Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Urban Education


Anna Stetsenko

Committee Members

Nicholas Michelli

Mary Q. Foote

Subject Categories



As mathematics identity affects students' learning and doing of mathematics, it is critical to understand the mathematics identities of African American and Hispanic students as the mathematical performance and pursuits of far too many continue to lag behind. Further, as community schools have been shown to positively impact students in urban communities, it is also critical to understand how mathematics identities are developed within community schools. This study explores the culture, structures, and processes of an urban elementary community school including its afterschool archery program relative to fifth grade students' mathematics identities. It also explores students' math positioning, enactment, and perspectives in the classroom and archery.

The theoretical framework encompasses multiple theories and perspectives: identity theory, cultural-historical activity theory, ecological systems theory, and culturally responsive pedagogy. Ethnography of one urban elementary community school was conducted over one school year plus summer camp using mixed methods. In total, 33 fifth graders and 13 adults participated in the study. In addition to school and community agency artifacts collected, observations inside and outside of the classrooms were conducted along with student brainstorming exercises and student and adult interviews. State math assessment scores were collected for 2009 and 2010 and pre- and post-surveys on students' mathematics beliefs and attitudes were conducted.

While 7 out of 10 fifth graders favored mathematics and considered themselves as mathematicians, as defined in a broader sense that reflects habits of mind as opposed to simply skills, less than four out of 10 saw themselves in careers considered math- or science-related. Interestingly, students who had heard the word "mathematician" scored significantly higher on state math assessments than their peers who had not. In the classroom, students positioned themselves in different ways relative to their mathematics identity such as leader, helper, independent, math smart, social learner, and agent of their own learning. Outside of the classroom, the afterschool archery program bore positive relevance in students' mathematics identities, including a student with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, through culturally responsive instruction, a culture of respect, and goal-setting. Study results can inform community school processes, cultures, and structures as well as children's media.


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