On Defense: African American Males Making Sense of Racialized Narratives in Mathematics Education

by Na'ilah Suad Nasir; Niral Shah

Feb 1, 2011

This paper examines how African American male students understand, interpret, and think about the effects of racialized narratives in relation to mathematics learning. Drawing on interviews, the authors argue that racialized narratives exist in relation to one another and are fundamental to the way that young people build their identities, including identities as math learners.

  • The authors contend that analyzing the ways in which Black youths make sense of cultural narratives is critical to understanding engagement, participation, and identity in mathematics classrooms.
  • The term 'narratives' – not 'stereotypes' – is used to refer to shared storylines because it emphasizes the social and storytelling aspects of the concept.
  • The notion of a model minority requires a non-model minority. This relation organizes a racial hierarchy of scholastic achievement.
  • The young African Americans studied were overwhelmingly aware of the narrative that Black students are not good at school and/or math.
  • Young men and boys are not simply aware of racialized narratives about school and math performance; they find themselves regularly needing to respond to these narratives.