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Article by Melinda D. Anderson

How Does Race Affect a Student’s Math Education?

Summary and analysis by Alexander Rijo, Healing10 Intern

This article is about how less obvious racism can affect the performance of students of color. The article states, “the discussion of race in math education has centered on the persistent under performance of certain student groups, particularly Black, Latino , and Indigenous youth, and their disparate access to honors, gifted, and advanced mathematics courses. Yet a new paper disrupts those narratives by examining an unaddressed element of the equation”. Dan Battey,  an associate math professor at the Rutgers University Graduate School of Education, explains that part of the equation which is how whiteness operates in schools, leaving Black and Latino students behind because of the way teachers teach to them.


The concept of racial hierarchy of mathematical ability says that when teachers constantly read about under performing Black, Latino, and Indigenous students in math  basically changes how those teachers view their students. This then changes how teachers approach these students, which can affect the student performance because if the teacher thinks that the student  is going to do bad at math just because of being Black or Latino they are not going to teach them as well or encourage them. The problem is that the student will start thinking that they can not do the math. Because of the perceptions that white and Asian students are superior to Black and Latino students in math, teachers might not take the student as seriously. They might give them basic mathematics like counting apples and worksheets, while other students get to work on rich problem solving tasks. This makes the student that receives basic math fall behind the student that is actually getting better math problems  and who is getting help from the teacher.

Everybody understands how obvious racism is traumatic but it’s harder to understand how the little things that people do without thinking about them can also have a great impact. The little things, like giving harder problems to white students and easier or basic problems to Latino and Black students  can traumatized someone of color because  their teachers that are the ones supposed to help them  learn math but are really holding them back. Another reason it can be traumatic is that if they don’t do well in math, and don’t receive the encouragement they need they might fail the class that leads to other problems like dropping out of school and not caring about life. If you think about it for a moment, if your teacher that is the one teaching you and instead keeps telling you that you are not going to pass the class or that you are not going to understand the concept of the problem, that you are not as good as someone else or even worse, that you are not going to pass, all these negative comments coming from your teacher could make you change the way you see school. These comments won’t make you want to wake up everyday wanting to go to school. You might lose your interest in school and how you think about it. Those negatives comments students get from the teacher can affect if they think they are smart and that affects how they see school.  


I can relate this to my personal life because I went to a school here in Camden, NJ called Woodrow Wilson High School. Most of the students are Latinos and African Americans, and this school is doing poorly in math. According an article in about the 2014-2015 PARRC scores, 51.7 % of the students in Woodrow Wilson High School are not meeting requirements, 47.5% of the students, are partially meeting requirements, and none of the students are meeting expectations in Algebra 1. People could think that because of the low score that Latino and Black student are just bad at math, but I think it could be because all the time they were growing up their teacher were giving them basic math because the teacher were biased, so the students  didn’t learn it as well. This article ends with the following quote, “Hopefully this starts to attune people to what to look for in classrooms [and how to] provide more opportunities for students to engage more openly in mathematics”. I like this quote because hopefully teachers will treat their students a little bit more fairly by recognizing their bias , so that the student of color will see that they can do math.


  1. Marty Lees says:

    Powerful and accurate and should be shared with all instructors at all schools. Thank you.

  2. Luis Gomez says:

    I love this blog so much. Thank you for all this information

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