Date of Award

Summer 8-8-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

David W. Stinson, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Janice B. Fournillier, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Stephanie Behm Cross, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Carla R. Bidwell, Ph.D.


Educational and public narratives on the achievement outcomes of Black boys in mathematics are too often negative. Contrary to these negative narratives, however, research affirms positive outcomes for students, including Black boys, when engaged in caring teacher–student relationships (see, e.g., Bartell, 2011; Roberts, 2009; Steele, 1992). Considering the growing importance of mathematics both nationally and globally, an investigation into the benefits of such caring relationship is important. But literature specific to caring teacher−student relationships, African American male students, and mathematics teaching and learning is all but nonexistent. For this reason, I sought to uncover the definition that African American male students had of teacher care, and how, if at all, an African American male teacher might influence their perceptions of teacher care. Additionally, I was intrigued with and wished to uncover any influence an African American male teacher might have on African American male students’ attitudes toward mathematics.

The purpose of this qualitative study, therefore, was to explore the influence a “successful” African American male teacher had on three African American male students’ perceptions of teacher care and their attitudes toward mathematics. This critical ethnography was guided by an intersection of an eclectic array of theoretical traditions (Stinson, 2009), including care theory (e.g., Gilligan, 1982; Noddings, 1992), critical race theory (e.g., Ladson-Billings, 1998), and culturally relevant pedagogy (e.g., Ladson-Billings, 1992). This eclectic array aligned with both the philosophical foundations of the project and the methodological procedures employed. The project used ethnographic methods—specifically, participant observations and semi-structured interviews—during data collection. Data analysis identified six overarching themes that the participants used to describe teacher care: (a) motivation, (b) culture, (c) confidence, (d) discipline, (e) concern for futures, and (f) environment. The findings of this study suggest that teachers should reconsider the ways they care for African American male students, specifically, in the mathematics classroom, and that a caring teacher–student relationship has a positive influence on African American male students’ attitudes toward mathematics as well as their descriptions and perceptions of teacher care.