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Culturally Relevant Teaching

Student Commons contains student work from both research and practice about culturally relevant teaching.




“Math is a powerful tool”: 
Youth Participatory Action Research in Algebra 1

Mary Candace Full

The objective of my inquiry was to study, improve, and forward my social justice teaching practices, pushing myself to engage students in a youth participatory action research (YPAR) project within the Algebra 1 classroom. In this project, the voices and experiences of students came to the forefront, as they developed their mathematical thinking and research skills in a project they created and designed regarding food justice at our school. Drawing from the theoretical framework of Paulo Freire and the teaching and research of Eric Gutstein, my aim was to provide a problem-posing education to my students, pushing back against traditional mathematics instruction that is not designed for the success of students of color. Given that most students felt that mathematics was not relevant to their lives and that they are not capable at mathematics, I wanted to provide a space in my classroom for students to design and implement research on an injustice and then take action. My research question was: How can I design and facilitate a youth participatory action research (YPAR) project in Algebra 1 to make mathematics more meaningful and relevant to my students’ lives and struggle, and provide a space to connect academic learning to critical research skills and youth activism? This inquiry on my teaching and classroom shows that YPAR in math can support students to have a more positive perception and understanding of mathematics, build critical research skills, and involve students in developing as change agents. Furthermore, this research reflects on the systemic challenges of YPAR in the classroom – the tension between a problem- posing education and the expectation for standards-based, test-centered instruction.

This item is accessed for free with permission from the author. 


Math is a powerful tool- Youth Participatory Action Research in Algebra 1 (pdf)


Culture, identity, and mathematics: Creating learning spaces for African-American males.

Kyndall Allen Brown

African-American male students face a multitude of difficulties in schools including high suspension and expulsion rates, higher referral rates to special education, and under-enrollment in advanced classes. African-American males tend to perform at lower levels in mathematics and science. An experiment was designed to determine how identity development, culturally relevant pedagogy, and the use of mathematical models support the development of mathematical understanding in African-American males. The findings indicate that when African-American male students were given an opportunity to build their mathematical proficiency, they were able to develop identities that positively influenced their participation in mathematical tasks. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

This item is accessed for free with permission from the author.



An exploration of the impact of critical math literacies and alternative schooling spaces on the identity development of high school-aged Black males in South Los Angeles

Clarence La Mont Terry

Urban schools, for many African American students, have effectively become a space for the perpetuation of modern slavery. Large numbers of students, particularly Black males, are being funneled without choice into low-wage labor sectors, military service, underground economies and, eventually, prisons or worse. Key work by math education researchers like Martin (2000; 2006) has shown that 'race' and 'racialization' are salient aspects of African American students' experiences in urban schools and broader society that contribute to marginalization in math classrooms and, by extension, myriad avenues of social and economic participation. By purposely grounding race and identity at the forefront of the discourse on African American math achievement, the author attempts to go beyond pipeline arguments to explore the development of racial and mathematics identities, as well as social agency, in alternative spaces to the mathematics classroom--and the subsequent impact that these factors may have on the teaching and learning of mathematics in this study.
This dissertation study centers on the experiences of seven high school-aged Black males with whom the author conducted participatory action research (PAR) in an alternative mathematics classroom in South Los Angeles. The study has several foci: (i) To explore identity by critically engaging high school-aged Black males in research on topics relevant to local urban communities; (ii) to engage Black males in the use of mathematics as a tool for conducting critical research, towards the end of reorienting students to the nature and utility of mathematics; (iii) to determine the degree to which the employment of a critical pedagogical stance can foster the development of (critical) mathematical literacy for these youth; and, (iv) to develop a fuller understanding of how the structures of urban schools and space shape the experience of Black males both inside and outside the math classroom.
Utilizing a critical ethnographic methodology to privilege student voice, the study highlights the alternative math classroom as a co-constructed "counter-space" (Solórzano, Ceja & Yosso, 2000) wherein mathematical counterstory-telling is developed as a normative and sophisticated tool for challenging dominant narratives, structures and other forces which negatively shape the schooling experiences of Black males.

This item is accessed for free with permission from the author.




Classroom-In-Residence: Artwork Created by UCLA Community School Sixth Graders

UCLA Community School Artwork

Sixth grade students from the UCLA Community School created this artwork as part of a unique Classroom-in-Residence experience at UCLA’s Hammer Museum. Students spent a week at the museum in March 2013 as part of a pilot project developed by the UCLA Visual and Performing Arts Education Program in the School of Arts and Architecture, the Hammer Museum, and the UCLA Community School. During the week, students engaged in activities that allowed them to explore their creativity and express their cultural identities. They also analyzed various artworks and styles (such as surrealism, impressionism, shading techniques) while working on critical thinking skills and project based learning activities. This sampling of artwork represents students’ rich cultural heritages. UCLA Community School is a K-12 neighborhood public school in the Pico Union/Koreatown area of central Los Angeles. Students are predominantly Latino (78%) and Asian (15%), and the school is preparing them all to be bi-lingual, bi-literate and multi-cultural.

Classroom-In-Residence: Artwork Created by UCLA Community School Sixth Graders (pdf)

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