self-responsibility.

Mathematics educators need to be aware of the social context of math education. Segregated, economically disadvantaged African American students are likely to have learned teacher-dependence and narrow approaches to mathematics. It is therefore crucial that teachers develop lessons and practices aimed at moving students in the opposite direction, to become independent conceptual thinkers. This is no simple task, particularly for students who have developed these practices over many years of school. Researchers can prioritize the development of autonomy-building, conceptually based lessons and practices and school systems can support teachers' collaborative efforts in this regard.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Lederman, Norman G.
School: Illinois Institute of Technology
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 71/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Mathematics education, African American Studies, Black studies, Educational sociology, Ethnic studies
Keywords: Achievement gap, African American students, Disadvantaged students, Mathematics education, Racism, Segregated schools, Segregation
Publication Number: 3417950
ISBN: 9781124146676
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