Counter Narratives: Examining the Mathematics and Racial Identities of Black Boys who are Successful with School Mathematics

by Kateri Thunder; Oren L. McClain; Robert Q. Berry, III

Feb 1, 2011

This study investigated the mathematics and racial identities of Black 5th through 7th grade boys who attended school in a southern rural school division and found four factors that positively contributed to mathematics identity. For these boys, racial identity in school was connected to perceptions of others' school engagement; this sense of "otherness" led to a redefinition of their own mathematics and racial identities.

  • The students in this study found that fluency with basic computational strategies was a significant characteristic for mathematics achievement.
  • Grades, standardized test scores, and other extrinsic recognitions provided proof of mathematical success and contributed to mathematical identities.
  • The boys in the study used negative stereotypes of black students to redefine their own racial and mathematics identities, recognizing important attributes in themselves.
  • Mathematics should not be simplified or dumbed-down but rather teachers should hold high expectations for their students to solve challenging and complex problems.