"We Made Math!"

Black Parents as a Guide for Supporting Black Children's Mathematical Identities


  • Jahneille Cunningham University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)




Black parents, elementary mathematics, informal mathematics learning, mathematics identity, parent engagement


Black parents are often presumed to be uninvolved in their children’s education, especially in mathematics. These stereotypes are arguably sustained by White, middle-class expectations for parent engagement. This qualitative study challenges the dominant narrative by exploring the ways eight Black parents support their elementary-aged children’s mathematical identities. Although many scholars have examined the relationship between mathematics identity and academic outcomes, few have explored the role parents play in this identity development. Drawing on Martin’s (2000) mathematics identity framework and McCarthy Foubert’s (2019) Racial Realist Parent Engagement framework, the author argues that Black parents’ experiential knowledge of race and racism in mathematical spaces positions them to teach their children about the everyday importance and usefulness of mathematics. Using parent interviews and family observations, the author’s findings suggest the parents supported their children’s mathematics identities using four approaches: 1) pragmatic (emphasizing financial literacy and basic life skills), 2) aspirational (promoting math-intensive careers), 3) affirmational (sharing words of encouragement), and 4) race-conscious (applying mathematical concepts to lessons in Black history, culture, and anti-Blackness). Implications for educators are discussed, as parent identity support strategies may be useful for reform-oriented teachers seeking to foster positive mathematical identities in Black children.



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How to Cite

Cunningham, J. (2021). "We Made Math!": Black Parents as a Guide for Supporting Black Children’s Mathematical Identities. Journal of Urban Mathematics Education, 14(1), 24–44. https://doi.org/10.21423/jume-v14i1a414



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