How Do We Learn? African American Elementary Students Learning Reform Mathematics in Urban Classrooms

Lanette R. Waddell


In this article, the author uses qualitative methodology to investigate how African American elementary students in an urban school engaged with a National Council of Teachers of Mathematics standards-oriented mathematics curriculum and how their engagement converged with or diverged from the offered patterns of teaching practices in classrooms. The findings suggest that student practices converged with teaching practices that reflected the African American cultural dimension of social/affective interactions such as focused collaboration and active participation and diverged when students enacted practices that reflected expressive creativity and nonverbal interactions as with dramatic expression and improvisation. Rather than looking at the divergent behaviors as social problems or behaviors needing remediation or punishment, considering what can be learned from these behaviors could enhance the mathematical identity and academic achievement of African American students.


African American children, elementary mathematics, student learning, reform mathematics, urban education

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Illuminating Urban Excellence