Date of Award

Spring 5-13-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

Christine D. Thomas, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Gertrude Tinker Sachs, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Natalie King, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Pier Junor Clarke, Ph.D.


When curricular boundaries between mathematics and culture become blurred or nonexistent, Black students can participate in mathematical processes that become more relevant and applicable to their lives (Barta, Eglash, and Barkley, 2014). Simply defined, ethnomathematics is the study of the relationships between mathematics and cultures (D’Ambrosio, 2006). With the incorporation of ethnomathematics in the mathematics curriculum, students learn to appreciate the achievements of their own and other cultures (D’Ambrosio, 1993) while creating connections between the mathematics of the classroom and the mathematics in their lives.

The purpose of this study was to investigate students’ abilities to recognize the relevance of mathematics to their lives and to examine changes in students' development of cultural and historical literacies after engaging in an ethnomathematics curriculum during a virtual summer STEM camp. During the virtual classroom sessions, students examined how patterns emerge and mathematics abounds in cultural activities while delving into the basic concepts of geometry. This study was guided by the following research questions:

1. In what ways do specific components within ethnomathematics tasks and activities influence Black students’ development of cultural and historical literacies in mathematics?

2. How do students incorporate their cultures into ethnomathematics tasks and activities designed to help them develop their cultural and historical literacies in mathematics?

3. How do ethnomathematics lessons enhance Black students’ ability to connect the mathematics they learn in the classroom to the mathematics in their lives?

This single intrinsic case study invoked second-generation Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) as the theoretical lens to investigate how students connect the mathematics taught in the classroom to real-world mathematics as they were immersed in the instruction of ethnomathematics lessons. Data sources included recorded class sessions and student-created artifacts. Students used mathematics vocabulary, created mathematical models, expressed cultural connection to mathematics based on their cultural backgrounds, and connected content learning to the real world. Students took ownership of their learning and realized that math is more than just numbers. Immersion in ethnomathematics allowed the students to rediscover what counts as math and who counts as mathematicians.


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