Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2020

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

Dr. David W. Stinson

Second Advisor

Dr. Deron Boyles

Third Advisor

Dr. John O. Wamsted

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Stephanie Cross

Abstract

Young Black Men and mathematics: Exploring Changes, influences, and perceptions of social justice pedagogy

by

Dean Wilfred Potts

Under the direction of Dr. David W. Stinson

ABSTRACT

When it comes to “traditional” mathematics teaching and learning, teachers and students are often at odds about the purposes of mathematics. Teachers often think, “How do I get my students to value mathematics and become lifelong learners?”; whereas, students often think, “When will I ever use this?” Given that mathematics serves as a gatekeeper for admittance to postsecondary institutions and well-paying jobs (Stinson, 2004), the discrepancy between how teachers and students think about mathematics teaching and learning cannot be ignored. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to explore the effects (if any) of a social justice mathematics pedagogy (see, e.g., Gutstein & Peterson, 2006; Wager & Stinson, 2012) experienced by a group of six young African American male students who had experienced limited success in traditional mathematics classrooms.

The project was grounded in qualitative research methodology, rooted in an eclectic theoretical frame (Stinson, 2009) that included critical theory (e.g., Horkheimer, 1987) and critical race theory (e.g., Bell, 1992). Retrospectively, the participants were asked to reflect on their previous traditional mathematics courses and a mathematics course that was framed by social justice pedagogy. Critical theory provided a frame for describing how the participants understand culture and how they negotiate the oppressive forces they face. Critical race theory provided a frame to analyze how the discourses and discursive practices of race and racism influence the participants’ perceptions of social justice verses traditional mathematics pedagogy. An analysis of the findings suggest that teachers should reconsider the ways in which they approach mathematics instruction, specifically the relationship-building benefits of a social justice oriented mathematics curriculum. This study takes a glimpse into the daily lives and thoughts of six young African American men who share and reflect on relationships in their lives. These relationships shared and reflected on include family dynamics, institutional experiences, employment struggles, and mathematics engagement. Implications for mathematics and teaching and learning are discussed.

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