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African migrant students in African and U.S. mathematics classroom

Solomon Abraham, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Mathematics is recognized as the ticket to science and engineering. Modern schooling emphasizes this by requiring some kind of literacy in mathematics for all academic disciplines. And yet, many students do not appear to be enticed by what mathematics offers to them. They find mathematics incomprehensible and meaningless to their lives. This conflict between the values of mathematics and the students' alienation from it has been the concern of mathematics educators in the U.S. and elsewhere. Much of the current emphasis has focused on accessible classroom pedagogies as well as improving early mathematical preparation, with attention to U.S.-born, underserved minorities and women in the U.S. classroom. This study broadens the scope in two ways. First, it explores the mathematics classroom experiences of 8 African-born subjects in African classrooms and U.S. classrooms. Second, it explores the domain knowledge of modern mathematics as it is presented both in African classrooms and the U.S. classroom. The study finds that African students experience modern mathematics in African classrooms very similarly to the mathematics they encounter in the U.S. It finds that African mathematics education in elite schools is conducted in the post-colonial language using post-colonial text. It finds that despite the dramatically more accessible teaching that African students experience in the U.S. classrooms, their distaste and alienation towards mathematics remains unchanged. The data are interesting in themselves. Even more important to me is the insight to offer the domain knowledge as distinct, but related to classroom pedagogy. I draw upon literature of ethnomathematics and of everyday mathematics to offer a critique of the unexamined domain knowledge of mathematics that continues in U.S. classrooms as well as westernized classrooms in other parts of the world. The study concludes with a pedagogical proposal that bridges the schooling of mathematics with multi-cultural knowledge, critical knowledge, and community knowledge.

Subject Area

Mathematics education

Recommended Citation

Abraham, Solomon, "African migrant students in African and U.S. mathematics classroom" (2008). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3336970.