Understanding The Success And Failure Of African American First Time Developmental Mathematics Students: A Racialized Prespective

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Advanced Studies, Leadership, and Policy


Doctor of Education

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It is well documented that many students who enroll in college are unprepared for the academic rigors of college work, especially students who enroll in community colleges. Students who enter community colleges underprepared in mathematics are required to take developmental mathematics (DVM), and DVM completion statistics are gloomy nationwide. Many of these students are minorities, particularly African Americans, whose dream of a college degree is “a dream deferred” (Hughes, 1951). This study examined the success and failure of African American first time DVM students from a critical social theory perspective. Critical race theory was used as a lens to examine the DVM setting as a racialized form of experience that informs African American students' racialized and mathematics identities and influences success and failure for these students. This qualitative study used classroom observations and student and faculty interviews as examination tools. The results of this study revealed that racial boundaries were prominent in these students' mathematics experiences and have challenged how they see themselves in regard to learners and doers of mathematics. The findings suggest that the student participants in this study were aware of and often challenged by stereotypes relative to being African American or regarding mathematics education. However, they demonstrated their desire to “break the stereotype” by redefining mathematical success for themselves. These students created and adhered to definitions of success that allowed them to see themselves as making progress, confirming their ability to participate and engage in mathematical contexts.