Number sense: An exploration of urban African-American students' numerical reasoning

Angela McIver, University of Pennsylvania


Despite attempts to improve mathematics learning of urban African American students, very little research is available that speaks to number sense development in these students. A majority of African American students attend school in urban settings and often enter middle school lacking the foundation necessary to engage in a rigorous middle school math curriculum. What information can we garner from studies of students' mathematical thinking that can inform the mathematics instruction for urban students; and how can we use information from these studies to create mathematics intervention programs as a way to get students back on track? This dissertation presents findings from a study of forty urban African American middle school students' numerical reasoning. Findings suggest that middle grades students in this urban school possess underdeveloped reasoning skills that make answering questions expected of fifth grade students difficult. Additionally, in areas where no statistically significant difference could be found between grade levels, students in this urban school possess a weak foundation in mathematics at the end of their sixth grade year, and this foundation does not improve for students at the end of their eighth grade year. Findings from this dissertation highlight the need for schools serving students in urban setting must consider how these students' urban schooling experiences have impacted their mathematical understanding in order to implement supplemental programs that build students' foundational understandings of mathematics. If we are to remedy the pervasive underachievement found in urban schools, it is essential that educators have, at their disposal, the tools necessary to address the gaps in understanding that have developed in many urban students who enter middle school with weak mathematical foundations.

Subject Area

Mathematics education|Black studies|African American Studies

Recommended Citation

McIver, Angela, "Number sense: An exploration of urban African-American students' numerical reasoning" (2005). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3197713.