Series: Racial Justice

Developing a Framework for Racial Justice Centered Research in Early Math

Developing a Framework for Racial Justice Centered Research in Early Math
racial justice early math

This series from the Racial Justice in Early Math project highlights researchers, program facilitators, educators, and others who are actively working to advance the discussion around racial justice and the field of early mathematics.

To disrupt racial injustice in mathematics education, a growing number of education scholars are developing research that challenges the ways in which racism, antiblackness, and white supremacy impacts the math learning of Black children. Dr. Danny Bernard Martin (University of Illinois at Chicago) has developed a multilevel framework to help those who are interested in doing racial justice centered research while studying math learning of Black children.

In Learning Mathematics While Black (2012), Dr. Martin invites those who are interested in producing knowledge about Black children’s mathematics learning to move away from deficit-oriented ideas about Black children and their mathematics ability. Instead, mathematics education research should be informed by critical understandings of race and the history of racism in the U.S., honor Black children as whole human beings, and account for the ways in which Black children’s mathematics learning is impacted by

  • anti-Black structures, practices, and policies,
  • the realities of Black children’s lives, and
  • the agency, resilience, and mathematical knowledge and practices of Black children, their families, and their communities.

Utilizing a composite case of examples from the existing literature, Martin shows the limitations of studies that do not account for the different factors (e.g., classroom socialization, educational policies, material constraints caused by the state disinvestment in Black communities) that impact Black children’s mathematics learning. Martin suggests that, by not accounting for these factors, mainstream mathematics education research

  • continues to promote negative perceptions about the mathematics abilities of Black children,
  • fails to identify and critique structural issues that contribute to low performance (e.g., teaching for standardized tests, unprepared teachers), and
  • overlooks Black children’s mathematical knowledge and their mathematical practices–inside and outside schools.

Drawing from decades of research with Black learners and Alan Schoenfeld’s (1992) problem-solving framework, Martin offers a multidimensional and multilevel framework that integrates macro-, meso-, and micro- level concerns while researching Black children’s mathematics learning.

Above all, the author calls on researchers to develop approaches to studying Black children’s mathematical development that are not focused on showing how Black children differ from white children. Instead mathematics education researchers should be informed by the belief that Black children are brilliant and have the intellectual capacity to learn mathematics as well as any other children.