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Lessons for Mathematics Education From the Practices of African American Mathematics Teachers


by Paul Cobb & Kara Jackson — 2013

In this commentary, we discuss the lessons we learned from case studies of two African American mathematics teachers, thereby endorsing the claim made by the contributors to this special issue that the insights they gained are not restricted to mathematics teaching in nonselective urban schools but can also inform the field more generally. We then focus on differences in the two teachers’ goals for students’ mathematical learning and clarify that they were consequential and constrained the types of purposes that the teachers could convey to their students for engaging in mathematical activity. We go on to argue that high expectations for all students’ learning are not by themselves sufficient for their development of mathematical proficiency and discuss the importance of supporting teachers’ development of specific instructional practices that enable their students to meet those expectations. Finally, we suggest that it is critical to situate the ways in which teachers draw on their cultural resources with respect to the school and district settings in which they work and in which they refine and elaborate their instructional practices.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 115 Number 2, 2013, p. 1-14
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16841, Date Accessed: 9/26/2017 7:04:40 AM

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About the Author
  • Paul Cobb
    Vanderbilt University
    E-mail Author
    PAUL COBB is professor of mathematics education at Vanderbilt University. His research focuses on improving the quality of mathematics teaching and thus student learning on a large scale, and on issues of equity in students’ access to significant mathematical ideas. An overview of his work can be found in Yackel, E., Gravemeijer, K., & Sfard, A. (2010) (Eds.) A Journey Into Mathematics Education Research: Insights From the Work of Paul Cobb. New York, NY: Springer.
  • Kara Jackson
    McGill University
    E-mail Author
    KARA JACKSON is an assistant professor of mathematics education at McGill University. Her research focuses on identifying forms of practice that enable all learners to participate in rigorous mathematics, and on supporting teachers’ development of these forms of practice, which includes reorganizing the contexts in which teachers teach. Recent publications include: Jackson, K., & Wilson, J. (2012). Supporting African American students’ learning of mathematics: A problem of practice. Urban Education, 47(2), 354–398; and Jackson, K. (2011). Approaching participation in school-based mathematics as a cross-setting phenomenon. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 20(1), 111–150.
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