Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Urban Education


Karen Koelnner

Committee Members

Anna Stetsenko

Debbie Sonu

Lyn English

Subject Categories

Science and Mathematics Education | Secondary Education


Mathematical modeling, mathematical identities, girls of color, high school mathematics


Mathematical modeling is not a new idea for mathematicians, scientists, and engineers. But until recently it remained largely outside of the purview of most K-12 math educators. With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2010) modeling gained a more prominent place within math curriculum and instruction. An iterative form of problem solving, which supports students to make generalizable models instead of single-use solutions, modeling is now poised to be taken up as a practice in classrooms across the country. The purpose of this research—a design study—is to understand how a carefully crafted sequence of modeling investigations could support high school students in two ways: to develop critical ideas within the study of algebra and to deepen their own mathematical identities. The chosen participants of the study—all girls of color— have been programmed to repeat their high algebra course several times, and thus are living evidence of the inequitable gate-keeping effects of algebra. The study is poised to respond to the issues related to algebra-as-gatekeeper to support both students and teachers alike.