Affinity through Mathematical Activity: Cultivating Democratic Learning Communities

Tesha Sengupta-Irving


In this article, the author demonstrates how a broader view of what shapes affinity is ideologically and practically linked to creating democratic learning communities. Specifically, the author explores how a teacher employed complex instruction (an equity pedagogy) with her ethnically and racially diverse students in the “lowest track” Algebra I course. Sociometric network analyses used to model peer relationships revealed an affinity among three students that could not be explained by shared attributes or history (e.g., race or gender). Through field note analyses, the author argues these students’ affinity was forged through shared mathematical activity—what she terms a workship. This workship reflected equitable relationships born of diverse youth learning to work together by working together. The author discusses implications of the workship for teachers and researchers, as well as the constraints that stratified mathematics programs can place on classroom-based efforts to advance equity.


peer contexts; tracking; pedagogy; cooperative learning

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Illuminating Urban Excellence