Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Kurt Stemhagen


This project used narrative inquiry to examine adolescent experiences that contributed to the development of positive mathematics identities in successful African Americans. Ten African Americans, who had worked in a STEM-related occupation for at least two years, were asked to reflect on in- and out-of-school experiences with mathematics during their middle and high school years. Data collection included individual interviews and one focus group discussion. A combination of internal and external factors emerged as contributors to participants’ adolescent mathematics identities. Internal factors included early career interest, finding enjoyment in the challenges associated with learning mathematics, or facing setbacks they were determined to overcome. External influences included parents/family members, teachers/school staff, and peers who were influential agents in participants’ mathematics socialization. Participants’ stories revealed that mathematics identities were developed in several communities of practice—the mathematics classroom, after-school (or school-affiliated) programs, summer programs, and during unstructured free time. The findings offer three possible applications to practice: 1) Continue developing school-based and out-of-school programs aimed at exposing African American adolescents to STEM and allowing them to apply the knowledge gained in the classrooms in the real world; 2) Increase efforts to educate African American parents about the variety of occupations related to STEM and the foundational knowledge needed to gain access to these occupations; and 3) Continue efforts to recruit African American secondary teachers for STEM-related courses.


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