Date of Award

5-2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Teacher Education

Major Professor

Vena M. Long

Committee Members

Susan Groenke, Thomas N. Turner, Lynn L. Hodge, Gary Skolitz

Abstract

Today’s mathematics classrooms are filled with students with different races, ethnicities, abilities, and socioeconomic status environments, and other issues that impact their learning. Students of color, in particular, often score lower than their White counterparts on standardized mathematics tests and are underrepresented in advanced placement mathematics classes. The historically marginalized students will soon be the majority. If careful attention is not paid to this shift in demographics, the United States runs the risk of falling farther behind other countries economically and academically. Since mathematics often serves as a gatekeeper for admittance to postsecondary institutions and many well-paying jobs, the discrepancy between the mathematics success of Whites and students of color cannot be ignored. Students will also compete globally for the opportunities that will enhance their quality of life. Thus, a shift in teaching mathematics must be a priority if access to higher education and employment is to be equitable.

The purpose of this study is to examine the perspectives of teachers in grades 6-12 mathematics classrooms. The research questions are: (1) How does social justice influence the teaching practices and mathematics curriculum for grades 6-12? and (2) How do mathematics teachers define and use social justice? A survey grounded in five successful tenets of multicultural education (Ladson-Billings, 1994) gathers the perspectives of twelve teachers of grades 6-12 mathematics. Survey responses, in conjunction with the small-group interview conversation of two teachers, illuminate the issues pertaining to establishing a socially just classroom. Results indicate a strong desire for teachers to reach all students but not many teachers are familiar with pedagogies that support this vision. Implications include a need for the purposeful preparation of teacher education programs to equip teachers for the diverse students they are expected to teach as well as professional development opportunities to support teachers of diverse learners.

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