Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Lea A. Hubbard, PhD Chair; Joi Spencer, PhD Member; Robert Donmoyer, PhD Member


Student Mathematical Identity, Mathematical Teaching Practices, High School Freshman Mathematics


The California university and state college systems (UC and CSU) are committed to accepting a diverse student body. Although there has been some growth in the percentage of minority students admitted each year, a low number of minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged students meet minimum entrance requirements. For example, in 2018, only 33% of socioeconomically disadvantaged African American students and 39% Hispanic/Latinx students who graduated from California public high schools met minimum UC/CSU requirements (CDE, 2019).

Explanations for ineligibility include the fact that many high school students have not completed the requisite mathematics classes due in part to the inequitable practice of mathematics tracking. Students placed in lower mathematics tracks fail to receive the content they need to gain access to college preparatory math classes. Moreover, students who struggle in math often develop identities of themselves as unable to learn mathematics, beliefs that can have persistent negative effects on their academic outcomes.

In this study, I examined the experiences of ninth-grade students from a majority minority low income high school placed in a lower mathematics track. Unlike their similarly academically placed peers, however, these students were enrolled in a reform-orientated course designed to prepare them to enter the college-going pathway in one academic year. I sought to understand student experiences in the reform course in terms of how their mathematics identities were being constructed in ways that might influence their academic outcomes. To understand the complexities that construct student’s identity and examine that relationship to academic outcomes, a mixed method research design was employed.

Results suggest that there is a relationship between academic outcomes and students’ mathematical identities. This identity is a result of an inextricably interrelated network of influencing factors which include students’ level of confidence in their ability to do math, their grades, teacher/student relationships, and students’ fear of being wrong. Due to the interrelated nature of these factors, results suggest that even addressing one of the factors in this network could impact students’ willingness to engage in class, alter their mathematical identity in positive ways, and ultimately redirect their academic pathway.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies