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When It Comes to the Mathematics Experiences of Black Pre-Service Teachers . . . Race Matters

by Ebony O. McGee - 2014

Background/Context: There is a growing body of research that conceptualizes mathematics learning and participation as racialized experiences; that is, learning experiences structured in part by the negative and unjust race relations that are present in U.S. society. However, the role racialized experiences play in the lives of Black elementary education pre-service students from urban contexts, as both students and future teachers of mathematics, is under theorized.

Theoretical Framework: Using critical race theory’s racial micro-aggressions and the development of a mathematics identity, the author explores the mathematics experiences of 13 Black advanced undergraduate students who are elementary education majors. The participants’ narratives reflect their experiences as both students of mathematics and future teachers.

Research Design: A qualitative phenomenological research design was used to explore the prior and current mathematical experiences of the study participants and their future trajectories as teachers of mathematics. Reponses were coded to reveal themes of racialization and the development of the participants’ mathematics identities.

Results: The participants’ narratives cited Black male fathers and close male relatives as their first mathematics teachers, the presence of culturally affirming at-home mathematics activities, and detailed aspirations to teach mathematics fearlessly to their own children and future students. Their more recent experiences included academic struggles in mathematics, often stemming from racial stereotyping and non-affirming college mathematics teachers. Their voices suggest that, within the context of learning mathematics, they have generated self-constructions that include racism as part of their shared African American experience in mathematics schooling that have implications for their teaching of mathematics.

Conclusion/Recommendations: Recommendations include the provision of professional development that targets gaps in mathematics that are the result of inadequate and discriminatory learning opportunities, and culturally sensitive professional development for mathematics college faculty, with differentiated training for mathematics faculty not born in the U.S. In light of the high proportion of Black teachers working in urban schools who face a host of difficulties, this research also supports the continued development of combatting racial micro-aggressions in mathematics education as a decisive tactic to improve the retention of Black elementary education teachers.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 116 Number 6, 2014, p. 1-50
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17469, Date Accessed: 9/25/2020 11:52:55 AM

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About the Author
  • Ebony McGee
    Vanderbilt University
    E-mail Author
    EBONY MCGEE, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Diversity and Urban Schooling in the Department of Teaching & Learning at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. Her studies focus on the influence of identity/resiliency, mental wellness, and racialized experiences in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) on high-achieving, historically marginalized students’ graduate and career trajectories. Recently published works include: McGee, E. O. (2013). Young, Black, Gifted, and Stereotyped. High School Journal, 96(3), 253-263, and McGee, E. O., & Martin, D. B. (2011). ‘‘You would not believe what I have to go through to prove my intellectual value!’’: Stereotype management among academically successful Black mathematics and engineering students. American Education Research Journal, 48(6), 1347-1389.
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