Racialized Narratives of Female Students of Color: Learning Mathematics in a Neoliberal Context
MetadataShow full item record
There is a growing body of scholarship in mathematics education that has attended to the salience of race in mathematics teaching and learning. However, in the context of secondary classrooms with equity-oriented instruction, we know little about race and processes of racialization, and even less from the perspectives of students of color and in their own words about their identities and experiences. The purpose of this qualitative study was to better understand the ways in which the mathematical experiences of female students of color are racialized and shaped by neoliberalism, even in the context of a classroom that reflected equity-oriented instruction and was organized to support students’ academic identities and mathematics learning. I drew on sociocultural theory of learning and critical race theory to center and privilege the racialized narratives of six female students of color who were enrolled in an AP Statistics classroom and characterized by high-quality implementation of Complex Instruction. Focal qualitative data included interviews with focal students, an interview with the teacher, and six months of classroom observations. Findings indicate that within the focal classroom, like other Complex Instruction classrooms, students’ academic identities and learning opportunities appeared to be supported. However, I found that even with high-quality implementation of Complex Instruction by a race conscious teacher, this AP statistics classroom continued to be a site in which racialized discourse persisted regarding how students are positioned as doers of mathematics in relation to how they racially identify or are identified by others. At the same time, focal students’ discourses regarding mathematics teaching and learning often supported, but at times proved to be resisting, prevailing race-neutral and meritocratic ideologies. More generally, whether they followed or resisted dominant discourses, students’ narratives were always racialized and were often meritocratic. The study confirms the findings of other scholars that mathematics learning contexts are racialized spaces and race matters in how teachers and students relate to one another, to how teachers teach mathematics and to how students learn. In addition, this study highlights the importance of attending to the impact of neoliberalism on mathematics teaching and learning in relation to race. Implications include that teachers, whether or not they are purveyors of Complex Instruction, and more broadly equity-driving teaching initiatives, must take into consideration not only that their students are subject to, but also that their classrooms are not immune to, processes of racialization and the larger neoliberal context in which they are situated. This means that teacher educators and professional development leaders need to support teachers to inquire into the salience of race, racism and neoliberalism for mathematics teaching and learning, and to engage with students in conversations around race and racism, including about assumptions regarding ability.
- Education - Seattle