Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Education Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Margaret Mohr-Schroeder

Second Advisor

Dr. Cindy Jong


Students’ mathematics identity has become a more prominent concept in the research literature (Jackson & Wilson, 2012). The experiences of African Americans are still underreported, with African American elementary students receiving the least attention. This dissertation uses a case study method to explore two learners’ experiences. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore African American third grade students’ classroom interactions with mathematics in order to better understand factors that promote positive mathematics identities.

This research study explored the mathematics classroom influences on three third grade African American learners’ mathematics identities in a K-8 school in a north central Midwestern city in the United States. The school was classified as 100% free and reduced lunch and served approximately 900 students, with the vast majority of students classified as African American. The three student participants and their teacher were all African American. The student participants wore glasses that video recorded their perspectives. A stationary camera was also used to capture the wider classroom environment. Each student participant completed three interviews (Seidman, 2013). The teacher participant completed one interview. Additionally, the student participants completed a mathematics interest questionnaire.

Findings showed the importance of an explicit focus on the Standards for Mathematical Practice, a growth mindset, and positioning for promoting positive mathematics identities. In one case study, Janae’s experiences in lessons about fractions highlight the relevance of the Standards for Mathematical Practice, specifically attending to precision and making sense of and persevering in solving problems. In both the classroom and in interviews, she shows the importance of making sense of problems and persevering in solving them and of attending to precision. In the second manuscript, I explore Jaane and Kayla’s different experiences. Janae was positioned more positively and faces limited resistance in maintaining a positive mathematics identity. Kayla, on the other hand, regularly rejected and renegotiated the positions offered to her as she aimed for success and a positive mathematics identity. Kayla’s growth mindset and negotiation of positions offered to her in the classroom were critical factors in how she maintained a positive mathematics identity.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)