CULTURALLY RELEVANT MATHEMATICS FOR HIGH POVERTY 8TH GRADERS: INFLUENCES ON MATHEMATICS SELF-EFFICACY
Townsend, Cynthia Anne
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This study sought to bring awareness and potential suggestions to the problem of low mathematics achievement for students living in poverty and the potential that equity pedagogies may offer for these students. Tenets of Culturally Relevant Mathematics Pedagogy (CRMP) in both curriculum and instructional practices were investigated in an eighth grade mathematics classroom in a high poverty majority-minority school. This was done by examining the teaching of three CRMP tasks related to algebraic functions over four months’ time. This mixed methods action research utilized case studies of students, including a student with an identified learning disability and Latina/o English language learners. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used, which included, mathematics self-efficacy surveys, student interviews, a CRMP lesson analysis tool, CRMP task artifact analyses, a teacher reflection journal, and both teacher and student observations with observation scales. Data was analyzed to determine influences on both students’ mathematics achievement and their mathematics self-efficacy beliefs. Findings indicated that real world CRMP tasks taught within cooperative learning structures did influence both students’ achievement and self-efficacy in mathematics. These teacher-created tasks had high cognitive and language demands, utilized multiple representations, and afforded students opportunities to experience productive struggle. Students grew in their understanding of algebraic functions and their beliefs in themselves as doers of mathematics through teacher scaffolding, questioning, praise, and frequent feedback. It was also seen that status differences minimized through the use of group norms and becoming an expert on their topic. Students’ mathematics self-efficacy was positively influenced by lessening their physiological state through strong teacher-student and peer relationships, as well as multiple opportunities to observe the modeling of others through vicarious experiences. All students with identified learning disabilities grew in both mathematics achievement and self-efficacy. Mixed results were seen in ELL and exited ELL students. Recommendations are made for supporting students with special academic and language needs. Implications for developing more equitable secondary mathematics experiences for students living in poverty are discussed for teachers, administrators, curriculum developers, professional development designers, and policy makers.