PLACE VALUE: A QUALITATIVE STUDY OF BEING A BLACK GIRL IN URBAN MATHEMATICS CLASSROOMS
Clark, Lawrence M.
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This qualitative study documents and examines what it is like being in a Black girl body while learning math in urban schools. The ten participants in this study self- identified as Black and female, and they graduated from three high schools in an urban school district in the Northeast between 2017 and 2019. Despite demonstrating excellence in and out of school, participants’ stories were burdened by experiences of exclusion, marginalization and oppression in their K-12 math learning. Drawing on Critical Race Feminism (CRF), a framework used to theorize interlocking oppressional forces, I designed this qualitative study after conducting a pilot program to improve Black girls’ math experiences. Preliminary findings from the pilot study suggest that Black girls’ math experiences and performance outcomes are largely shaped by the extent to which they are given or denied social place and intellectual value in math classrooms. I appropriate the math concept of place value, and I use it as a metaphor in a framework I developed called Human Place Value. This study examines three questions to understand Black girls’ lived experiences in urban math classrooms: 1) How do Black girls face exclusion, marginalization, and other forms of oppression in math classes? 2) How do Black girls identify and recognize negative attitudes and beliefs about their identity in math classes? 3) How do Black girls respond to and navigate their experiences in math classes? I collected personal data about my participants through background questionnaires and one-on-one semi-structured interviews. I analyzed the data using tenets of CRF and classroom interaction frameworks to distill three themes across social place and intellectual value: visibility, positionality and knowledge production. Key findings from the study suggest that being in a Black girl body renders students particularly vulnerable to math marginalization in the form of hostility, maltreatment and instructional neglect. The data collected from the ten participants tell a collective story that warrant consideration for the role Human Place Value plays in teaching and learning that yields disparate mathematical outcomes. This study concludes with a presentation of counternarratives from two participants and cross-case insights that detail implications for theory and practice.