This study seeks to describe trajectories that describe the ways in which Black learners develop as particular kinds of mathematical learners. The study takes place in the context of an established, multi-year college bridge program that has as its goals to increase the representation of historically marginalized groups in the university community.
Student success in mathematics correlates with positive identities, dispositions, and relationships towards the subject. As mathematics education research strives to understand historic inequities in mathematics for Black learners, small-scale research has described the relationships between identity, subjectivity, and positionality in Black learners as it relates to their achievement and interest in mathematics. This study builds on that descriptive work by seeking to describe trajectories that describe the ways in which Black learners develop as particular kinds of mathematical learners. The study takes place in the context of an established, multi-year college bridge program that has as its goals to increase the representation of historically marginalized groups in the university community. Students in the bridge program from three communities in the greater Detroit area with strong academic achievement in mathematics will be recruited. Their experiences in the bridge program will be traced to identify trajectories that describe the development of Black learners relative to mathematics, and document the design features of classroom activities that support learners in moving through those trajectories.
At the center of the project is the study of cohorts of students in grades 8-11 as they move through the summer bridge program. The bridge project's current curriculum features a series of lessons focused on identity development related to mathematics. These lessons will be implemented, studied, revised, and redeployed across the duration of the project across the summer sessions. Teacher focus groups and surveys will assess the implementation of the activities and aggregate feedback on the design. Three cohorts of students will be recruited to participate in the broader project activities from three metro areas with distinctly different demographic profiles. Student mathematical efficacy will be assessed for all participating students. Within each of the three metro areas, students will be recruited that represent differing levels of mathematics efficacy to ensure that focus students are likely to experience different trajectories through their engagement with the study. The students will be interviewed three times in each academic year to describe their trajectories. Student achievement data will also be collected for all participating students along with narrative descriptions and autobiographies about the messages students receive about mathematics. These messages include their own internal thinking about how they see themselves as mathematics learners, and messages that are sent to them by other students, teachers, and the community. Products of the study will be case studies that describe trajectories of identity development in Black mathematics learners, and a disseminated curriculum for a mathematics identity-focused bridge program supporting Black learners.