Date of Award

Fall 12-18-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Iman C. Chahine, PhD

Second Advisor

Jennifer Esposito, PhD

Third Advisor

Christine Thomas, PhD

Fourth Advisor

Pier Junor-Clarke, PhD


Nationally, the outlook for African Americans in K-12 education is dismal. While gains are being made, African Americans still lag behind their White peers. The latest reports by the National Center for Education Statistics (2009) show a 31 point gap between 8th grade African Americans and Whites in mathematics. While statistics such as these are in abundance, there are few accounts of stories of success (Berry, 2005; Jett, 2009; Stinson, 2004). Studies directly related to the role of socio-emotional interpersonal relationships and the means by which African American high school students negotiated that space in terms of successful math performance were significantly limited.

The purpose of this study was to explore the nature of socio-emotional factors in peer relationships between school friends and discover the ways in which students negotiated academic success through these relationships. The following research questions guided the study: How do academically successful African American high school students negotiate academic success in mathematics classrooms using peer relationships? What are the socio-emotional factors contributing to the academic success of these students in mathematics? How do students perceive the nature of socio-emotional relationships with peers that contribute to their academic success in mathematics? Using the lens of Critical Race Theory (CRT), this ethnographic study explored how African-American high school students constructed and appropriated socio-emotional relationships to support their academic success. Through the use of purposive sampling, four African-American high school students were observed in an AP Calculus AB course and interviewed over a seven month period at a high school in a southeastern state. The data collected were crystallized using researcher memos and the collection of artifacts. Data was analyzed using five coding techniques: structural, in vivo, subcoding, eclectic, and axial. The study found seven themes related to socio-emotional factors and perceptions about how the characters negotiated academic success in mathematics classes using peer relationships: 1) selective narrowing of social interaction, 2) interpersonal relationships affect academic identity and behaviors, 3) interpersonal engagement, 4) pursuit of emotionally gratifying interactions, 5) satisfaction of emotional needs through social networks, 6) effect of collaborative learning, and 7) illusion of control.