Mathematics Literacy, Identity Resilience, and Opportunity Sixty Years Since Brown v. Board
Counternarratives of a Five-Generation Family
Keywords:mathematics achievement, literacy, social justice, mathematics identity
In this chapter, the authors use Black Feminist Thought (BFT) to examine the mathematics education and the educational attainment of African American females in a matrilineal line that spans five generations. A cross analysis of school experiences, from a maternal great-great-grandmother to her great-great-granddaughter, reveal a portrait of segregation, desegregation, and resegregation. The impact of these educational contexts on the mathematics literacy and mathematics identity of four African American women and the hope and promise of a young girl in the class of 2026 are also presented. From sharecropper schools in Mississippi to prestigious universities in the eastern United States, the challenges and successes of one family’s struggle to obtain mathematics literacy and the American dream are discussed through the historical lens of Brown v. Board of Education. Using this historical context, the specific experiences of these five family members encourage a dialogue about a larger narrative—the mathematics attainment of all Black children.
Anderson, J. (1988). The education of Blacks in the South, 1860–1935. University of North Carolina Press.
Berry, R. Q., III, Pinter, H. H., & McClain, O. L. (2013). A critical review of American K–12 mathematics education, 1900–present: Implications for the experiences and achievement of Black children. In J. Leonard & D. B. Martin (Eds.), The brilliance of Black children in mathematics: Beyond the numbers and toward new discourse (pp. 23–53). Information Age Publishing.
Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).
Clark, L., Johnson, W., & Chazan, D. (2009). Researching African American mathematics teachers of African American students: Conceptual and methodological considerations. In D. B. Martin (Ed.), Mathematics teaching, learning, and liberation in the lives of Black children (pp. 39–62). Routledge.
Collins, P. H. (2009). Black feminist thought (2nd ed.). Routledge.
Dixson, A. D. (2011). Democracy now? Race, education, and Black self-determination. Teachers College Press, 113(4), 811–830.
Frankenstein, M. (1990). Incorporating race, gender, and class issues into a critical mathematical literacy curriculum. Journal of Negro Education, 59(3), 336–347. https://doi.org/10.2307/2295568
Gholson, M. L. (2013). The mathematical lives of Black children: A sociocultural-historical rendering of Black brilliance. In J. Leonard & D. B. Martin (Eds.), The brilliance of Black children in mathematics: Beyond the numbers and toward new discourse (pp. 55–76). In-formation Age Publishing.
Giddings, P. (1984). When and where I enter: The impact of Black women on race and sex in America. Quill.
Gutiérrez, R. (2008). A gap-gazing fetish in mathematics education? Problematizing research on the achievement gap. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 39(4), 357–364.
Gutstein, E. (2006). Reading and writing the world with mathematics: Toward a pedagogy of teaching for social justice. Routledge.
Jones, J. (1985). Labor of love, labor of sorrow: Black women, work, and the family from slavery to the present. Basic Books.
Ladson-Billings, G. (2005). Beyond the big house: African American educators on teacher educa-tion. Teachers College Press.
Leonard, J. (2009). “Still not saved”: The power of mathematics to liberate the oppressed. In D. B. Martin (Ed.), Mathematics teaching, learning, and liberation in the lives of Black children (pp. 304–330). Routledge.
Leonard, J., Buss, A., Gamboa, R., Mitchell, M., Fashola, O. S., Hubert, T., & Almughyirah, S. (2016). Using robotics and game design to enhance children’s self-efficacy, STEM attitudes, and computational thinking skills. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 25(6), 860–876. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10956-016-9628-2
Leonard, J., McKee, M., & Williams, Y. M. (2013). Not “Waiting for Superman”: Policy implications for Black children attending public schools. In J. Leonard & D. B. Martin (Eds.), Beyond the numbers and toward new discourse: The brilliance of Black children in mathematics (pp. 95–120). Information Age Publishing.
Lim, J. H. (2008) The road not taken: Two African -American girls' experiences with school mathematics. Race Ethnicity and Education, 11(3), 303–317. https://doi.org/10.1080/13613320802291181
Lubienski, S. T. (2008). On “gap gazing” in mathematics education: The need for gaps analyses. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 39(4), 350–356.
Lubienski, S. T., & Bowen, A. (2000). Who’s counting? A survey of mathematics education research 1982–1998. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 31(5), 626–633. https://doi.org/10.2307/749890
Martin, D. B. (2000). Mathematics success and failure among African American youth: The roles of sociohistorical context, community forces, school influence, and individual agency. Lawrence Erlbaum.
Martin, D. B. (2006) Mathematics learning and participation as racialized forms of experience: African American parents speak on the struggle for mathematics literacy. Mathematical Thinking and Learning, 8(3), 197–229. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327833mtl0803_2
McGee, E. O. (2013). Growing up Black and brilliant: Narratives of two mathematically high-achieving college students. In J. Leonard & D. B. Martin (Eds.), The brilliance of Black children in mathematics: Beyond the numbers and toward new discourse (pp. 247–272). Information Age Publishing.
McGee, E. O., & Pearman, F. A. (2014). Risk and protective factors in mathematically talented Black male students: Snapshots from kindergarten through eighth grade. Urban Education, 49(4) 363–393. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0042085914525791
Mizell, L. (2010). “The holy cause of education”: Lessons from the history of a freedom-loving people. In T. Perry, R. P. Moses, J. T. Wynne, E. Cortés Jr., & L. Delpit (Eds.), Quality education as a constitutional right: Creating a grassroots movement to transform public schools (pp. xvi–xxii). Beacon Press.
Morris, J. E. (2004). Can anything good come from Nazareth? Race, class, and African American schooling and community in the urban South and Midwest. American Educational Re-search Journal, 41(1), 69–112. https://doi.org/10.3102%2F00028312041001069
Morris, J. E., & Monroe, C. R. (2009). Why study the US South? The nexus of race and place in investigating Black student achievement. Educational Researcher, 38(1), 21–36. https://doi.org/10.3102%2F0013189X08328876
Moses, R. P., & Cobb, C. E. (2001). Radical equations: Math literacy and civil rights. Beacon.
National Commission on Excellence in Education. (1983). A nation at risk: The imperative for educational reform. U.S. Department of Education.
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (2000). Principles and standards for school mathematics.
Neuendorf, K. A. (2002). The content analysis guidebook. Sage.
Newton, K. J., Leonard, J., Buss, A., Wright, C. G., Barnes-Johnson, J. (2020). Informal STEM: Learning with robotics and game design in an urban context. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 52(2), 129–147. https://doi.org/10.1080/15391523.2020.1713263
Oakes, J. (1995). Two cities’ tracking and within-school segregation. Teachers College Record, 96(4), 681–690.
Patterson, J. A., Niles, R., Carlson, C. & Kelley, W. L. (2008). The consequences of school desegregation in a Kansas town 50 years after Brown. The Urban Review, 40(1), 76–95. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11256-007-0074-6
Raimi, R. A. (2005, April 12). Whatever happened to the new math? University of Rochester Mathematics. https://web.math.rochester.edu/people/faculty/rarm/smsg.html
Raizen, S. A., McLeod, D. B., & Rowe, M. B. (1997). The changing conceptions of reform. In S. A Raizen & E. D. Britton (Eds.), Bold ventures: Patterns among U.S. interventions in science and mathematics (Vol. 1, pp. 97–130). Kluwer Academic Publishing.
Repenning, A., Webb, D., & Ioannidou, A. (2010). Scalable game design and the development of a checklist for getting computational thinking into public schools. In G. Lewandowski, S. Wolfman, T. J. Cortina, E. L. Walker, & D. R. Musicant (Eds.), SIGCSE ’10: Proceedings of the 41st ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education (pp. 265–269). Association for Computing Machinery.
Riegle-Crumb, C. (2006). The path through math: Course sequences and academic performance at the intersection of race-ethnicity and gender. American Journal of Education, 113(1), 101–122. https://doi.org/10.1086/506495
Rucker, W. C., & Jubilee, S. K. (2007). From Black Nadir to Brown v. Board: Education and empowerment in Black Georgian communities – 1865 to 1954. The Negro Educational Review, 58(3/4), 151–168.
Russell, N. (2014, April 3–7). The mathematics education of African Americans, 1866–1954 [Paper presentation]. 2014 American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA, United States.
Samuels, C. (2013, August 23). A look at this year’s kindergarten class. Education Week. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/early_years/2013/08/child_trends_a_bethesda_md-based.html
Solorzano, D. G., & Yasso, T. J. (2002). Critical race methodology: Counter-storytelling as an analytical framework for education research. Qualitative Inquiry, 8(1), 23–44. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F107780040200800103
Stiff, L. & Harvey, W. B. (1988). On the education of Black children in mathematics. Journal of Black Studies, 19(2), 190–203. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F002193478801900206
Terry, C. L, Sr. (2011). Mathematical counterstory and African American male students: Urban mathematics education from a critical race theory perspective. Journal of Urban Mathematics Education, 4(1), 23– 49. https://doi.org/10.21423/jume-v4i1a98
Terry, C. L., Sr., & Howard, T. C. (2013). The power of counterstories: The complexity of Black male experiences with racism in pursuit of academic success. In J. K. Donner & A. Dixson (Eds.), The resegregation of schools: Education and race in the twenty-first century (pp. 71–98). Routledge.
Tillman, L. C. (2004). (Un)intended consequences?: The impact of the Brown v. Board of Educa-tion decision on the employment status of Black educators. Education and Urban Society, 36(3), 280–303. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0013124504264360
Walker, E. N. (2001). On time and off track? Advanced mathematics course-taking among high school students [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Harvard University.
Walker, E. N. (2006). Urban high school students’ academic communities and their effects on mathematics success. American Educational Research Journal, 43(1), 43–73. https://doi.org/10.3102%2F00028312043001043
Walker, E. N. (2012). Building mathematics learning communities: Improving outcomes in urban high schools. Teachers College Press.
Walker, E. N. (2014). Beyond Banneker: Black mathematicians and the paths to excellence. SUNY Press.
Wing, J. M. (2006). Computational Thinking. Communications of the ACM, 49(3), 33–35. https://doi.org/10.1145/1118178.1118215
How to Cite
The copyright for articles in JUME is held by the individual. By virtue of their appearance in this open access journal, articles are free to use with proper attribution in educational and other non-commercial settings.