Towards Black students’ self-efficacy in advanced middle school mathematics : a mixed methods participatory-social justice research study.


Middle school Black students enroll in advanced mathematics at disproportionately lower percentages versus their peers. Enrollment practices alone cannot collapse the Black student opportunity gap. There is a necessity to include strategies focused on transforming advanced mathematics spaces to benefit Black learners’ self-efficacy and cultural identity. Student culture plays a vital role in student learning, and most schools do not capitalize on the rich cultural capital that students bring to the learning process. This research study is a mixed methods participatory-social justice study with an explanatory sequential core design, Quan→qual. Undergirded by Bandura’s (1997) cognitive self-efficacy theory, the quantitative phase’s survey data analysis yielded the statistically significant difference in mathematics self-efficacy between students in on-level mathematics versus students in advanced mathematics. Undergirded by Gutiérrez’s (2012) dimensions to assess equity within learning environments framework, the qualitative phase’s semi-structured interviews explored Black middle school students’ experiences in their mathematics spaces related to their cultural identities. The mixed methods phase represented the integrated analysis of the quantitative and qualitative data to answer the overarching research study question: What themes and behaviors are essential to promote middle school students’ mathematics self-efficacy and cultural identity? The integrated data analysis yielded three key findings. First, students with a positive orientation towards mathematics either had a high mathematics self-efficacy score or a high verbal and social persuasion score. Second, students with either a high mathematics self-efficacy score and or a high verbal and social persuasion score had high quality teachers and or supports for learning outside the classroom. For the Black middle school students in this study, their orientation towards mathematics coupled with their verbal and social persuasion had more of an influence on the level of their mathematics learning and their enrollment in advanced courses versus the student’s level of overall mathematics efficacy. Third, students with a high mathematics self-efficacy or verbal and social persuasion score consistently had multiple relationships that supported their mathematics learning. Only students exposed through their supportive mathematics relationships to the importance of their identity within mathematics spaces could access their identity as a resource to aid their mathematics learning.



Mathematics self-efficacy. Black students. Cultural identity. Middle school. Mathematics equity.