The Urban Review

, Volume 50, Issue 2, pp 301–322 | Cite as

Black Mathematics Educators: Researching Toward Racial Emancipation of Black Students

  • Monica L. RidgewayEmail author
  • Ebony O. McGee


This article focuses on the scholarship of Black mathematics education researchers whose work focuses on Black students in P–20 mathematics spaces. We conducted a metasynthesis literature review of empirical studies by Black mathematics education researchers. The authors utilized critical theories of race and racism to aid in the synthesis of the literature. The Black researchers we reviewed challenged the perspective that failure and limited persistence in Black students who are learning and participating in mathematics is normative. As a critical defense, these scholars offer research that problematizes test score data, race and racism, opportunities to learn mathematics, identity considerations, and other constructs that produce unequal effects in mathematics learning. We found that Black mathematics education researchers strategically disrupt the deficit narrative about Black students. Black scholars select theoretical frameworks that allow them to focus on race and how racism operates in mathematics education. We present this research to incite dialogue among all mathematics educators about improving the mathematical context for Black students.


Black students African American students K-12 Higher education Mathematics education Race Racism 


  1. Apple, M. (1992). Do the standards go far enough? Power, policy, and practice in mathematics education. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 23(5), 412–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Apple, M. W. (1995). Taking power seriously: New directions in equity in mathematics education and beyond. In W. G. Secada, E. Fennema, & L. B. Adajian (Eds.), New directions for equity in mathematics education (pp. 329–348). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Berry, R. Q. (2004). The equity principle through the voices of African American males. Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, 10(2), 100–103.Google Scholar
  4. Berry, R. Q. (2005a). Introduction: Building an infrastructure for equity in mathematics education. The High School Journal, 88(4), 1–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berry, R. Q. (2005b). Voices of success: Descriptive portraits of two successful African American male middle school mathematics students. Journal of African American Studies, 8(4), 46–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Berry, R. Q. (2008a). Access to upper-level mathematics: The stories of successful African American middle school boys. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 39(5), 464–488.Google Scholar
  7. Berry, R. Q. (2008b). Mathematically successful sons: The roles perceptions, and experiences of African American parents. Adults Learning Mathematics, 3(n2b), 23–35.Google Scholar
  8. Berry, R. Q., Ellis, M., & Hughes, S. (2014). Examining a history of failed reforms and recent stories of success: Mathematics education and Black learners of mathematics in the United States. Race Ethnicity and Education, 17(4), 540–568.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Berry, R. Q., III, & McClain, O. L. (2009). Contrasting pedagogical styles and their impact on African American students. In D. B. Martin (Ed.), Mathematics teaching, learning, and liberation in the lives of Black children (pp. 123–144). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. Berry, R. Q., Thunder, K., & McClain, O. L. (2011). Counter narratives: Examining the mathematics and racial identities of Black boys who are successful with school mathematics. Journal of African American Males in Education, 2(1), 10–23.Google Scholar
  11. Bonilla-Silva, E. (2003). Racism without racists: Color-blind racism and the persistence of racial inequality in the United States. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  12. Borum, V., & Walker, E. (2012). What makes the difference? Black women’s undergraduate and graduate experiences in mathematics. The Journal of Negro Education, 81(4), 366–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bullock, E. C. (2012). Conducting “good” equity research in mathematics education: A question of methodology. Journal of Mathematics Education at Teachers College, 3(2), 30–36.Google Scholar
  14. Bullock, E. C. (2017). Only STEM can save us? Examining race, place, and STEM education as property. Educational Studies, 53(6), 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Clark, L. M., Badertscher, E. M., & Napp, C. (2013a). African American mathematics teachers as agents in their African American students’ mathematics identity formation. Teachers College Record, 115(2), 1–36.Google Scholar
  16. Clark, L. M., Frank, T. J., & Davis, J. (2013b). Conceptualizing the African American mathematics teacher as a key figure in the African American education historical narrative. Teachers College Record, 115(2), 1–29.Google Scholar
  17. Davis, J. (2014). The mathematical experiences of Black males in a predominantly Black urban middle school and community. International Journal of Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology, 2(3), 202–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Delgado, R., & Stefancic, J. (2001). Critical race theory: An introduction. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Delpit, L. (1988). The silenced dialogue: Power and pedagogy in educating other people’s children. Harvard Educational Review, 58(3), 280–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dumas, M. J. (2014). ‘Losing an arm’: Schooling as a site of black suffering. Race Ethnicity and Education, 17(1), 1–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Duncan, G. A. (2005). Critical race ethnography in education: Narrative, inequality and the problem of epistemology. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 93–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ellington, R. M., & Frederick, R. (2010). Black high achieving undergraduate mathematics majors discuss success and persistence in mathematics. Negro Educational Review, 61(1–4), 61.Google Scholar
  23. Fine, M. A., & Kurdek, L. A. (1993). Reflections on determining authorship credit and authorship order on faculty–student collaborations. American Psychologist, 48(11), 1141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gholson, M. L. (2016). Clean corners and algebra: A critical examination of the constructed invisibility of black girls and women in mathematics. Journal of Negro Education, 85(3), 290–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gholson, M. L., Bullock, E. C., & Alexander, N. N. (2012). On the brilliance of Black children: A response to a clarion call. Journal of Urban Mathematics Education, 5(1), 1–7.Google Scholar
  26. Gholson, M. L., & Martin, D. B. (2014). Smart girls, Black girls, Mean girls, and bullies: At the intersection of identities and the mediating role of young girls’ social network in mathematical communities of practice. Journal of Education, 194(1), 19–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gholson, M. L., & Wilkes, C. E. (2017). (Mis)taken identities: Reclaiming identities of the “collective Black” in mathematics education research through an exercise in black specificity. Review of Research in Education, 41(1), 228–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Grant, M. R., Crompton, H., & Ford, D. J. (2015). Black male students and the Algebra Project: Mathematics identity as participation. Journal of Urban Mathematics Education, 8(2), 87–118.Google Scholar
  29. Gutiérrez, R. (2002). Enabling the practice of mathematics teachers in context: Toward a new equity research agenda. Mathematical Thinking and Learning, 4(2–3), 145–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 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.Google Scholar
  31. Gutstein, E. (2003). Teaching and learning mathematics for social justice in an urban, Latino school. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 34(1), 37–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Id-Deen, L. (2016). Hidden casualties of urban teacher turnover: Black students share their experiences. Journal of Urban Learning, Teaching, and Research, 12, 142–149.Google Scholar
  33. Jett, C. C. (2010). “Many are called, but few are chosen”: The role of spirituality and religion in the educational outcomes of “chosen” African American male mathematics majors. The Journal of Negro Education, 79(3), 324–334.Google Scholar
  34. Jett, C. C. (2011). “I once was lost, but now am found”: The mathematics journey of an African American male mathematics doctoral student. Journal of Black Studies, 42(7), 1125–1147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Jett, C. C. (2013a). Culturally responsive collegiate mathematics education: Implications for African American students. Interdisciplinary Journal of Teaching and Learning, 3(2), 102–116.Google Scholar
  36. Jett, C. C. (2013b). HBCUs propel African American male mathematics majors. Journal of African American Studies, 17(2), 189–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Jett, C. C. (2016). Ivy league bound: A case study of a brilliant African American male mathematics major. Spectrum: A Journal on Black Men, 4(2), 83–97.Google Scholar
  38. Jett, C. C., Stinson, D. W., & Williams, B. A. (2015). Communities for and with Black male students. Mathematics Teacher, 109(4), 284–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Johnson, K. (2009). The social construction of Youth and Mathematics: The case of a fifth-grade classroom. In D. B. Martin (Ed.), Mathematics teaching, learning, and liberation in the lives of Black children (pp. 175–199). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  40. Joseph, N. M., Hailu, M., & Boston, D. (2017). Black women’s and girls’ persistence in the P–20 mathematics pipeline: Two decades of children, youth, and adult education research. Review of Research in Education, 41(1), 203–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Joseph, N. M., & Jordan-Taylor, D. (2016). The value of a triangle: Mathematics education in industrial and classical schools in the segregated south. The Journal of Negro Education, 85(4), 444–461.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Ladson-Billings, G. (1998). Just what is critical race theory and what’s it doing in a nice field like education? International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 11(1), 7–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Ladson-Billings, G. (2009). ‘Who you callin’nappy-headed?’A critical race theory look at the construction of Black women. Race Ethnicity and Education, 12(1), 87–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Ladson-Billings, G., & Tate, W. F. (1995). Toward a critical race theory of education. Teachers College Record, 97, 47–68.Google Scholar
  45. Larnell, G. V. (2016). More than just skill: Examining mathematics identities, racialized narratives, and remediation among black undergraduates. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 47(3), 233–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Larnell, G. V., Boston, D., & Bragelman, J. (2014). The stuff of stereotypes: Toward unpacking identity threats amid African American students’ learning experiences. Journal of Education, 194(1), 49–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Larnell, G. V., Bullock, E. C., & Jett, C. C. (2016). Rethinking teaching and learning mathematics for social justice from a critical race perspective. Journal of Education, 196(1), 19–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Leonard, J. (2012). Er’body talkin’‘bout social justice ain’t goin’ there. Journal of Urban Mathematics Education, 5(2), 18–27.Google Scholar
  49. Leonard, J., Davis, J. E., & Sidler, J. L. (2005). Cultural relevance and computer-assisted instruction. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 37(3), 263–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Leonard, J., & Martin, D. B. (Eds.). (2013). The brilliance of Black children in mathematics. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.Google Scholar
  51. Leyva, L. A. (2016). An intersectional analysis of Latin@ college women’s counter-stories in mathematics. Journal of Urban Mathematics Education, 9(2), 81–121.Google Scholar
  52. Leyva, L. A. (2017). Unpacking the male superiority myth and masculinization of mathematics at the intersections: A review of research on gender in mathematics education. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 48(4), 397–433.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Lorde, A. (2012). Sister outsider: Essays and speeches. Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press.Google Scholar
  54. Malloy, C. E., & Malloy, W. W. (1998). Issues of culture in mathematics teaching and learning. The Urban Review, 30(3), 245–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Martin, D. B. (2000). Mathematics success and failure among African-American youth: The roles of sociohistorical context, community forces, school influence, and individual agency. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  56. 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.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Martin, D. B. (2007). Beyond missionaries or cannibals: Who should teach mathematics to African American children? The High School Journal, 91(1), 6–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Martin, D. B. (2009). Researching race in mathematics education. Teachers College Record, 111(2), 295–338.Google Scholar
  59. Martin, D. B. (Ed.). (2010). Mathematics teaching, learning, and liberation in the lives of Black children. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  60. Martin, D. B. (2012). Learning mathematics while Black. The Journal of Educational Foundations, 26(1/2), 47.Google Scholar
  61. Martin, D. B. (2015). The collective Black and “principles to actions.”. Journal of Urban Mathematics Education, 8(1), 17–23.Google Scholar
  62. Martin, D. B., & Gholson, M. (2012). On becoming and being a critical Black scholar in mathematics education. In O. Skovsmose & B. Greer (Eds.), Opening the cage: Critique and politics of mathematics education (pp. 203–222). Berlin: Springer Science & Business Media.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. McGee, E. O. (2005). Chronicles of success: Black students achieving in mathematics, science and engineering. Retrieved from:
  64. McGee, E. O. (2015). Robust and fragile mathematical identities: A framework for exploring racialized experiences and high achievement among black college students. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 46(5), 599–625.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. McGee, E. O., & Bentley, L. (2017). The troubled success of Black women in STEM. Cognition and Instruction, 35(4), 265–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. McGee, E. O., & Stovall, D. O. (2016). The mental health of Black college students: A call for critical race theorists to integrate mental health into the analysis. Republished in Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy, 2015–16, 41–60.Google Scholar
  67. Milner, H. R., & Howard, T. C. (2004). Black teachers, Black students, Black communities, and Brown: Perspectives and insights from experts. Journal of Negro Education, 73(3), 285–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Moody, V. R. (2003). The ins and outs of succeeding in mathematics: African American students’ notions and perceptions. Multicultural Perspectives, 5(1), 33–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Moody, V. R. (2004). Sociocultural orientations and the mathematical success of African American students. The Journal of Educational Research, 97(3), 135–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Morton, C. H. (2014). A story of African American students as mathematics learners. International Journal of Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology, 2(3), 234–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Morton, C. H., Yow, J. A., & Cook, D. A. (2012). Challenging minds: Enhancing the mathematical learning of African American students through games. Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue, 14(1/2), 105A.Google Scholar
  72. Moses, R. P., & Cobb, C. E. (2001). Radical equations: Math literacy and civil rights. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  73. Nasir, N. S. (2000). “Points Ain’t Everything”: Emergent Goals and Average and Percent Understandings in the Play of Basketball among African American Students. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 31(3), 283–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Nasir, N. S. (2002). Identity, goals, and learning: Mathematics in cultural practice. Mathematical thinking and learning, 4(2–3), 213–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Nasir, N. S., Atukpawu, G., O’Connor, K., Davis, M., Wischnia, S., & Tsang, J. (2009a). Wrestling with the legacy of stereotypes: Being African American in math class. In D. B. Martin (Ed.), Mathematics teaching, learning, and liberation in the lives of Black children (pp. 231–248). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  76. Nasir, N. S., & Hand, V. (2008). From the court to the classroom: Opportunities for engagement, learning, and identity in basketball and classroom mathematics. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 17(2), 143–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Nasir, N. S., & McKinney de Royston, M. M. (2013). Power, Identity, and Mathematical Practices Outside and Inside School. Journal for Research In Mathematics Education, 44(1), 264–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Nasir, N. S., McKinney de Royston, M., O’Connor, K., & Wischnia, S. (2017). Knowing about racial stereotypes versus believing them. Urban Education, 52(4), 491–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Nasir, N. S., McLaughlin, M. W., & Jones, A. (2009b). What does it mean to be African American? Constructions of race and academic identity in an urban public high school. American Educational Research Journal, 46(1), 73–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Nasir, N. S., & Shah, N. (2011). On defense: African American males making sense of racialized narratives in mathematics education. Journal of African American Males in Education, 2(1), 24–45.Google Scholar
  81. Nelson, S. L. (2016). Different script, same caste in the use of passive and active racism: A critical race theory analysis on the (Ab) use of house rules in race-related education cases. Washington and Lee Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice, 22, 297.Google Scholar
  82. Noble, R. (2011). Mathematics self-efficacy and African American male students: An examination of models of success. Journal of African American Males in Education, 2(2), 188–213.Google Scholar
  83. Noble, R., & Morton, C. (2013). African Americans and mathematics outcomes on national assessment of educational progress: Parental and individual influences. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 22(1), 30–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Nzuki, F. (2013). Exploring the co-development of mathematical and technological knowledge among African American students. In Learning tools and teaching approaches through ICT advancements (pp. 57–67). IGI Global.Google Scholar
  85. Nyamekye, F. (2013). Separate schooling for Black adolescent mathematics learners. For the Learning of Mathematics, 33(3), 7–13.Google Scholar
  86. Nzuki, F. M. (2010). Exploring the nexus of African American students’ identity and mathematics achievement. Journal of Urban Mathematics Education, 3(2), 77–115.Google Scholar
  87. O’Connor, C., Lewis, A., & Mueller, J. (2007). Researching “Black” educational experiences and outcomes: Theoretical and methodological considerations. Educational Researcher, 36(9), 541–552.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Oakes, J. (1990). Multiplying inequities: The effects of race, social class, and tracking on opportunities to learn mathematics and science. Santa Monica, CA: RAND.Google Scholar
  89. Pan, M. L. (2016). Preparing literature reviews: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  90. Russell, N. M. (2013). Unpacking brilliance: A new discourse for Black students and successful mathematics achievement. In J. Leonard & D. B. Martin (Eds.), Beyond the numbers and toward new discourse: The brilliance of Black children in mathematics. Charlotte, NC: Information Age.Google Scholar
  91. Secada, W. G. (1992). Race, ethnicity, social class, language, and achievement in mathematics. In D. A. Grouws (Ed.), Handbook of research on mathematics teaching and learning (pp. 623–660). New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  92. Secada, W. G. (1995). Social and critical dimensions for equity in mathematics education. In W. G. Secada, E. Fennema, & L. B. Adajion (Eds.), New directions for equity in mathematics education (pp. 329–348). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  93. Spencer, J. A. (2009). Identity at the crossroads: Understanding the practices and forces that shape African American success and struggle in mathematics. In D. B. Martin (Ed.), Mathematics teaching, learning, and liberation in the lives of Black children (pp. 200–230). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  94. Stinson, D. W. (2006). African American male adolescents, schooling (and mathematics): Deficiency, rejection, and achievement. Review of Educational Research, 76(4), 477–506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Stinson, D. W., & Bullock, E. C. (2012). Critical postmodern theory in mathematics education research: A praxis of uncertainty. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 80(1–2), 41–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Strutchens, M., Bay-Williams, J., Civil, M., Chval, K., Malloy, C., White, D., et al. (2012). Foregrounding equity in mathematics teacher education. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 15(1), 1–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Strutchens, M. E., & Westbrook, S. K. (2009). Opportunities to learn geometry: Listening to the voices of three African American high school students. In D. B. Martin (Ed.), Mathematics teaching, learning, and liberation in the lives of black children (pp. 249–264). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  98. Tate, W. F. (1994). From inner city to ivory tower: Does my voice matter in the academy? Urban Education, 29(3), 245–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  99. Tate, W. F. (1995). Returning to the root: A culturally relevant approach to mathematics pedagogy. Theory into Practice, 34, 166–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  100. Tate, W. F. (2004). Chapter 5: Brown, political economy, and the scientific education of African Americans. Review of Research in Education, 28(1), 147–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  101. Tate, W. F. (2008). The political economy of teacher quality in school mathematics: African American males, opportunity structures, politics, and method. American Behavioral Scientist, 51(7), 953–971.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  102. Taylor, E. V. (2009). The purchasing practice of low-income students: The relationship to mathematical development. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 18(3), 370–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  103. Terry, C. L. (2010). Prisons, pipelines, and the president: Developing critical math literacy through participatory action research. Journal of African American Males in Education, 1(2), 73–104.Google Scholar
  104. Terry, C. L. (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.Google Scholar
  105. Thompson, L., & Davis, J. (2013). The meaning high-achieving African–American males in an urban high school ascribe to mathematics. The Urban Review, 45(4), 490–517.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  106. Thompson, L. R., & Lewis, B. F. (2005). Shooting for the stars: A case study of the mathematics achievement and career attainment of an African American male high school student. The High School Journal, 88(4), 6–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  107. Tyson, C. (2003). Research, race, and an epistemology of emancipation. Counterpoints, 195, 19–28.Google Scholar
  108. Usiskin, Z. (1993). If everybody counts, why do so few survive? In G. Cuevas & M. Driscoll (Eds.), Reaching all students with mathematics (pp. 7–22). Reston, VA: NCTM.Google Scholar
  109. Vanneman, A., Hamilton, L., Anderson, J. B., & Rahman, T. (2009). Achievement gaps: How Black and White students in public schools perform in mathematics and reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Statistical Analysis Report. NCES 2009-455. National Center for Education Statistics: Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  110. Walker, E. N. (2006). Urban high school students’ academic communities and their effects on mathematics success. American Educational Research Journal, 43(1), 43–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  111. Walker, E. N. (2011). Supporting giftedness: Historical and contemporary contexts for mentoring within Black mathematicians’ academic communities. Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, 11(1), 19–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  112. Walker, E. N. (2012). Cultivating mathematics identities in and out of school and in between. Journal of Urban Mathematics Education, 5(1), 66–83.Google Scholar
  113. Walsh, D., & Downe, S. (2005). Meta-synthesis method for qualitative research: A literature review. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 50(2), 204–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  114. White, D. Y. (2001). Kenta, kilts, and kimonos: Exploring cultures and mathematics through fabrics. Teaching Children Mathematics, 7(6), 354.Google Scholar
  115. Winston, R. B. (1985). A suggested procedure for determining order of authorship in research publications. Journal of Counseling & Development, 63(8), 515–518.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  116. Woodson, C. G. (1933). The mis-education of the Negro. Trenton, NJ: First Africa World Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Teaching and Learning, Peabody CollegeVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations