Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership


Educational Leadership and Curriculum

First Reader/Committee Chair

Joseph Jesunathadas


African American students' severe underachievement in mathematics in comparison to their peers has been framed as an achievement gap that continues to widen despite the efforts of many education scholars and leaders. Throughout history in the United States, mathematics education has been designed, developed, and delivered within a Eurocentric philosophy. Consequently, African American students have been at a systemic disadvantage in terms of perceiving the cultural relevance of mathematics; which has served as a detriment to their academic success. By merging ethnomathematics and culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP) into a theoretical framework, this study investigates these issues and proposes a shift in mathematics education toward a more culturally aware approach. In this study, it is argued that implementing a multicultural education approach such as ethnomathematics into the mathematics curriculum coupled with employing culturally relevant pedagogical practices will increase relevance in the mathematics education for African American students. The purpose of this study was to gain African American high school students’ perception of mathematics, as well as their cultural awareness and its relation to mathematics education.

To gain students’ perceptions about mathematics education from a cultural respect, 375 students in grades 9-12 completed three online surveys which were (1) a four-item demographic questionnaire (age, gender, grade, ethnicity), (2) the 40-item Attitude Towards Mathematics Inventory (ATMI), and (3) the 12-item Students Perception about Cultural Awareness (SPCA) survey. This study incorporated a quantitative, correlational research design. To address research questions one and two, Pearson correlations were conducted to examine the associations between the variables of interest which were (1) Value, (2) Enjoyment, (3) Sense of Security, (4) Motivation, and (5) Cultural Awareness. Variables (1), (2), (3), (4) were derived from the ATMI survey through factor analysis while variable (5) was constructed from the SPCA survey. To address research question three, a MANOVA was conducted to assess for differences in attitudes toward mathematics and perceptions of cultural awareness by ethnicity. For research questions one and two, it was found that there was a statistically significant correlation between the variables of interest. For research question three, it was found that there was not a statistically significant difference in the variables of interest by ethnicity.

In further analysis of the data, it was found that many African American students have a substandard attitude of value, enjoyment, sense of security, and motivation toward mathematics. Nonetheless, these students had a high sense of cultural awareness and cultural pride. Generally, the students felt that the incorporation of culture into mathematics would assist in raising their achievement to some degree. This study highlights recommendations to educational leaders to learn about the culture of their students, allow that data to inform policy decisions, and lead a shift to the approach of mathematics education toward the theories of ethnomathematics and CRP.