Date of Award

1-6-2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

David W. Stinson, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Stephanie Behm Cross, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Joyce E. King, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Jennifer Esposito, Ph.D.

Abstract

Women of color in general and Black women in particular who pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in mathematics are nearly invisible in the mathematics education research literature (Borum & Walker, 2012). The majority of research published in the mid-to-late twentieth century that explored the mathematics education of women was limited not only by failing to explore the unique mathematical experiences of women of color but also by employing quantitative methodologies in positivist frames (see, e.g., Benbow & Stanley, 1980; Fennema & Sherman, 1977; Hyde, Fennema, Ryan, Frost, & Hopp, 1990). Therefore, the purpose of this narrative inquiry project was to come alongside Black women who earned an undergraduate degree in mathematics and conduct an inquiry into their mathematics teaching and learning experiences. Specifically, the study explored the life and schooling experiences of mathematically talented Black women who attended Spelman College from the 1980s to 2000s.

While theoretical and methodological elements from both Black feminist standpoint theory (e.g., Collins, 1986) and womanist theory (e.g., Phillips, 2006) have framed my thinking, in the end, both theoretically and methodologically, narrative inquiry grounded the project, affording my participants (and me) the opportunity to tell stories of their (our) mathematical experiences. Initially, three central questions guided the research: (1) What were the life and schooling experiences of Black women who pursued their undergraduate degree in mathematics at Spelman College from the 1980s to 2000s? (2) How did larger socio-historical and -cultural contexts and life experiences (on and off campus) affect their image of themselves as mathematicians? and (3) How did relationships with other Spelman students, faculty, and staff influence their short- and long-term goals in the field of mathematics? As I employed narrative inquiry and developed my research puzzle, I focused on particular moments in my participants’ mathematical lives—their sacred stories—identifying common threads across experiences. I share my participants lived experiences in the hope that readers will engage in “resonant remembering” as they “rethink and reimagine” relationships and “wonder alongside” my participants and me (Clandinin, 2013, p. 51). My participants’ stories highlight the importance of familial support and influence on education, the role and academic experience of Black women mathematics majors, and mentorship of caring faculty and staff and positive peer relationships. Implications for mathematically talented Black women are discussed.

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