CAREER: Understanding Latinx Students' Stories of Doing and Learning Mathematics

This project characterizes and analyses the developing mathematical identities of Latinx students transitioning from elementary to middle grades mathematics. The central hypothesis of this project is that elementary Latino students' stories can identify how race and language are influential to their mathematical identities and how school and classroom practices may perpetuate inequities.

Full Description: 

Although the Latino population throughout the United States continues to increase, various researchers have shown that Latino students are often not afforded high quality learning experiences in their mathematics classrooms. As a result, Latino students are underrepresented in higher level mathematics courses and careers involving mathematics. Having a better understanding of Latino students' perspectives and experiences is imperative to improving their opportunities to learn mathematics. Yet, little research has made central Latinos students' perspectives of learning and doing mathematics, especially over a critical period of time like the transition from elementary to middle school. The goal of this study will be to improve mathematics teaching and learning for Latino youth as they move from upper elementary to early middle school mathematics classrooms. The project involves three major parts: investigating the policy, media, and oral histories of Latino families/communities to understand the context for participating Latino students' mathematics education; exploring Latino students' stories about their experiences learning and doing mathematics to understand these students' perspectives; and creating documentary video portraitures (or composite cases) of participants' stories about learning and doing mathematics that can be used in teacher preparation and professional development. Finally, the project will look across the experiences over the duration of the project to develop a framework that can be used to improve Latino students' mathematics education experiences. This project will provide a window into how Latino students may experience inequities and can broaden mathematics educators' views on opportunities to engage Latino students in rigorous mathematics. The project will also broaden the field's understanding of how Latino students racial/ethnic and linguistic identities influence their experiences learning mathematics. It will also identify key factors that impact Latino students' experiences in learning mathematics to pinpoint specific areas where interventions and programs need to be designed and implemented. An underlying assumption of the project is that carefully capturing and understanding Latino students' stories can illuminate the strengths and resilience these students bring to their learning and doing of mathematics.

This research project characterizes and analyses the developing mathematical identities of Latinx students transitioning from elementary to middle grades mathematics. The overarching research question for this study is: What are the developing stories of learning and doing mathematics of Latino students as they transition from elementary to middle school mathematics? To answer this question, this study is divided into three phases: 1) understanding and documenting the historical context by examining policy documents, local newspaper articles, and doing focus group interviews with community members; 2) using ethnographic methods over two years to explore students' stories of learning and doing mathematics and clinical interviews to understand how they think about and construct arguments about mathematics (i.e., measurement, division, and algebraic patterning); and 3) creating video-cases that can be used in teacher education. Traditional ways of teaching mathematics perpetuate images of who can and cannot do mathematics by not acknowledging contributions of other cultures to the mathematical sciences (Gutiérrez, 2017) and the way mathematics has become a gatekeeper for social mobility (Martin, Gholson, & Leonard, 2010; Stinson, 2004). Focusing on Latino students' stories can illuminate teachers' construction of equitable learning spaces and how they define success for their Latino students. The central hypothesis of this project is that elementary Latino students' stories can identify how race and language are influential to their mathematical identities and how school and classroom practices may perpetuate inequities. Finally, the data and video-cases will then be used to develop a conceptual framework for understanding the development of the participating students' developing mathematical identities. This framework will provide an in-depth understanding of the developing racial/ethnic, linguistic, and mathematical identities of the participating Latino students. The educational material developed (e.g. video documentaries, discussion material) from this project will be made available to all interested parties freely through the project website. The distribution of these materials, along with further understanding of Latino students' experiences learning mathematics, will help in developing programs and interventions at the elementary and middle grade level to increase the representation of Latino students in STEM careers. Additionally, identifying the key factors impacting Latino students' experiences in learning mathematics can pinpoint specific areas where interventions and programs still need to be designed and implemented. Future projects could include the assessment of these programs. This project will also inform the development of professional learning experiences for prospective and practicing teachers working with Latino or other marginalized students.

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