A Story of African American Students as Mathematics Learners

Crystal Hill Morton
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Abstract


Educational systems throughout the world serve students from diverse populations. Often students from minority populations (i.e. racial, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic) face unique challenges when learning in contexts based on the cultural traditions and learning theories of the majority population.  These challenges often leave minority populations labeled as incompetent, unmotivated, and cognitively deficit. In the United States, African American female students are among minority populations who are often positioned as deficit when compared to the majority White population. This study investigates middle school African American female perceptions of themselves as learners and students’ knowledge of the meaning of ratio, proportionality, and how to apply and explain their application of proportionality concepts by examining written problem solving strategies over a three-year period. Students’ responses are analyzed according to the strategies they used to reach their final solution.  The categories of strategies include no-response, guess and check, additive build up with and without a pictorial representation, and multiplicative. The majority of students in this study 86.5%, 69.2%, and 68.6% did not attempt or demonstrated no understanding in year one, two, and three respectively.  Additionally, participants reported positive dispositions about themselves as mathematics learners.


Keywords


Problem solving strategies, African American female students, Middle school, proportional reasoning.

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