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Examining a history of failed reforms and recent stories of success: mathematics education and Black learners of mathematics in the United States.

Berry, Robert Q.; Ellis, Mark; Hughes, Sherick.
Race, Ethnicity & Education, 17 (4): pp.540-568 (2014)

DOI: 10.1080/13613324.2013.818534 Information about DOI

There is a long history indicating that during times of reform, the interests and needs of Black children are in many ways dismissed. This history culminated in 1990’s to what is described today as the ‘Math Wars.’ The underlying narrative focuses on America’s national security, technological interests, social efficiency, and the perpetuation of White privilege. There are intense debates focusing on curriculum, teaching, learning, and assessment but little debates on understanding the realities of children’s lives. Through a hybrid historical-critical race theory (CRT) lens informed largely by the work of Derrick Bell, this article makes the case that Black children have not benefited from reform agendas in mathematics which are often situated in the larger political and social space. Moreover, the CRT analysis coupled with the historical critical methods of this article attempt to unveil the underpinning of the ‘mathematics for all’ message, often touted in policy documents, as having done little to understand that influence of mathematics teaching and learning for Black children. The article also draws from Bell’s work to offer counter-narratives through examples of the brilliance of the Black children who are thriving with mathematics, even within a context that tends to ignore them. The article concludes with implications for considering and addressing what we name the ‘opportunity to learn mathematics gap

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