Embracing mathematics identity in an African-centered school: Construction and interaction of racial and mathematical student identities

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Nyamekye, Farhaana
Chazan, Daniel
ABSTRACT Title of Document: EMBRACING MATHEMATICS IDENTITY IN AN AFRICAN-CENTERED SCHOOL: CONSTRUCTION AND INTERACTION OF RACIAL AND MATHEMATICAL STUDENT IDENTITIES Farhaana Nyamekye, Ph.D, 2010 Directed By: Associate Professor of Mathematics Education, Daniel Chazan, Curriculum and Instruction This dissertation is a report of a multiple case study of eight seventh grade African American students attending an African-centered school. This African-centered school is attended solely by children of African descent and adheres to a system of African cultural values, focusing on culture, relationships, and academic excellence. The report provides in depth case analyses of two of these students as they navigate their multiple identities. The foci of the analyses are on the students' construction of their math learner identities and racial identities and on their construction of both of these identities taken together. Phenomenological variant of ecological systems theory illuminates the challenges and supports that these students encounter in constructing their identities. The mathematics and racial socialization practices within the school and within the students' home environments are documented within this report as support mechanisms that provide opportunities for the students to construct identities as African American mathematics learners. The findings suggest that academic spaces that reduce the stress of racism and help students to value their racial identity may be particularly important spaces for other African American mathematics learners. The findings also have positive implications for the implementation of African and African American cultural practices and programs that can help other African American learners to positively construct identities as both African Americans and math learners. The documented findings raise critical questions about whether other African American learners that share the historical legacy of enslavement with the students in this study would benefit from African-centered schooling, despite the heterogeneity within this population.