The Marginalization of 11th-Grade Urban African Students in Proof-Related Pedagogy

An Emancipatory Perspective



correlation, emancipatory perspectives, Ubuntu methodology, urban high school students, Western worldview


The development of urban students’ mathematical proving ability is a goal of several curricula frameworks, including some located in the southern hemisphere. However, in achieving this goal, most curriculum frameworks do so from a Western worldview, which is characterized by competition and the role of the individual. The purpose of this study was to use the emancipatory lens to critique the use of a quantitative methodology in favor of the Ubuntu worldview, a methodology grounded in indigenous African epistemologies, particularly storytelling. To this end, I analyzed data drawn from the administration of a survey questionnaire to a conveniently selected sample of 135 11th-grade students enrolled in three separate high schools from ethnically and socioeconomically diverse communities in the eThekwini metropolitan area of South Africa. The context for the argument in this study was provided by correlating students’ understanding of functions of proof (verification, explanation, communication, discovery, and systematization) with their argumentation ability, two variables often considered as the key limiting factors for meaningful learning of mathematical proofs. The poor results obtained from a quantitative analysis of data using Western perspectives highlight the emerging need for finding postcolonial methodologies that are sensitive to ethnic issues in addition to language and gender issues. In addition, the inadequacy of the current mathematics curriculum to serve the linguistic and gender needs of urban African students became apparent. This increases the need for sub-Saharan instructors to have knowledge to pursue emancipatory instruction. The key contribution of this study to the field is that it sheds light on the marginalization of African students in learning mathematical proof and related concepts from Western perspectives rather than conducting instructional practices in the Global South’s terms; the scope of the effort may explain why research efforts in this line of work have not been documented extensively in literature.


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